After a grueling tour schedule which lasted over a year, Los Angeles-based indie band Silversun Pickups took a much-needed breather over the holidays, only to recharge and reset for a big 2017. While promoting their fourth studio album Better Nature, 2016 gave the band plenty of deserving exposure, with tour highlight stops at Lollapalooza in Chicago and the ever popular and always sold-out Coachella Music and Art Festival.
This very talented Silverlake-based group -- Brian Aubert (guitar, vocals) Nikki Monninger (bass) Joe Lester (keyboards) Christopher Guanlao (drums) -- hooked up for the second time in a row with famed producer Jacknife Lee (U2, Weezer, AFI) for his guidance on Better Nature. Even so, these indie-rockers are always sonically searching ahead for a fresh approach while crafting new material, not relying on their past musical success.
While on holiday break and in the middle of moving from one L.A. home to another, frontman Brian Aubert took some time to talk with AXS. In between packing up boxes, a jovial and passionate Aubert chatted about the comfort of working with a producer twice, how their last album oozed out of them, and his love of listening to movie soundtracks while growing up in Los Angeles.
AXS: How did you get into singing?
Brian Aubert: I never, ever thought about becoming a singer. In fact, I think it just sort of happened because there was nobody else in the room that wanted to do it at the time (laughs). For some reason playing guitar was always easy for me and I enjoyed it. It took me a while to even think about being in a band. It might have been a fantasy, but never a thought it’d actually happen (laughs). I’ll let you know when I figure it out.
AXS: What music were you listening to as a kid in Los Angeles?
BA: I always like music a lot as a kid, and when I was really young I loved soundtracks. I was obsessed with movie scores, especially electronic scores. A lot of times I never even saw the movie. I’d see the movie like 20 years later and go, “that’s what movie that’s from.”
AXS: How did you stumble upon your new single “Latchkey Kids?”
BA: There was this riff that I kept coming back to. This record just sort of really oozed out of us. That song just fits so nicely. In fact, it didn't need to be complicated; we even made it simpler. It's a moment in this record that has so many circus-like elements and craziness going on; it was really easy to fit in this breezy fundamental kind of song. Honestly, the song really wrote itself.
AXS: This was your second time working with Producer Jacknife Lee. What does he bring to the table for you guys?
BA: I always think you gotta work with someone twice. The second time you work with someone the "feeling out" part is over, and you just look at them (laughs). We also now know after three years and that he produced our last record that he's invested just like us. He keeps us on target; he keeps us on course, and we need that to stay focused.
AXS: Each of your albums seems to go in a different direction. Describe your evolving sound.
BA: You always try to evolve. The thing that makes us happy is when we come out with a new record, people are always confused, and we love that. For us, there's something that happens when the four of us get together that can't be moved. There's a certain immovable object that's not going to be moved. And if you like it or you don't like it, we feel free, because we can't move it. With that, we always feel the freedom to run away as far away from it as possible, because we know we’re rooted in ourselves.
AXS: Your new video for “Latchkey Kids” is out now. Do you guys like making videos or is it part of the process?
BA: You feel goofy when you’re singing in a video. You know, wah cry me a river. It’s like I call my Dad and I’m like, “you’re never going believe what I had to do today, boo-hoo-hoo” (laughs). We like making videos because we're not interested in making them ourselves. We have the album, we have the live shows, we have the visuals for the album, and that's what we bring to the table. The video is when it gets smashed up with someone else's desires, and we like it. We're really proud of our videos.
AXS: You guys appeared a few years ago on the Bob Dylan tribute album, Chimes of Freedom, with the likes of My Morning Jacket, Sting, and Elvis Costello. How did you get that gig?
BA: They asked us to be a part of it. Nikki (bass) was always the biggest Bob Dylan head of the band. Obviously were always Bob Dylan, but Nikki loved Dylan forever. We were hoping the song we chose, “Not After Dark” was a song another band would take, and Nikki was right, nobody did. When we went to tell the producers what song we were doing they were like, “what song?” (big laughs)
Silversun Pickups will be playing a couple upcoming local gigs in Los Angeles, including an acoustic set for the Love Trumps Hate Benefit at the Bootleg Theater on January 14 and a sold out Grammy Museum performance on January 25. The band will then hit the road for a South America tour in March, with Lollapalooza shows in Brazil, Chile, and Argentina. Check their website for more tour dates later in 2017.