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Playing dark and heavy themes

BY ERIC SUNDERMANN | APRIL 21, 2010 7:30 AM

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mp3 sample: Antlers

"Two"

Hidden beneath the skyline, among the bustling and busyness of life outside, musician Peter Silberman sat in his apartment.

The 21-year-old sat, not with a goal of isolation or seclusion; rather, he simply needed some time — some time to deal with his move to Brooklyn, a death, and other issues.

“It was just a big period of adjustment, I think,” the Antlers’ frontman said over the phone. “It was a lot of change that I’d been working on myself for a while, and I was really sick of it.”

And that adjustment translated into music, and in fact, quite a successful record called Hospice — named by many, including NPR and Pitchfork Media, as one of the best albums of 2009.

The Antlers will play the Blue Moose Tap House, 211 Iowa Ave., at 6 p.m. today with Phantogram. Admission is $12.

To create the album, which tells the story of a man dealing with a loved one dying of cancer, Silberman spent two years in his apartment. He calls the way Hospice came together very “bizarre,” emphasizing that it was a very delicate process to deal with heavy themes of death and his own life at the time.

“Because I was being so careful with it, I was being overly critical of everything I was writing, so I was scrapping a lot of lyrics that I was writing,” he said. “It’d take me a long time to write them, then I’d realize after a couple months that I just hated what I was writing and needed to redo it.”

And perhaps that’s how he captures these themes — at least, that’s what KRUI music director Drew Ingersoll believes.

“[Hospice] is very important lyrically, and the story of how it was made really makes the music very cool and interesting, and all of that plays into [the Antlers’] sound,” he said.

As noted, these successful lyrics about dying didn’t come to life easily. Beyond the extensive editing that Silberman struggled with, he tried to capture the subconscious, and he often wrote about recent dreams or during moments when he felt half-asleep.

“[The goal was] feeling like the way you remember things and how their locations remain kind of vague and mixed up,” he said. “[Hospice] was all set in New York, the timeline is sort of ambiguous, and the locations, which are a hospital and an apartment, they’re sort of the same thing.”

Through this blend of specificity and vagueness, Hospice is interpreted in many different ways by listeners, which Silberman encourages. However, he’s worried that sometimes the focus becomes “strictly about watching a loved one die from cancer.” He believes the album is about something else.

“It’s really a record about a relationship that ended, and not necessarily a particularly positive one,” he said. “I wanted to make something that talked about psychological abuse in the relationship, and that’s told against the background of the hospital, patients, and hospice.”

And, with the overwhelming success of Hospice, Silberman seems to have succeeded.

“It’s an attempt to intentionally describe that confusing state — not knowing where you are or when you are or how much time has passed,” he said.


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