Silversun Pickups' Golden Return To London
Over half a decade since LA’s Silversun Pickups were last in London, the four-piece were last week back in town airing tracks from 2015’s 'Better Nature'. Subba-Cultcha made sure they were there, grabbing a couple of minutes on the evening with the group’s charismatic frontman, Brian Aubert.
“There’s something we do every time we get to London - a Silversun ritual. Our first stop is to wander to the Tate Modern; the Rothko room is great for jet-lag”. It’s been a while however since Aubert and co. have visited the gallery - six years have passed since the group has been in the English capital. It’s a fact the band repeatedly bring up – and apologise for – during their energetic ninety-minute set at Islington’s O2 Academy.
As a venue it’s rather soulless, finding itself sitting between a Vue cinema and a Paperchase in the N1 Centre. But as the show was sold out months in advance, the venue’s boorishness didn’t influence the audience’s excitement. Fortunately the evening was left feeling like a rock show rather than an open mic night in a Nando’s that it could have so easily become.
With four albums to pull material from, Silversun didn’t simply find themselves reliant on playing 'Better Nature' back-to-front – although unsurprisingly the new album did make up the main body of the set. 'Better Nature' is the group’s first release on their own label (with Aubert admitting this “makes recording such a swift process – we think about things and it happens yesterday”), and is their second to be produced by industry stalwart Jacknife Lee. When asked what the former producer of U2 (don’t judge) and Weezer brings to the table, Aubert commented “He’s family at this point, we pretty much speak in shorthand. We also have a tendency to be free of the inner critic and can chicken out when it comes to recording certain things - Knife keeps our eyes uncrossed”.
With straightened vision and a reputation for recording songs that seldom drop under the five-minute mark (new track "Circadian Rhythm" is Silversun’s first ever number coming in at under four minutes (“we always think our songs are that length - the songs aren’t finished until they’re finished!”)), for Silversun to squeeze as much material into the Islington show as possible there was very little time wasted on stage.
"Well Thought Out Twinkles" from 'Carnavas' rolled into "The Royal We" from 'Swoon', which rolled into "The Pit" from 'Neck of the Woods', which rolled into "Friendly Fires" from 'Better Nature'. No EP was left unturned, with the nostalgic celebrated along with the new.
Sonically, Silversun seem to be a more-rounded Feeder. Their non-offensive approach to music leaves them broadly popular, with their hard-to-pin-down sound as likely to be heard on a Kerrang playlist following something by Lamb of God as it would a ‘Greatest Dad in the World’ CD compilation available from petrol stations ahead of Father’s Day.
Complimenting the group’s varied musical style is the remarkable vocal range of Aubert, who is as comfortable with hushed husky whispering (‘Little Lover’s So Polite’) as he is with ear-splitting screams (on the aforementioned ‘Friendly Fires’). It sounds as polished live as it does on record.
The occasional backing vocals from bassist Nikki Monninger offer a nice Ying to Aubert’s; they’re much softer and more suited to a pop record than that of alternative rock. The two of them are the longest serving of the group (with drummer Chris Guanian and keyboardist Joe Lester joining two years after the band’s formation), having met years ago when studying in Cambridge. “England is actually the first place I lived away from my parents, and I met Nikki when studying on an exchange programme in Cambridge”, Aubert remarked. “As a country it really shaped where we landed as people, and we also ended up meeting the Queen - I’ll tell you more about it next time!".
The only real disappointment of Silversun’s return to London was the decision to return to the stage following "Lazy Eye" – perhaps the group’s best-known (and loved) song. The distorted guitars and howled vocals were fantastically deafening, and as such the three-track encore felt a little underwhelming. That said, the precedent to this was outstanding.
And a cherry on the evening’s cake? Whilst the gig was going on Arsenal got rolled over by Swansea less than a mile down the road.
Pictures by John Hayhurst