Kevin Norris

Interview: Michael Lerner of The Antlers

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2009 was a breakout year for the Antlers: the Brooklyn-based trio tugged at heart strings and scored a ton of new fans with their poignant fourth album “Hospice.” Percussionist Michael Lerner recently caught up with us to discuss what genre their brooding lo-fi sound exactly falls into, their attempts at trying to squeeze in studio time, and the range of emotions their latest album exhorts. People seem to have a difficult time pinpointing what genre The Antlers fall into. If you had to be categorized what do you feel best suits the bands sound?

Michael: I kind of like the fact that we don’t have a specific genre association. However, I do like to think that we have an identifiable group sound. I’ve heard people compare us to other bands, but those comparisons really vary widely because from song to song on “Hospice,” I think that we explore a variety musical territory.

SCMT: Your album has a very lo-fi feel, which seems to be pretty popular nowadays. We’re you aiming for that going into the recording process, or did it just come about?

Michael: Well, a lot of that could be attributed to the fact that the record was recorded in a tiny bedroom studio. We were not interested in a slick, major label-type recording. We allowed ourselves to experiment with the recording process and mixing. There was a general sonic direction that we were shooting for and we took that as a starting point. The overall sound of the finished album sort of evolved over time and when it was done it just felt right.

SCMT: How do you come up with your intricate orchestration? How does that exactly come into play when you are initially writing songs?

Michael: Some songs begin with a specific idea in your head and things fall quickly into place. Other song ideas go through a more lengthy trial and error approach and take much longer to develop. The writing process is not always the same for every song.

SCMT: The album seems to have an overall theme of redemption, how would you personally describe the conceptual idea behind the album?

Michael: The record addresses personal relationships and how people tend to treat or mistreat the ones who are closest to them. It examines the complexity of relationships and the range of emotions that we are all capable of experiencing. Certainly by the end of the album, there is a sense of redemption and hope.

SCMT: There seems to be plenty of allusions to Sylvia Plath on the record. One of the obvious ones being the song “Sylvia” where the chorus goes “Sylvia get your head out of the oven.” Is there a specific reason for Plath’s presence thought-out the album?

Michael: She was one of many literary figures that influenced the writing of “Hospice.” It wasn’t so much about her work, as much as the darker aspects of her life that tended to inspire some of the narrative on the album.

SCMT: For someone who has yet to seen you live, how would you describe your live show when compared to your recorded work?

Michael: We made a conscience decision to play live shows without having to make them feel too precious. We don’t concern ourselves with trying to recreate the record note for note. We like to have the freedom to change things up with the songs and explore new ground. This helps us stay focused and keeps it interesting for us on a nightly basis. Hopefully some of that translates to the crowd and keeps it interesting for them as well.

SCMT: Now that you have a critically acclaimed album in “Hospice,” and are opening for the Editors, what’s next? Is there any possibility of you playing a summer festival? Also I read somewhere that you are in the beginning stages of writing a new record, is there any truth to that?

Michael: Things have been very busy for us this past year and it looks like that will continue this year. We are so grateful for the opportunities to play shows and tour with some amazing bands. Since the new year, we have been trying to squeeze in some time in the studio kicking around ideas for new material. We are back on tour in February. It looks like we are going to be playing some festivals in Europe as well as some here in the U.S., but we don’t quite know the schedule yet. Those festivals are so much fun to play though – I can’t wait!

You can catch the Antlers opening up for The Editors next Thursday Feb, 11 2010 at The Wiltern. Tickets are available

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