Brian Aubert is the lead singer of LA-based alternative group Silversun Pickups.

Epilogue: What kind of things keep popping up in Silversun Pickup’s music?
Brian Aubert: I think we’re schizophrenic. I think we, as far as things on “Swoon,” it’s a pretty personal experience for me, especially compared to “Carnavas.” It pulled more from things that were happening at the exact moment it was happening. I found it very therapeutic, you know what I mean? As far as a certain sort of way that we like to do things, I feel like we always get nervous with going too far in one direction…if things sound too groovy it tends to not be as meaningful and not be as potent. If that sounds right.

E: How did you approach making “Swoon?” “Carnavas” was really successful…how do you capture some aspects that made that record successful and bring them to “Swoon?”
BA: We don’t really think about it like that. This is the kind of music that comes out when the four of us are together. There’s no real equation of how to go about making “Carnavas,” sonic things, we really enjoy, but we’re still in love with these textures that we use. And we weren’t quite ready to abandon them yet. We just felt that we really wanted to go further in directions that we felt like we felt that didn’t quite go in “Carnavas,” and didn’t know we didn’t go until we were playing for a couple of years.

That was sort of the beginning of it. This is the first time that we wrote something from beginning to end which was really exciting and scary, at first, because it was a new experience for us. Previously, we wrote things in different times, different eras, you know. We didn’t necessarily have other songs in mind. This time the songs were written after other songs; we knew which spots we were going into and we could jump off of those spots with other material. If something was really crazy and schizophrenic, nervous breakdown-y sounding, you get something really pretty after that.

We also wanted to bring some of the warmth back. Because “Carnavas” we stripped all organic sounds away because we wanted the record to have a shiny, sort of, sound. The EP “Pikul” sounds really warm, and we wanted “Carnavas” to jump off of that being shiny and metallic, almost.

E: How does the songwriting process work?
BA: I usually start the ball rolling. I’m the instigator, normally. Sometimes they’ll come up with something that we really like for a drum pattern and that inspires us to start writing around it, but usually I come in with a rough outline with a song and have a couple of different changes and things like that, so that we don’t just go into the riff and jam. We like to have a couple of avenues to weave in and out of and start sort of attacking it from there. Come in with it, and {play} with it, and that starts to change it, sometimes it stays the same, sometimes it’s radically different. That’s how it begins. That keeps us from staring at each other twiddling our thumbs, some sort of game plan. And usually, I’ll begin it.

E: What kind of things did you guys grow up listening to? You hear the Smashing Pumpkins comparison a lot…did that just get slapped on later?
BA: We’re fans of so much different kinds of stuff. But definitely when you dive into guitars being blankety and swirly, there’s no way to not nod to My Bloody Valentine. Or Sonic Youth. Things like that, clearly these people mastered these things. I think at the beginning, we liked so much different kinds of stuff that we found ourselves trying to avoid everything that we loved. And that just doesn’t work. Everyone says “Oh that’s too much like that” or “Oh this sounds like Blonde Redhead!” Eventually, you just stop listening.

E: I think that’s the right approach.
BA: Especially if you’re fans of a lot of different stuff, and you tend to have a lot of music in your head, you’re bound to find things. We have to stop. Because next thing you know we’re just gonna make music trying not to sound like anything, therefore it’s sort of forced. Luckily, that was way early on.

E: My problem is thinking too much.
BA: We think really really hard on the songs, you know? As far as our musical identity goes…it never was a thought. It just happened. Like it or not, this is what it is and we can’t really change that.

E: Tell me about the International Tour you guys have coming up.
BA: I think we’re going to be gone for about a month in Europe and the UK. Every day I wake up and get an e-mail that changes the course, so I don’t know the exact details. I do know that Europe is headed our way. Which I’m quite excited about; there’s places I’ve never been before, Athens and Lisbon. That’s exciting. We always look for the little punctuations on the schedule…new adventures, it picks you up a little bit.

E: What kind of things do you do in the live show? What’s your perspective on the live performance?
BA: Since we started making records we’ve always really believed that the two different animal kind of thing; the record is the record and live is live. There’s all these subtle little details and incremental things to convey certain feeling or emotion, and live we think that if you bog yourself down with a lot of those things for us it tends to be a little tedious. Live, there’s an energy to it because we’re feeling it, there’s just certain excitement that we feel and everything kind of boosts up a notch. It’s just a little louder, a little more aggressive, a little more angular. It’s still the exact same song but…it works both ways. If you do something live that conveys something with intent, then you hit the pedal and you scream a little bit or something, then you record that, it just doesn’t feel the same. Same with the record. Playing it live, somehow the live experience doesn’t quite do it if you mimic the record to the T.

E: It was really fun for us recently getting our live feet back on after making “Swoon.”
BA: At first we were bogged down rehearsing with the record, the incremental things. It just felt a little weird. Once we started to get our live feet back, and once we started playing shows, that feeling comes up. The adrenaline kicks in. Then we really started to figure out how to maneuver through the material in our live way. It’s been really fun. And you never know, sometimes just a little faster, different things happen…and it’s good.

That’s just sort of where our hearts lie. We really enjoy playing live.

E: Is that the best way to get exposure, through the live show being your calling card? Or is it stuff like the Guitar Hero song…what kind of things do you like to do to project yourself?
BA: Guitar Hero…people have sort of a weird reaction to it and it kind of makes me laugh. People kind of go, “Oh, fuck Guitar Hero.” And I’m like, “Really?” All these kids nowadays have their tactile things removed from music, downloading the image from the album cover. CDs are going away…vinyl is coming back which is nice. Magazines are going away, all these things you can touch are gone. Now there’s something that kids have that’s not only tactile but completely immersive. And I think that’s quite amazing. It’s pretty insane (laughs). We always talk about how funny it would be in ten years when all these kids start rock bands and the music is really fundamental…when they start making guitars with five colors instead of strings. But I think it’s fun. We get a kick out of any of that stuff.

We don’t find ourselves too precious and I think that can be a problem for a lot of bands. We do take our music very very seriously and our music is quite precious to us, but that doesn’t mean…we’re always making fun of ourselves. We don’t think we’re too good for anything. If anybody wants us to use us for things, some movie or something, it’s cool.

E: Is your fan base totally segmented with fourteen year olds Xbox kids and then the people coming to the shows?
BA: That’d be hilarious. We just did a thing for Xbox actually which at first we were like, “What?” But we like to try things…it’s adventurous for us to do these things because we get a kick out of it, but sometimes you’re like “Oh boy, this is going to be weird.” So we were playing Guitar Hero with fans, and they log in…we were at Dangerbird’s office, our label in LA, they set this thing up with us where two of us play and two people from wherever, the ether world. And we got to talk to them and play with them and it was really really fun. It was quite jovial. We got really into it. Guitar Hero can make you really shy when you’re playing with someone else. I remember doing karaoke once in England and I was just horrified, but I did it to cheer my friends up. It’s funny you can play your own music up there and it’s totally fine and good but the minute you have to sing Johnny Cash…(laughs). It’s terrifying!

These kids would just destroy it in Guitar Hero. It’s funny because you could look at the screen and see whichever two Silversuns were doing it and they were on Easy, and these kids are like on Hard, five colors, Red Blue Green Whammy bar! It’s also fun when you play Guitar Hero, it’s funny because you’re doing all these sorts of things you don’t get to do in real life. Wouldn’t it be funny if I started doing whammy bar and a blue lightning bolt shot out of my guitar?

E: That’s what’s missing.
BA: Be careful what you wish for.

E: It’s such a weird space for bands now. Dragonforce is popular pretty much popular because of Guitar Hero.
Dragonforce! That is insane! We saw some Youtube when we were making “Swoon” and we were just amazed.

E: Anytime I’ve seen anyone try that in Guitar Hero there’s like 35 people in the room. It’s a crowd-pleaser.
BA: It’s technical. Technicals are always funny and interesting. Did you ever see that movie “Air Guitar Nation?”

E: Yeah.
BA: That was mind-blowing. But kind of incredible.

E: Have you been pleased with the reception “Swoon” has gotten?
BA: Yeah. We’re way pleased. We’ve just been staring at each other for a year, you know? Writing and making the record, you almost forget that you’re putting it out. Making this thing, you’re trying really hard to make it worthwhile. The success of “Carnavas” has allotted us time to sit here with the record and go into the studio and actually use it for the first time. We knew how lucky we were, and how people sort of gave that to us…we made sure that we didn’t fuck off. We used every second to make it worthwhile. We wanted it to be a second record where there was a reason for it, not just something you had to sell. We wanted to jump off of where we were before.

It’s funny because it’s one of those things you don’t really notice, you can’t really grow, we don’t really know how that works. Hit a grow button. The only way it seems for us to try to move forward is just to always make ourselves uncomfortable. Technically, and just try and go in places that you can’t wrap your mind around at that time. That’s what we really spend our time doing, it’s kind of crazy. And literally we ended the mastering and the record was done, and a couple days after that the record station in LA started playing “Panic Switch.” It was just immediate. All of the sudden we’re done and it’s out. It took a minute to take a breath.

We always say, “Who’s going to buy this?!” “Who are we making this for?” It has been incredible. It’s humbling. How nice it’s been, people’s reactions. It blows our mind to think that something personal and that you’re working on, and it’s your baby, it’s so weird to think that it’s worthwhile fro someone else.

E: I commend you on that attitude, especially when you have a successful first record, it builds an expectation.
BA: Yeah and we realized that more now than we did before because we didn’t really think about that. It’s probably better when we didn’t.

It’s weird because we never had any aims for the things that ended up happening. It was beyond our radar. It was so crazy the way that stuff happened how it has because we had never written anything for radio, or for MTV. We wouldn’t even know how to do that. There’s a safety to being a little bit odd, and being left alone and not compromising at all for any decisions that you’ve made. Things happen the way they happened, which is amazing, and all you can do is just do the same. We never thought about anything before and we’re not going to do that. Our label left us alone. I don’t think they even heard “Swoon” until near it’s mastering. So there’s no pressure from any outside source but there’s pressure from ourselves.

The one thing we really didn’t want to happen was that we felt if we put something out and in our hearts we know that we didn’t work on it…if we weren’t behind it and didn’t feel it was strong and kind of had an inkling and we knew it, that’s the disaster part. So we just over-pushed ourselves to make sure it wasn’t that way. That alone makes us feel really good. Then you just release it into the ether, and whatever happens happens. As long as we feel like we didn’t fuck it up. You know what I mean. It could go anyway, and that’s fine, but as long as we knew in our hearts that this was the best album we could make.

E: What kind of things do you want to see your band keep doing?
BA: We love playing and we love making records, and as long as we can keep doing that…as long as we can play we’ll play. That’s it. All the goals that we used to have, we still hold them but we feel like we haven’t caught up with what’s happening. Say the album debuts at seven or something crazy, we’re just like “What?! Must’ve been a slow week!”

We’re always amazed and excited for the fact that people care at all. There’s so much old music in the world that no one’s heard, they could keep releasing older stuff and there’d be enough music for 200 years, there doesn’t need to be new bands, really. There’s so many bands in the world and the fact that anyone cares is amazing and humbling and you don’t deserve it, if you walk around thinking that you deserve it then that’s ridiculous. It’s lucky and amazing. And you should feel very honored.

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Silversun Pickup's Interview

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