STATUS spoke to Nikki Monninger, bassist and vocalist of indie rock band Silversun Pickups, days before the release of their new album, Neck of the Woods. Together with vocalist/guitarist Brian Aubert, keyboardist Joe Lester and drummer Christopher Guanlao, they make sure that having a staple Silversun Pickup song in your alt-rock playlist doesn’t stop in 2007′s very emotionally charged “Lazy Eye.” Nikki suggests more for your aural indulgence.
“Choosing [Jacknife Lee as producer] made us go on a different direction but still feels like us, only with added elements. It’s all about having all of these elements come together, what we’ve learned through the years.” — Nikki
I’d like to ask how you guys formed this relationship with music. How did you start picking up an instrument and doing music?
My parents got me to take piano lessons when I was five and continued on for 10 years. After playing the piano, I started playing the guitar for a few years and, by the time we started the band, I decided I like playing the bass.
Why did you call your third album Neck of the Woods?
It is something that Brian had come up with. We were recording in Topanga Canyon where he grew up, and it just sort of fit. And we were also looking at this album artwork at the same time, and we found the photo we chose from a photographer [named] Todd Hido, and it just kind of all came in together at once. Lyrically, I think it did affect Brian just being so close to where he grew up. It was sort of a recalling of his childhood and just what created him as a person so far in his life. It’s sort of an introspective for him.
There’s a haunting, dream-like quality to your songs in Neck of the Woods, and it has been said that you sort of graduated from the group’s trademark reverb and distortion. Is it a conscious effort on your part to change it up or is it just the group’s maturity we’re hearing?
I think part of choosing to work with our new producer Jacknife Lee is that all of his influences would come into the record knowing the producer’s background. Choosing him made us go on a different direction but still feels like us, only with added elements. It’s all about having all of these elements come together, what we’ve learned through the years.
Among the songs in your album, can you name three that you believe would blow up and get amazing response from your supporters?
Well, “Bloody Mary,” I am really happy about that. “The Pit,” I love the electronic elements in that song and “Dots and Dashes,” I just love playing that song. I love the lyrics to it and that song came together really well.
After the Grammy nod, the 18-month tour, and now the release of your new record, what’s the next destination for SSPU?
We are very fortunate to be nominated for the Grammy. We just set out to make the best album that we could. We’re proud of what we’ve done. We are really happy with it. If we are to be nominated again, we would be thrilled. Basically, we are planning to tour US and Canada, and hopefully get to travel more around the world. We would love to go back to some countries we’ve been to. We’re just grateful that we’re still able to do this for a living.
What songs are you currently overplaying in your iPod?
Well, I am listening to The Shins’ new album. Hold on. (Gets her list) Sorry about that; I made a list before, so here. I’m currently listening to The Shins’s “Simple Song.” I’ve seen them perform live a few times, and they just sound great. There’s also a band in Australia called An Horse, they have this song “Dress Sharply,” it may be an older song of them but lately I’ve been listening to it a lot. And if I can highly suggest, I would recommend the Radar Bros.’ And the Surrounding Mountains, it is one of the most perfect albums ever written. It’s one of my favorite albums ever.
Interview by Leo Balante
Photographed by Autumn de Wilde
For the full story, grab a copy of STATUS July 2012 issue