mardi, mars 13, 2007

Silversun Pickups

Pickups a serendipitous success - Trial and error worked for Silversun Pickups.

By Ricardo Baca, Denver Post Pop Music Critic

Rock 'n' roll is a land of misperceptions. Some lyrics are poetry while others are nonsensical. Some bands are built on love and ego, others on hate and self-loathing.

Some bands come together and everything is laid out for them like a floor plan. He's the best guitar player and the natural songwriter of the group, she's steady on the bass and has the best voice, and their buddy is comfortable only when he's behind a drum kit.

But most bands don't have it that easy. Most groups, through much rehearsal and trial and error, find their fated roles the hard way.

"Everything that we've done has grown slowly and organically," Nikki Monninger said recently of her band, Silversun Pickups, "and it seems to have worked out."

The Silversun Pickups are among the buzziest bands to come out of eastern Los Angeles since Rilo Kiley. The Pickups, hot off recent late-night performances on Leno, Letterman and Daly, play the Fillmore Auditorium on Tuesday, opening for Snow Patrol.

They specialize in moody rock music that keys in on fuzzed-out melodies, spacey atmospherics and psychedelic unisex vocals that could go either way - man or woman - depending on the song.

When all of these stylistic choices come together, the resulting music is as addictive as it is original. Everything sounds like it's in its right place - Monninger's bass complementing Christopher Guanlao's driving drums as Joe Lester's spacey keys act as the otherworldly yin to the yang of Brian Aubert's psych- leaning guitars and voice.

But the way the band tells it, the members had little idea Aubert would be their lead singer until it came time to add vocals to their songs.

"Brian became the singer by default because nobody else would step up to the mic," said Monninger, who co- founded the Pickups with Aubert in 2000. "Everyone was tentative to try and sing. But he would just sing melodies because we didn't have words. I always knew he had a good voice, but he was just a little shy about singing."

It's surprising for anyone familiar with the Pickups and their intoxicating debut, "Carnavas," an album that topped many critics' best-of-2006 lists. Aubert's vocals are central to the band's triumphant music, its impossible-to-classify indie rock, and without his musings as an anchor, the music could fall flat.

Each song is a battle between loud and soft, melody and psychedelic noise, mild organization and chaos, and Aubert is the general leading the charge. It's Aubert's voice that glues together the jangle and fuzz and crackle and angularity of the Pickups' sound.

Listen to "Kissing Families" and it's difficult to nail down what it is that makes these L.A. kids different from the pack - although it's obvious they are very different. The song employs strings along with more traditional rock instrumentation, and Aubert is a master of rhythm in his vocals. He uses rhythmic patterns as much as Guanlao does on drums - similar to Morrissey and his penchant for unique alliteration and delivery.

It's exhilarating, especially as FM radio grows blander. As some indie rock trickles into the mainstream - the Pickups' single "Lazy Eye" recently was picked up by terrestrial radio, MTV and licensing outlets galore - the variety makes everything more exciting.

But just as the Pickups didn't know Aubert would be their singer, they had no idea it would be "Lazy Eye" that eventually would lead them to a larger audience, especially because the album first hit with college radio DJs, who play whatever songs they choose as opposed to a label-sanctioned single.

"We were surprised it became a single because it's just a longer song," Monninger said. "I love playing that song, but we just thought of that as being a great album song. ... We thought the first single would be 'Little Lovers' or 'Well Thought Out Twinkles."'

One of the curiosities of "Lazy Eye" and "Kissing Families" hitting as they have is that the two songs are among the band's oldest. They have been working those songs for more than five years - something that has its upsides.

"It's nice to be able to work on a song for years and then finally have it the way it should organically be," Monninger said, "as opposed to recording it really quickly right after you've written it."

And that is a luxury, one that Monninger and her bandmates will never have again.

"We realize it won't be like that again, and we're excited for the new challenge."