The Antlers are due to play Prague later in the evening when Goldenplec gets the opportunity to converse with Darby Cicci, keyboardist, brass man and general all-rounder for the Brooklyn based folk, chamber pop act.
Cicci is an engaging, witty character who is conscious of reviews.
“Yeah, I take notice of them,” he says, “I read enough to know whether it’s a good or a bad review. If it’s a bad review, I take note of the publication. If it’s a really bad review, I might, y’know, look up the writer’s address … Maybe a list of his or her fears …”
All jokes aside, The Antlers are able to take reviews – good or bad – on the chin. Most notably, the band re-reviewed their most recent release, ‘Familars’, for music blog Drowned In Sound.
“We had agreed to do all this content for them, and the day before all that content was due, they put a review of our record out, and it was terrible,” he laughs. “It was scathing, but I think it was a humorous way to embrace that.”
“They’ve been really supportive of us for a long time. We just wanted to make light of that.”
“But critics can pretty much all go fuck themselves,” he jokes.
When it comes to who matters most when it comes to their music – critics or fans – Cicci’s answer is surprising.
“Ultimately neither, you have to think about it like this – what do you play music for? Why do you play music in the first place? It’s about that feeling you get when you play music. That feeling has been such a large part of my life for so long that that’s really the only thing that matters to me.”
“If you were on a desert island all day, and there were no critics, no fans, no money – would you still be playing music? If the answer is no, then you’re probably in the industry for partially the wrong reasons.”
Not that he’s ungrateful though “It’s because of the fans that I’m not staring at dry-wall all day, coughing up white dust. I can’t tell you how incredibly grateful I am to those people.”
‘Familars’ The Antlers’ fifth album was released in June of this year. A texturally rich, sprawling juggernaut of sound, the process of writing and recording it was no mean feat.
“It’s always tricky for me, because I play so many different instruments, to make sure that they all exist in the same world.” explaining “it takes so much time to arrange different instruments, record them all and make them fit together.”
“I play the instruments that I want to play. For this record, I played a lot of trumpet and a lot of bass. A challenge I set for myself was to play trumpet on every track.”
“It’s all cantered around an experience – the length of time someone is listening to a track – and all the layers have to work together. All the individual elements are creating the vibe and the mood. If that doesn’t work, then none of the details really matter.”
Cicci was in charge of engineering the band’s last three records. “Being an engineer is an extension of who I am. I love recording. I love the creative element. I engineer for the same reason that I play any instrument.”
Is the band reluctant to hand over the reins? “It’s not a matter of control,” he says, “I know what I want. With over ten years of recording experience, I’m pretty confident that I can bring the sound in my head to life.”
Halfway through their tour, Cicci speaks affectionately of European crowds. “They listen a lot and pay attention. They focus on the really subtle elements, which is great, because that’s all I focus on!”
“I think sometimes American audiences are more out to have fun and to get drunk,” he says.
Cicci doesn’t agree with bands that put up a barrier between themselves and the fans. “They want to cultivate a mystique, but it’s all bullshit. There’s this arrogance among people. They put themselves on a pedestal because they think that what they’re doing is some kind of higher art form. But the highest art forms to me are the ones that connect with people.”
Another aspect of the industry Cicci isn’t keen on, is how commercialised it is becoming. “It bothers me when companies and corporations try to worm their way in to a pure creative zone. We’ve had sponsors before and it’s been great, but we’ve turned down companies too. More often than not, it’s because they want to get in on that experience people have listening to records in order to sell products.”
“Festival sponsors giving out free beer at a festival? That’s fantastic. Soda companies starting record labels. That’s a little deceptive, I think.”
For a band of their genre, The Antlers are extremely interactive on social media. Most recently, they hosted an AMA on Reddit, and they regularly engage in Q&A sessions on their Twitter account.
“I find people asking me about my hair a little too often,” he says, “I don’t care. I appreciate curious minds and I’m happy to indulge if at all possible.”
However, social media is a double-edged sword for the band. On Twitter, they are often mistaken for The Antlers, a student group that supports the University of Missouri basketball team.
“They’re very loud and outspoken. They yell a lot and hold up offensive signs. Every time they have a game and they do something, we get blamed for it and told that we should get kicked out of school,” he laughs.