With Hospice, singer and guitarist Peter Silberman of the Antlers has managed to assemble a concept album with as much literary weight as the Decemberists' Hazards of Love. More remarkably, the album packs as much raw indie emotion as Sufjan Stevens.
Silberman, 23, formed the Antlers in 2006 in Brooklyn, N.Y. The band reached a creative peak this March with the release of Hospice. The CD is an ambient reflection on nurturing a bitter and hateful loved one who is dying. In March, National Public Radio named Hospice the best early release of 2009.
The Antlers make their Madison debut on Friday, July 17, at the Memorial Union Terrace as part of a four-band lineup. I talked with Silberman by phone last week.
Your press materials say you wrote Hospice during a period of isolation in New York. Did you arrange to be alone during that time?
No. I wasn't looking for a place to retreat. It just happened unintentionally. Initially I moved to Manhattan to be with someone. I ended up socially isolated and did a lot of songwriting in that solitude.
Did you study literature in college?
No. I was raised in a pretty literary household. I've always been surrounded by literature. But it wasn't until I started making music that I discovered a lot of shared structure between songs and stories. It takes me longer to write narratives. I can write stories more freely in songs.
Is Hospice autobiographical?
It's based on a life experience. I don't like to get into it too directly. The album story is pretty literal, but I took some liberties. It's about a relationship gone wrong. It's about how to coexist with someone else during that.
Hospice is largely ambient. How did your approach to writing these songs differ from writing songs with more traditional structure?
We used sound whirls, long drones and washes and worked to shape them dynamically and texturally. We try to bring that to our live shows as well. Taking those textures and shaping them into songs is at the core of what we do creatively.