Interview with Darby Cicci of The Antlers

October 12, 2009

[Darby behind the keys and effect at Maxwell’s]

Several months ago I was speaking to all of The Antlers before a gig at Mercury Lounge, and the subject of their many recent interviews came up. I joked that Peter Silberman was taking all the attention of the interviews, and that the other members should get a chance. The natural inclination of any interviewer seeking to learn and report about The Antlers would be focus on the lead guitar/singer/writer of the band, but the two other members are equally compelling figures in their own right. If Peter is the brains of the band, then Michael Lerner provides the backbone with his powerful drum work, and Darby Cicci is the heart with his emotive keyboard work and atmospheric and multiple effects.

The writer Jarrod Dicker spoke with Darby this week in what we hope will be a continuing series of interviews to be posted at NYCTaper.

I Am Darby

The Antlers are a breath of fresh air in a modern melodic atmosphere that’s polluted and sultry with fog of banality. Their sound is soothing and transcends lyrical and musical splendor, amplifying the listener’s sentiments from their inner core like a magnetic force of happiness, sorrow, elation and tranquility. Jarrod Dicker spoke with band member Darby Cicci on the re-release of Hospice, working with a record label, the upcoming international tour and more.

JD: The album Hospice was initially self-released and recently re-released under the label Frenchkiss on August 18th. Has there been a noticeable change since signing with the label?

DC: Yes its one of the best things we’ve ever done I think. Frenchkiss has been absolutely amazing. What we initially were hoping to do was just have it distributed by releasing it ourselves, but then Frenchkiss jumped on board. They were the ones that said its not too late to actually release it properly and put a press campaign behind it. They really do a ton of leg work to get it heard by a lot of people that wouldn’t necessarily have ever even heard of the record or have it in their hands. Its been great. They work incredibly hard getting us set up and distributing it internationally; helping us find publicists and book shows. They really do everything.

JD: Do you enjoy being under a label now as opposed to previously being in your own? I’ve spoken with a horde of musicians and most prefer to try and do it grass roots in some regard. Its usually because they are dissatisfied knowing that their work will be owned by someone other than themselves.

DC: Well ultimately yes, a lot of bands don’t want to be on a label. I was probably in that category before we signed to Frenchkiss. We all definitely had a lot of fears thinking that signing to a label is huge in giving over a lot of control and decision making. I think people were worried that they’re going to be a lot of negative things going along with signing to a label. But Frenchkiss proved me wrong in that respect. They’ve been opened minded to everything we’ve done. They really let us do as much as we want. Its not like you’re signing to a label and they do things for you. Its really kind of the opposite. They let us do as much as we want and it’s only when we need help when they’ll step in and give us direction. Hopefully it never gets to the point of needing the contracts and signing the contracts. Frenchkiss are employed with musicians. So they know what it’s like to tour and they do everything from an artists point of view. So there is no worry there. They’re not going to steer us in the wrong direction. They’re not going to exploit us or put our songs on diaper commercials [laughs]. They run everything by us. We never feel like we’re left out of the loop or the decision making process. Its kind of a dream come true. Its all the positive things without any negatives being on a label like Frenchkiss. I imagine a major label would be a little more complicated situation with employees turning over every nine months or so but ours is really just dealing with a small group of people with an open flow of communication.

JD: You recently played at Maxwell’s in Hoboken and soon you begin a tour of the nation. Do you prefer playing close to home (Brooklyn) and where specifically away from the New York area do you fancy to play most?

DC: I definitely love playing in New York. We had a whole lot of great shows here and its nice to come home and sleep in your own bed at night. We’ve had some great shows around the country and the world. We have a great fan base in Toronto and Chicago to name a few. We went to England for a week and had a few great shows in London so I’m really excited to go back there. Some really cool festivals as well. We played Monolith this year and a few little cool festivals in the Midwest. Its sort of a growing number of places as these tours continue. It feels like a lot of homes away from home. I also can’t wait to go back to LA and San Francisco.

JD: The international tour kicks off November 16th. Are you eager to convey the sounds of Hospice abroad?

DC: I’m eager to see how it translates [laughs]. I think UK is no real worry. I’m interested to see how it translates in non-English speaking countries. Especially with an album that’s so centric on lyrical content and story content. I’m interested to see how it translates in Spain, France, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands… I think its going to be great. We’re just really excited to go to these places. I’ve never been to a lot of these countries, so its good to just go.

JD: How did you specifically fall into the Antlers?

DC: That’s probably a good way to put it, I kind of FELL INTO the group actually [chuckle]. I don’t know its weird. I knew Justin Stivers who played bass in the band a while ago and drums on a record I was working on. I was playing solo around town. Justin invited me to see a band he was joining. I went and it was Peter Silberman doing an acoustic set at Piano’s upstairs. I really liked it and Justin started playing bass for him. I went and saw a couple of the shows and I thought something was lacking. So I spoke to Peter and suggested a trumpet would be a good idea. He was into the idea of trumpet and bowed banjo. And it was really when a keyboard player at the time left that I got involved. Just about a year ago is when Justin left and started playing on his own. Peter was rehearsing a lot and getting ready for a tour and that’s when things really started to gel. We rehearsed a lot and kind of felt like we finally found our own sort of interesting sound as a band. Things started to make sense and pick up after that.

JD: You play an array of instruments for the band. What inspired you to play the trumpet, keyboard, bowed banjo and do you prefer one over the other?

DC: I play a lot of instruments so for me its more about playing what fits in and what’s necessary sound wise. I love playing the trumpet and bowed banjo. We had a bass player at the time so it made a little more sense to play these special instruments. Once Justin left and we didn’t have a bass player anymore it was more about finding something that made sense for me to play. Peter’s guitar works really sort of ambient and sort of atmospheric combined with Michael’s drumming so bass guitar started to make sense. So I started to do bass, synthesizer, bass synthesizer, keyboard styles and things like that. Lot’s of pedals and things, its more of a big sound generator at this point its not really an instrument [laughs].

JD: Where did the name The Antlers develop from? Was that a process you were involved in or did Peter have it before you became part of the group?

DC: Peter had it before. The way I understand it is that when you’re doing solo stuff its really hard for anyone to separate you from your music project. So you end up going up to people saying “Hey I’m Darby Cicci from the band Darby Cicci.” Peter started to, well he just picked a name and he started getting more responses to emails when after he changed it to The Antlers. He told me that it was from The Microphones song, “Antlers” but now he’s not sure it might have been from some girlfriend or something. It’s kind of hazy. At this point its just sort of a name. I wouldn’t say it doesn’t have any meaning but…

JD: Its definitely good to have one of those old school band names. Some of these groups now have a name that’s seven words long like “Going to the Grocery Store for Eggs,” or something absurd like that…I don’t get it.

DC: Picking a band name is one of the hardest things for anybody to ever do. Its really impossible. There are so many that are already taken in some variation of some band or have some native connotation with some band. Or it can’t be something you are going to get sick of. Like a lot of bands have really in the moment names that are hard to spell or remember. I don’t know how I would feel about something hard to spell or hard to pronounce [laughs] for a period of time. Its good to have one that you can say and that’s easy to spell [laughs].

JD: What should we expect from The Antlers in the near and far future? Is there a follow up album, more tours?

DC: A new album is going to take a little while because we’ve been touring. Its going to end up that we’ve been on the road nine months out of the year which is crazy. We’re definitely touring a lot through about mid-December. But then we’ll probably start to record and work on a record properly. We have some remixes that we’re finishing up now and will be done soon. Then a lot more touring. We don’t really know, we want to try and spend the winter a little bit sitting inside making music and seeing what happens. It could be a whole new record, it could be an EP, some remixes we don’t even know ourselves. But there will be something.

JD: Thanks man, sounds good, I truly appreciate you taking the time to speak with me. Keep making music and good luck overseas.

DC: Thank you Jarrod.

3 Responses to Interview with Darby Cicci of The Antlers

  1. October 13, 2009 at 11:53 am

    Hey! NYC Taper!

    Great interview but plz plz plz Frenchkiss is one word, not two!

    :* thank you


  2. October 14, 2009 at 9:23 am

    All the Frenchkiss references were corrected!

  3. October 15, 2009 at 2:26 pm

    Thanks Jarrod,

    very nice interview, I wish I had read it before I wrote and shoot the Antlers in london

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