Darby Cicci of Brooklyn-based indie-pop group the Antlers doesn’t know what to do with himself when he’s not on tour. “All the other guys have girlfriends that take up their time, so I just come to the studio,” the Alabama-born synth player tells the Straight, on the line from Brooklyn. But the suggestion that music could be his soulmate makes him chuckle nervously. “That sounds pretty sad,” he says disdainfully.
Being married to music might be tragic for a washed-up wannabe toiling away at riffs the world couldn’t care less about, but Cicci and his bandmates are onto something bigger. Since the release of the Antlers’ critically acclaimed sophomore album, Hospice, in 2009, the four-piece hasn’t slowed down. That release gained positive feedback from outlets ranging from the New York Times to Pitchfork. After touring nonstop for two years, playing venues they’d never dreamed of and becoming tighter as both a band and friends, the members of the Antlers returned home to New York, took a six-month lease on a commercial recording studio, and got to work on a new album. Burst Apart, their follow-up to Hospice, came out earlier this year to reviews even more glowing than they’d expected.
“Obviously, we were a little uneasy about how it would be received,” Cicci notes. “But we would never put anything out if we didn’t think it was good.”
Burst Apart is a textural record, smooth and airy yet full of surprises and hidden gems. Drawing inspiration from bands like the Flaming Lips, Radiohead, and Pink Floyd, the album is all about sonic subtleties that don’t necessarily reveal themselves on first listen. Tracks like “Every Night My Teeth Are Falling Out” (which the Antlers recently performed on Jay Leno’s Tonight Show) rely on radio-friendly chord progressions, while others such as “Corsicana” and “Hounds” pull the listener into a space where experimentation and atmosphere are of the utmost importance.
About to embark on another cycle of nonstop touring, Cicci is excited to get back to playing live, even if that means packing and unpacking his extensive synth and pedal collection night after night. “Sometimes I wish I just played trumpet, like I did when I was young,” he says with a laugh. “I don’t think I could have any less [gear] at this point. It pays off because we have the versatility to make sounds that drums, bass, and guitar just can’t.”
Now that being in a band has become a full-time career for the Antlers, Cicci wants to toy not just with music itself, but with the way it is manufactured and distributed.
“We’re very busy developing some kind of tangible medium to sell music that isn’t just digital,” he says. “Vinyl is obviously the best format, but we want something newer that’s going to rely more on packaging or presentation. It’s a step in the right direction to think of these records as art and not just some digital copy of some music.”
The Antlers play Venue tonight (September 8).