Fresh from their European tour, Brian Aubert from Silversun Pickups has a chat to Soundsphere about touring experiences and their new label.
S] How has the tour been? How was it coming back to the UK?
B] “It’s been astonishingly amazing, we came back in February after a six year absence from playing in the UK and Europe, due to label stuff that we’ve been in the middle of, so we just decided that when we were going to release our own record we were going come right away to Europe and see what happens. In February we came back and it was maddening, we were so amazed that after such a long time people were still really jazzed, then that just led to this and it just feels insane. It makes us happy because everything that we thought about doing, like when we release a record on our own and everything is under our control we can really do what we want, and it basically goes from not going to Europe at all, to going to Europe twice in just one record.”
S] What are some of your favourite memories of being in the UK?
B] “My best feelings about the UK stem way before the band because I did a study abroad in Cambridge in college and that’s actually where I met my bass player Nikki, we became friends in England. Cambridge was the first place I lived away from my home. So I think it changed my life, travelling really young completely opens your brain and I almost feel like it’s important for everybody to do it, you should be forced to travel because you can really get a sense of ‘Oh the world is awesome!’ It just had such an impact on me, and Cambridge isn’t very big and it is very close to London, and once you’re here you can travel throughout Europe, so it’s always special. We were just there for the first time in years, we had never played in Cambridge but we had a Bonfire Night there, it’s just astonishing to be on those streets again. It is a beautiful place, and then by the time when the band starting coming, we had already visited a bunch of places because we have friends, one of my best friends lived in Nottingham, and now he lives in London. I almost don’t even think about it now it just feels very comfortable, exotic enough, but it always feels very homely to me, I always think of the UK as a piece in my heart that will never fall away.”
S: How do you find the experience of travelling?
B] “It’s almost like the Amish, they have this thing called the ‘Rumspringa’ and basically before you can accept being Amish and think the way Amish people do, you have to go out into the world and do everything like buy a car, they basically do everything they can. They go crazy and then they come back, because I guess the only way they live that life is just they make the decision to do it. I almost feel like a Rumspringa for people, you have to get out of your country for a year. Travelling is always something that’s been important to me and being in a band we try to highlight the travel part of it and get off the bus and go out. We’ve seen more of the UK than most of our friends here have! When I mention the word Bridlington a lot of my friends go ‘I don’t even know what that is!’”
S: How do you think that the freedom of having your own label has helped you progress?
B] “I think that we’ve always had that freedom, I know we’re on a major label worldwide, but from where we live and how we operate, we are on a tiny label, and we were always pretty much left alone and we’ve never had anybody tamper with it at all. So it wasn’t necessarily ‘finally we can be free’ it was more ‘When’s our deal up with that label?’ and at that time they kind of changed their attitude, to the way they did things and it wasn’t to the liking of us, so it was time to separate. We just then felt like we couldn’t invite anyone into this weird circus of ours and we also just couldn’t figure out what we could offer them in return. The thought of finding some record deal and getting a committee involved, our minds snapped. Basically as we were making the new record we just simply talked to our management, our management has basically been our team and that’s the team we have always worked with. So it was still working with them and we just thought ‘Well why don’t we just do it?’ and they said ‘Yeah that’s a great idea!’ Basically everything was the same, our distribution was the same, the only difference was we just had to pay for the record. What’s great about it is, we were like ‘We want to go to Europe’ and we went, we want to make a video, we can do it, there are no other people to check it with. Like I said we didn’t really have that too much anyway but still it would show up.”
S: How do you feel that you’ve changed and developed personally through the music you’ve made?
B] “I think if you’re being honest then the music you play is pretty much truth. Usually it’s just a snapshot of you at the time, and really time makes you progress and every time you make a record too, by the time we’re ready to make another one because of touring and stuff, it’s been a couple of years and we’ve already exhausted the other record. Your interests just change and then you just sort of lay that down and you do the same thing. Next thing you know it’s been 10 or 11 years and if you go from your first EP to the newest record you go ‘woah’ and it’s just people growing and being natural to who they are at that moment. Like this record in particular for me it just came rushing out of us because the last record that we made, Neck of the Woods had a lot of rules. It was very nostalgic and there was things that we set down, like more minimal and it had geometric shapes, and everything was about the past, and because we did that and lived with it for three years this one was just immediate, everything loud. The ceiling had to be ripped off, have no rules, not even worry about how many arms we have, we’ll deal with that later, but right now just put it on there. I think that just as a person you have to keep yourself interested, and you just get better at touring and it’s almost a certain learning process, how to basically to stay mindful and healthy in a way while being part of this insane world. As far as musicianship wise, we feel like we’re the same because everything always feels out of our reach and that’s the only way we can figure to push ourselves. I know that we’re always struggling and I feel like that’s the only way we know we can try and push ourselves. So basically it’s just been a consistent feeling that everything could fall apart at any second!”
S: What would you say the biggest challenges are for you now as a band?
B] “You know, at this point, challenges wise, as Nikki and I both have kids, that’s definitely thrown a big fat wrench into it, into our world! Even with this election I’m watching now, I’m actually thinking about my son, like what world did I bring him in to? And being away is definitely getting harder, but as far as the only challenge that I’m actually afraid of, hasn’t happened yet, it’s the one that we all agreed would be the game changer is if we did not enjoy playing anymore. If we felt a little going through the motions then we would have to have a conversation because honestly, we love playing and we love playing live and that has not changed, and just when it becomes a little physically exhausting then we get to shut down for a year and write, the record kind of exercise is art. We kind of were born into the strange world of the music industry like when we meet bands before us (our time) they have a lot more to say than we do. Because we kind of came into the ‘Wild West’ nature of the music industry that every time we make a record there’s some other way to get it! So we’ve just kind of put our hands up and went ‘well this is the only world we know’ it’s such a grey area, people don’t want to pay for anything anymore, but at the same time people get access to things more than they would have before so we don’t think about it in that regard, we only know what we know. What we know is that touring and making our album are the things we can control, and everything else, whatever, don’t ruin your mind thinking about it.”
S] What kind of things outside of music, do you find inspiration in?
B] “Well, I know I should get a hobby for sure! The problem is I think music is my hobby, it’s my life I guess. My son is new, he’s fourteen months old, that really is hard to move past that at this moment. Places inspire me all the time, my family is Hawaiian, so I’m a fourth generation Los Angelino, which means I’m fourth in line from California and then my other half of the family are all from Hawaii, so I’m a total Pacific-Rim kid. So then when I go there, that really inspires me, recently because I took my son there to meet my 98 year old grandfather, so things like that just rock my world. If you write music or you do any art for example, you don’t shut it off really, you’re kind of always looking around, especially when you’re in the middle of a record, and you’re writing lyrics you start to trip out on everything because your brain has been tuned differently because you’re sort of working it in a different way. You kind of lose your mind, you start seeing metaphors in everything. I always say it’s like a television show called ‘Mad Men,’ so it’s an ad agency in the sixties, a guy Don Draper, who’s super creative, there will just be a shot of him staring out a window with a little wind blowing through it, anything that’s going through his head, and literally your brain starts doing that.”
S: When you look back on your career what are some of the key experiences and moments that you’ll remember?
B] “I think it’s funny because we get amnesia all the time, we’ve toured so many places and seen so much, and then as soon as we’re home for a week we think we’re like losers because we don’t do anything! There are moments sometimes, I think somebody explained it to me, we were hanging out with a friend in Copenhagen, and we played a Halloween show and then the next day they were seeing pictures from our social media of being in Berlin, and my friend just said: ‘That was a night for me and you guys the next day did it again there and again there, like that’s mind-blowing!’ We were all sitting around just philosophically talking, ‘Does it do something to your brain to have such access to travel and see these things so much? People never used to do it, it took forever just to go from Manchester to Glasgow!’ There are lots of things that one day that might hit me, because I love being able to call up places and to think about it in my mind, think about these times in Iceland, the show in Mexico City and the show in Toledo. I do have a suspicion that one day, because clearly all that has to stop, I might go ‘Woah man, holy shit’ and it might just replay in my head and if it does, I will enjoy watching it. I hope it does go slowly and not rapidly so I can just sit back and that would be a nice way to go out.”
Interview: Dom Smith | Words: Tori Erskine