INTERVIEW: THE ANTLERS’ Darby Cicci starts his own SCHOOL OF NIGHT

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Swoon.

It’s the feeling that comes from beautiful vocals, eerie songwriting, lush music. It’s Hospice and Burst Apart and Undersea. It’s the feeling that comes from being four days on a boat to Mexico, in Portland at MFNW,  at Pukkelpop in Belgium with Jana from Lower Dens or back in Vancouver. Swoon. It’s the feeling I have for the Antlers.

So what’s a girl to do when one of her favourite hard-touring bands deservedly goes home to take some time off? Besides pace
and tap? A girl sends an email to keyboardist Darby Cicci because she’s seen an errant dispatch from somewhere saying that he’s gone and done his own thing. He’s called School of Night. I ask him to hear it. And it comes. And I hear it. And it’s like Antlers but lighter. Darby’s voice is stronger than you remember (or do you remember at all? I didn’t know he could sing), and it soars. There are horn sounds that woosh in. It’s an EP that makes you swoon.

So when music makes me swoon, I like to talk about it. And talk to IT. Here’s an interview with Darby Cicci on what went into his first solo EP:

School of night is your first solo EP. Are you bricking it? That’s English slang for being nervous about it being out in the universe for all to hear.

Actually, I’m super excited! I’ve been wanting to do something like this for a few years now, it’s just never really felt like the right time. I’m more anxious to hear what people think about it than anything else. It does have the slightest twinge of vulnerability, especially since I made the EP totally by myself, so you know, my emotions are a little more exposed than usual. But I was completely naked in a play one time in college for about 400 people, and I’ve just really never felt nervous about anything since then. Nothing compares to that.

Tell me about the life and musical inspirations for this. What was going through your head making these songs.

The past few years has included a lot of intense personal reflection. I was pretty caught up in touring around the world pretty much non-stop for about 2 1/2 years, and when we hit a point where we took an actual long break, a lot of emotions and things that have been building up came out pretty suddenly. A lot of it was fuelled by a kind of new perspective on the world – how small it is, how people are so similar everywhere in the world, and what all these diverse cultural elements I’ve experienced mean to me, deep down as a human being. I also watched way too many horror films, and subsequently thought about life anddeath and all that pretty much constantly.

I thought a lot about how I was raised religious and Catholic and how now, through all these experiences, I’ve pretty much realized that I don’t believe in religion and it’s made me a much more balanced person. Open mindedness is one of the beautiful side effects of traveling around the world really really quickly. This EP is sort of an impressionist version of that process. Still trying to figure out what kind of evil I’ve become [laughs].

Have the songs been in your back pocket for years, or made recently…how was recorded? And is this a totally one-man show or did you have help on it?

I started some of them a long time ago – probably 2010. I start a lot of songs. I record a lot. It takes something really special for me to continue working on something till it’s done. Staying in love with an idea over a long period of time is a magical thing. I generally have been gone from home at least 6 months over those couple of years. I’d work on this on little breaks, a week or two weeks, whenever I had time at home and at my studio. Lyrics took a long time. I wanted to make sure I meant every word. But eventually it felt done.

Most things I’ve recorded over the last couple years will probably sit on my hard drive forever. But these songs were special and I knew I had to finish them and put them out there. Still trying to figure out why.

And yeah I made this completely on my own. Lots of running back and forth to the control room. Lots of all-night recording sessions.

Sometimes when band folk go solo they do something outside the constraints or vibe of their band. But the textures and vocals remind me of your work in Antlers. Which is a great thing, because we all love Antlers.  This feels a little lighter and really wide and with the horns. What do you reckon?

Well, it’s something I’ve thought about quite a bit. Musical context is really important to both artists and listeners. I think it’s important to push yourself to work in as many styles as possible, but I also feel that in making a record that feels honest and sounds not only how I’d like to sound, but it also needs to sound like me, for better or worse.

Finding the balance between doing what you’re good at and pushing yourself forward into realms where your not as comfortable is tricky, but this EP feels like a balance to me. I do textures and atmosphere and will always love them no matter what, so I didn’t want to avoid those things just to sort of contrive something so it would sound as different as possible. I just wanted to include sounds that I love and to create music that I wanted to listen to. I love singing as well, but there have only ever been 2 Antlers songs where you can hear my voice, so singing at all is not necessarily something anyone is used to hearing from me. I also wanted these songs to be really slow. I slowed everything down a few BPMs to get out of my comfort zone. It’s easy to make something fast sound exciting. Much trickier to do it at 71 BPM. I hope it works. You be the judge.

It works. I adore this EP. Will you be touring it? How do you feel about playing it live?

I’d love to do a tour at some point, hopefully if people are into my music that will be possible. It’s refreshing to think in terms of designing the entire sound of a show, rather than the combination of playing and responding to others’ playing, but it’s given me a whole new perspective on live performance. Being able to design the atmosphere and the melody and how the two intertwine, just completely immersing myself in the sounds, is a really exciting experience. I’m using an analog drum machine and have been working on my singing quite a bit as well. I hope to add trumpet into the mix in the near future.

What’s next on tap for the Antlers?

We’re working on our next full-length now, should be done by the end of the year and out sometime in the spring. Not much happening early next year so maybe I’ll do a solo tour or something. We’ve just been doing short trips this year, “one-offs” as they’re called. So I’m dying to go out on tour again.

Tour? Yes, please. School of Night? Antlers? Whatever. Both, yes please. Because…Swoon. \m/

Buy the new EP from School of Night here, now.

School of Night is on tour in the UK next week. See dates here.

Watch School of Night’s video “Fire Escape” here.

Posted by Mikala   @   21 October 2013

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