Silversun Pickups x Vinyl Mag

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Silversun Pickups

For more than three years, Silversun Pickups fans waited patiently for new music. Since the release of Better Nature, Brian Aubert, Nikki Monninger, Christopher Guanlao and Joe Lester, have been busy promoting the album, touring, and running their own label.

Following their Hangout 2016 performance, we sat down with drummer Christopher Guanlao to chat about the latest album and the future of the band.

Vinyl Mag: How are you doing post-Hangout?

Christopher Guanlao: I’m recovering a little bit, we played on Friday and I ended up staying the rest of the weekend with my girlfriend and my sister and my niece, we made it a little mini-vacation. So I’m kind of recovering from that. It’s a great festival.

VM: Have you been before?

CG: No, this was my first time. And I didn’t really know anything about it until late last year when we got booked onto it. I kind of heard something about it but once we got booked to do the festival I did a little research, and I was like wow, it’s on the beach. It’s pretty insane.

VM: Were you able to catch anyone else’s set while you were there, did you have any favorites?

CG: Yeah, I saw a lot of my friends bands that have been touring this year, it was a little bit of a reunion because a couple months ago we did this co-headlining tour with Cage the Elephant, Foals and Bear Hands, and they were all there so it was really nice to see them all. All three of them were on Saturday. We just came back from a tour with Foals. I saw Courtney Barnett again, I saw her at Coachella and was just blown away. And she’s got a great band, I love her band. I saw Leon Bridges, I was really amazed by Leon Bridges and he’s really amazing. I didn’t really know anything about it but I checked out his set and he was great.

VM: Now you said you just came off a couple weeks on tour and I know you’ve got some tour dates coming up, with Joywave and with Bear Hands and then some festival dates, are there any shows or festivals in particular you’re looking forward to playing?

CG: Yeah, definitely. I always love Lollapalooza, so we’re really excited about that and we also love Osheaga in Montreal. Speaking of great festivals, that’s a really great one. And we’ve only played it once, so this is our second time and we’re really excited about that. And we love Joywave, we’ve been with them for the last three weeks and they’ve been amazing. And Bear Hands, we go way back so we’re keeping it in the family apparently.

VM: Well you guys have a busy summer coming up, and I wanted to get into the latest album and some of the songs. I read that this album was more of capturing the band at that specific point in time, it was more of a current album, not so nostalgic. So are there any themes on the album in particular that pop out to you that were pretty much paralleling what was going on in real life with the band?

CG:  Well specifically, I definitely agree with what you just said. As nostalgic as Neck of the Woods was, this is very current for us. I think we just have a lot of life things happening. Like Ryan was having a kid, having a boy, and Nikki was having twins, and it’s kind of a weird circle of life thing. Specifically for “Circadian Rhythm,” which Nikki wrote about a friend of ours that passed away. And so I think it meant a lot to us that we were able to get that song on the record and it became a single, that felt really good. And not to get too corny, but it was like all of that stuff was happening while we were recording. So that’s a really sad thing but there were also good things that were going on as well. And it kind of paralleled to our band, the progression of our band. From the beginning to where we are now, we’ve had a lot of ups and downs, we’ve walked through a lot of things. When people bring up the fact that we’ve been together for 15-16 years, it’s just mind boggling because it doesn’t feel like that. But it has been a good chunk of time. When we started the band we were best friends, and then we became a little bit like business partners and kind of lost the friendship a little bit. And then we went through all of that and we came out of it and were actually closer, and we’re more like family now than just friends. So I think it ended up coming out, subconsciously in the album. And like I said with Ryan and Nikki having families, we had a lot of those things come together in the past couple of years and I think that kind of solidified us as families more than just a band. And I think a lot of that speaks to writing to Better Nature.

VM: Listening to the album and reading the lyrics, I just think all of the songs have beautiful imagery, and one song that sticks out to me is “Pins and Needles,” and I could be totally off and totally misinterpreting this wrong, but for me I think that song is very about beginning again, and moving on after the end of something. But what was the inspiration behind that song?

CG: Well pretty much that. It’s about letting go of things and starting fresh, starting new. I don’t necessarily know the exact picking, because Ryan wrote that song. But it’s definitely that. I think Neck of the Woods was so, holding on to the past, that I think we wanted to get away from that a bit.

VM: And as a whole, what does the album mean to you?

CG:  Really that, I really do kind of feel like we’re in a new chapter of our career as a band. I think that we’ve gone over to the next level, not necessarily of fame, but of personal being. And I think that’s part of the title Better Nature, let’s focus on our “better nature” and take what we’ve learned, and try to have our better nature shine out. More than the negatives or the bad things about us and try to better ourselves. And I think that’s something we became more aware of now, and because we were able to figure out and go through the difficult times that a lot of bands go through and often can’t get past it, or end up breaking up. Not being creative anymore, and we’re really fortunate that, I feel we’ve gone past that. And this record kind of feels like that. It’s not like each album that we have is  a chapter, but I definitely think this record would be a different chapter if we had a big book, autobiography. Better Nature would definitely be a different chapter.

VM: This album was a debut release on the new label, New Machine Recordings, how has that entire process been for you guys, doing everything solo from your former label?

CG:  It’s great. The freedom that we have to decide how we want to promote things, where we want to spend our money, all of that’s really cool. It is a little bit more stressful because now we have discussions with our record label about tour budgets and less accessible options, because we’re on the record label we don’t get tour support anymore. We were talking this week about an upcoming European tour that we might potentially do and we were talking more about management and we were kind of stressing out about it a little bit. And finally our manager sat me down and was like look, remember when you were on a record label and you didn’t really care about the numbers because you figured you would recoup it all anyway? What’s the difference between now and then? And I was like you’re right. At the end of the day the whole idea is that we will recoup It somewhere else. So it’s stuff like that. Things I didn’t necessarily think of before and now all of a sudden I kind of obsess about but at the end of the day it’s okay. And we’re lucky that we can play shows and that people come. And we can make some money that way.

VM: What does the future look like right now for New Machine?

CG:  Well right now we’re touring for Better Nature, and we’re pretty much booked the rest of the year. And we’re having a great time, we’re all kind of re-energized and are really appreciating the shows that we’ve been playing. And the crowd. But after that we’re going to go back and try to do another record. We’ve got some projects that are coming up in the next couple months, but I’m not sure I can talk about it yet. But it’s good stuff, we’re venturing into new territory and we’re excited about that.

It all started when a much younger Jackie dove into her parents’ record collection, grabbed that trippy Magical Mystery Tour album, and played “Strawberry Fields” over and over again until it was engrained into her soul. She grew up on the dreams and stories of Simon and Garfunkel, “Bleeker Street” being one of her favorites, the seduction of The Doors, Van Morrison, because “Brown Eyed Girl” is definitely her song, and the likes of Jefferson Airplane, The Who, Jimi Hendrix…you get the picture. It may not show on the outside, but Jackie has a hippie heart, and that reflects in her musical tastes today. While some of her favorites may or may not be jam bands, her taste in music feeds into many genres. From alternative, Brit, and indie rock - OK, maybe all rock - to pop, to rap, to electronic, she loves it all. As a northerner, she thought she would never understand country until she found herself on a Georgia farm in cowboy boots watching Luke Bryan shake it for her- yeah, she got that. She is a chronic wanderluster, she doesn't believe in guilty pleasures, enjoys a great Moscow Mule, and is an absolute music festival fanatic- you’ll find her wherever the music takes her.

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