It’s likely safe to say that The Antler’s Hospice is one of the greatest albums of the past few years. Michael Lerner phoned in to give us some insight into their recording process, life on the road, and what’s next for the band. He’s a really cool guy, check out our conversation by clicking ‘more’ below.
Claire: Hey this is Claire from The New Montreal, we spoke yesterday.
Michael: Yeah, hey, how’s it going?
Claire: It’s good, I’m here and I have my friends from the blog Mike and Maurizio here as well.
Maurizio: How’s it going?
Mike B: Hey man.
Michael: Hey cool how’s it going?
Claire: So how are you doing today?
Michael: I’m ok, just in the middle of another crazy day.
Claire: Do you have a couple of minutes to talk?
Michael: I do, yeah, I do.
Claire: Alright cool. So, from what we understand, the band formed in Brooklyn, and that’s where you guys are playing tonight. Are you guys from New York as well?
Michael: You mean did we grow up in New York?
Michael: Well Peter and I grew up just outside of NYC, a little bit north of here; and Darby actually grew up in Alabama.
Claire: Oh really?
Michael: Yeah he’s a southern dude but yeah he’s been living here for a while now, so I think they say if you’ve lived in New York for at least one full cycle of the seasons then you’re a New Yorker, even though I’m not sure if that’s true. But we’ve put in a couple of winters and so I think everybody’s considered honorary New Yorkers I guess.
Claire: Yeah, Maurizio’s from New York so…
Maurizio: Yeah, I’ll take it; I’ll allow it (laughs)
Michael: (laughs) Cool yeah I mean that’s how I look at it, if you can deal with all the BS here in the city for a couple years, it’s kind of like dog years compared to everybody else I guess.
Maurizio: So what part of Brooklyn did you guys record in?
Michael: Well are you talking about for Hospice, or currently?
Maurizio: (laughs) Both, how about that?
Michael: Well we actually recorded Hospice on the north side of Williamsburg where Peter used to live, ‘cause that was kind of straight-up literally bedroom studio, we were in cramped quarters there. And now we record and rehearse in Fort Green, which is where Darby lives, it’s his home studio.
Claire: Which do you prefer recording in?
Michael: Which place?
Claire: Yeah, like a more cramped place, or a home studio?
Mike B: You could say more intimate, not necessarily more cramped…
Michael: Yeah either way, it’s better now than it was before, even though it was fine just for recording, that just didn’t last that long. We couldn’t really fit more than a couple of us in there so this is preferable now because, you know, it’s more like we have a little more room to breathe. But compared to a proper, if you could call it that, larger studio, we prefer it this way, we can go in and do things on our own time, we don’t have to watch the clock and worry about how much money we’re spending for three hours, things like that. So it’s more relaxed, yeah.
Claire: Alright, nice. So 2009 was huge for you guys, with all of the critical acclaim for Hospice, that must have been incredible. How did that feel?
Michael: Yeah it is, it is pretty amazing. I think any time that you finish recording something, you release it out for the public to hear, there’s no way of knowing how people are going to react. So, the reaction completely took us by surprise and yeah I think our heads are still spinning right now because we’re in the midst of all of it, even though the records’ been out for a while, we’re still sort of seeing people’s reactions. Some people are getting turned onto the record for the first time, and people hadn’t known anything about it and I think, yeah, that’s sort of continuing, for example overseas the record didn’t get released until I think the end of October, early November, so that’s even newer to people over there.
Claire: Oh ok cool, so it’s all still coming in.
Michael: Yeah exactly, it still continues to feel fresh wherever we go. And obviously for us that keeps it also kind of fun and interesting.
Claire: That’s awesome.
Mike B: How are you adjusting to life on the road?
Michael: I actually love being on the road, the weirdest part is when you realize that it feels more comfortable and at home than being at home. In some ways, obviously once we get home it’s kind of nice we have our own space back and we’re not all seeing each others faces 24 hours a day, which is actually fine because we all get along really well but it’s nice to have your own space. But yeah, the road is, like we said, we really enjoy being up there we enjoy playing shows every night and I kind of feel like a weird fish out of water sometimes when I’m back in Brooklyn because I feel like I’m sort of a stranger in my own home.
Maurizio: Too grounded?
Michael: Too grounded? Not grounded enough. (laughs) I don’t know, you kind of get home from a tour and after a day you feel like you need to start moving again, there’s no momentum. It kind of feels like very strange not to be back in the van going to some other state.
Claire: Yeah. So did you have any personal highlights of this past big year for you?
Michael: This past year?
Claire: Well, yeah
Michael: Yeah I mean, honestly there’s been so many interesting things. The attention of the guys over at National Public Radio (NPR) gave us, which was completely, you know, out of the blue and we’re thrilled with those guys and really respect their opinion. For me playing at the Pitchfork Music Festival in Chicago last summer was amazing, so many great bands and you know, that was kind of like, just to be included there was a huge thing for me. And then it’s just been a lot of good stuff, you know there’s Europe, I won’t go through every small town we went to but it just feels like everywhere we went to it was just like, ‘last night was great’, ‘tonight was better, ‘the next night is better and better’, and it’s all…Going to Spain, the three of us were there for the first time ever so that was exciting. And you know Ireland was, as you can imagine, we had a couple of pints with some people (all laugh) so you know we’re just honestly trying to take advantage of all the good stuff that’s happening.
Mike B: So you’re just kind of living the dream right now.
Michael: I don’t know, don’t wake me I guess.
Michael: The other thing is you adjust your sleep patterns when we’re away, I don’t know if you’d call any of us morning people necessarily but there’s plenty of one hour or two hours sleep, sleep in the car, sleep in the plane, so it’s a bit of a whirlwind sometimes. But I guess it beats a lot of other jobs.
Claire: We can relate to that somewhat, we’re college students, so…
Michael: Yeah that’s the thing, we’ve all done it and you know I could find myself back doing that soon because you never know, we hope to be doing this for a long time but that’s why I think it’s important to just sort of appreciate what you’re doing at the time and just kind of enjoy it to the fullest if you can.
Claire: Yeah definitely. Well, you guys are coming up to Montreal in a couple of weeks, and you’ve played here before, with Frightened Rabbit, who we also really like. How was that tour, first of all?
Michael: With Frightened Rabbit?
Michael: Awesome. Those guys are amazing. We really felt lucky to be on that tour at the time just because we were fans and they have a serious love affair with North America right now so that was really a great opportunity for us to go out and play these sold-out shows and just hang out with them, like I said they’re really sweet guys. And what tends to happen a lot of times when you tour with a band, some people tour with their friends’ bands, like on tour they bring their friends along, and that’s awesome. But we met a lot of people that didn’t even tour with Rabbits, it was only like a week, but you ended up feeling kind of like you made a bunch of new best friends which is really rad.
Claire: That’s cool. What was your impression of Montreal while you were up here? I mean we love this city.
Michael: Yeah, I love Montreal. Actually unfortunately one of the negative things about touring is that you go to all these really cool places but you don’t get to see as much as you’d like, because pretty much if it’s not after the show, it’s the next morning, and onto the next town. But I’ve been up there before, and actually I was up there playing with a different band for Pop Montreal a couple years ago. But yeah I just love it, I love the restaurants, I love the people…I don’t love it as much in the winter, I’m not going to lie (all laugh). But I don’t love anywhere as much in the winter, so I won’t hold that against you (laughs). You know Montreal is definitely a town that I could live in if it weren’t so ridiculously cold.
Claire: (all laugh) That’s kind of how we all felt before moving here, but then decided screw it, and came anyway.
Michael: No it’s cool, look if you don’t mind the weather you can put your layers on and get out there. But you know, it’s some people like the beach, some people like the snow.
Claire: Are you guys going to get up to anything while you’re in town in a couple weeks?
Michael: That is probably another situation where we’re probably just going to have to run off because that is going to be one night in between shows with the Editors tour, so that’s going to be just an Antlers show and then we’re going to be following the bus as we say. ‘Cause we still tour in our van, and now when we do support for a band like Editors, they have the big tour bus, so they’re kinda sleeping on the bus driving but we have to play catch up (laughs) to get there as fast as we can. So yeah, we’ll see, we’ll probably have time for the usual; like for dinner, and you know, play the show, and then get out of there; but I wish wecould stay longer, like I always do.
Claire: Yeah well if you have some time you should definitely check out this bar/club Benelux, we know some really cool people who live right around the corner from it…not naming any names.
Michael: (laughs) Ok, good to know.
Claire: So one last question, what’s next for you guys? Are you going to be doing anything on the festival circuit or any new recordings?
Michael: Yeah well both actually, while we were home in January we got a chance to do a little new recording, start exploring some new ideas. We’re probably not gonna be able to get to do much as far as releases for a while but that’s ok; we’re taking our time with recording and we’re kind of just exploring some new ideas. As far as festivals, you know I don’t know exactly what’s confirmed yet, we’re touring, we’re gonna be here in the states February and then back over in March in Europe, and then SXSW, then I think we’re pretty much gonna be on the road for a year as well. We’ll be around, look out for us!
Claire: Oh we definitely will.
Maurizio: Oh and one last question! Three albums that you guys have been listening to right now.
Michael: You know, we haven’t been spending that much time together but I can tell you we love the new Beach House record.
Claire: Ooh yes, it’s so good, I love it.
Michael: We have been listening to new Four Tet, I think he’s really cool.
All: Uh-huh, great.
Michael: And we’ve been listening to this band Phantogram, I don’t know if you know them, they’re from upstate New York and they have a really cool glitchy electronic sound. So there’s your three, I could go on but I’ll leave it at that.
Claire: Ok cool, glitchy electronic is kind of our thing so (laughs) that’s perfect.
Michael: There’s a lot that we love, we love everything you know, and I wish everybody had as open minds as you guys and it’s just cool to hear what a lot of different people in different genres have done.
Claire: Definitely. Alright, well thanks so much for taking the time out to talk to us.
Michael: Yeah no problem, good to talk to you guys, see you guys in Montreal soon!
Mike B: Alright sounds good, good luck with the tour.
Maurizio: Enjoy Brooklyn!
Michael: Thanks, bye.