If you’re planning on hearing The Antlers perform in person any
time soon, be sure to pack some tissues. Using a combination of intriguing instrumentation and stirring vocal stylings that have been compared to Jeff Buckley, the band brings to life a captivating, if painful, storyline on its debut LP, Hospice, chronicling a man’s experience while his wife battles terminal cancer.
Main scribe Paul Silberman’s gripping lyrics match the potent subject matter, playing off the deteriorating health as a metaphor for a dying relationship. He pens in penultimate track “Two,” “He brought me out into the hall / I could have sworn it was haunted / and told me something I didn’t know that I wanted to hear / that there was nothing I could do to save you / the choir’s gonna sing and this thing is gonna kill you / Something in my throat made my next words shake / and something in the wires made the light bulbs break.” Silberman started promoting the band by taping EPs to lampposts along Bedford Avenue, but thanks to a nod from NPR that named Hospice the station’s top album of 2009, the Brooklyn-based Antlers have snagged next-big-thing buzz as they start working on a follow-up album.
To get a better sense for the band and its rapid rise, we sat down with multi-instrumentalist Darby Cicci (keyboards, trumpet, bowed banjo) to talk about the creation of Hospice, its smashing success and why he believes the band is heading in a direction he thinks will “scare people.”
Mike Hume: How did the band reach this point where you’re on such a big upswing?
Darby Cicci: Our first distributor backed out at the last minute and we thought that would be our only opportunity. We all went into debt and put it out ourselves and somehow the album found its way into the hands of NPR. We still don’t know how that happened. After that we started getting all this press and it’s been this escalating thing. We started getting shows at the venues we wanted. We started touring a lot and it really hasn’t stopped. I sort of joined as a fun thing to do and I ended up touring the world. I don’t really remember much of the last year.
MH: The album deals with an sensitive topic, do people get emotional during your shows?
DC: I’ve definitely seen people cry. They’re really connecting our music to something from their own lives. It’s strange because people will have these very intense experiences, but when you’re recording it, you’re sort of chilling and drinking 40s.
MH: Do you have a direction you want the band to go?
DC: I don’t really want to talk about it because I think it will scare people. The next album will sound like The Antlers, but it may be different a little bit.
MH: And when you say “scare people,” what do you mean by that? Like Stephen King scare people? Scare people in how radically different it’s going to be?
DC: Hmmm, Stephen King, that’s a good idea. I think maybe both of those. Everything sounds really cool so far. I know I’m a subjective listener. But I don’t want to worry people and I don’t want to get them excited.