Interview with Brian Aubert of Silversun Pickups

Silversun PickupsIt’s a beautiful thing to create music that straddles boundaries. I’m not necessarily talking about rap-metal or fusion type music, but rather music that manages to spread itself across several different territories of our emotional range. Music that is eloquent and flowery, yet at the same time, quite violent and angry, something that shivers, but not necessarily from just fear or anger, but actually a paralyzing combination of the two.

Silversun Pickups, despite having a sound easily comparable with ‘90s alternative acts such as The Smashing Pumpkins and My Bloody Valentine, seem to have a sound that is self-conscious and aware of itself, a little meek and shy even. But the funny thing is at the same time the music has an alter ego, for even though the meek, shy, romantic side of Silversun Pickups may be staring the listener right in the face, there is something furious, angry, and downright violent sometimes about their music. It builds, crescendos and decrescendos into a murky mixture of distortion, fuzz and feedback with the whipped topping of guitarist Brian Aubert and bassist Nikki Moninger’s androgynous vocal exchanges.

Aubert was kind enough to sit down with The Aquarian for a few minutes recently and share some insight on the group’s new album entitled Swoon, his music’s schizophrenic nature and the beauty of vague lyrics.

Why the name Swoon? Does it have anything to do with the semi-romantic nature of your music?

I think that was kind of the idea. On the first day that we went in and started writing with each other I wrote that word ‘swoon’ on a dry erase board. I wasn’t quite sure why. It sounded kind of romantic. And we’re kind of a little romantic. It also sounded a little gloomy. I remember looking at the definition, it said ‘a sudden collapse due to lack of blood flowing to the brain.’ And I think that was how we were all feeling at this moment, about to start writing our second record.

It also sounds like a dance to me. That was something we were going through, trying to figure out what move we were about to do. The name just stayed and stuck and stuck and eventually became more meaningful than we planned.

Can you tell me about the writing process for this album?

We don’t like to jam. We are kind of afraid of it. Maybe it’s because we’ve done it and it always makes us sad. It just doesn’t work for us.

What happens usually is I’ll come in with a rough idea of a song and we’ll look at it and see if we want to work on it and see if anyone has any ideas about where it should go. I’ll go back home and write a bunch of changes and a bunch of things that feel like they are in the same universe and have a rough blue print of a kind of song. Everybody comes in and starts attacking it and that’s how it kind of all starts. I get the ball rolling and everybody jumps on it.

Or someone in that rehearsal space will come up with some sort of line, or keyboard or bass thing that sparks something and then you can write to that.

Were Carnavas and Swoon written the same way?

No. This is a new thing for us because we actually got to sit down and write a record from front to back. Before we had a bunch of songs we had been playing live for a while and we took some of them and put it on the EP, and then had some left for Carnavas. With that we were touring for the Pikul EP, so we would come in and out and in and out, and we were writing new songs for Carnavas, and then try to take older material, boost it up, and make it feel more cohesive. It was a little crazy. This time we could kind of see it all at once. And the more we were writing for Swoon, the more songs were developing. All the songs are aware of each other in a way, whereas before they were all written at different times and it was a little challenge to keep them filling the same place.

It’s scary when you start doing something no matter what it is, whether it’s a record or a building. You know you look at a big skyscraper and think, ‘How do you start this?’ When you’re looking at a big, blank canvas, it’s intimidating. You have never done this before and maybe you can’t. Who knows what’s going to happen? Then once you start getting in it, it starts to open up and stops being scary and starts being really creative.