Headliners: Silversun Pickups

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

Brian Aubert was having what some might call a good dilemma.

The singer for Los Angeles rock quartet Silversun Pickups was in New York last week preparing for his band's appearance on the Late Show with David Letterman, preparation that included chopping two minutes out of single "Panic Switch," a track that approaches six minutes on Silversun's sophomore album, Swoon.

"It's pretty severe. We're calling it the Cliffs Notes version," Aubert joked, before showing his true colors: "Your heart always sort of belongs to the original piece, but you know, cry me a river."

Over the phone, Aubert comes off as one of the most down-to-earth musicians in the ever-more-glamorous world of so-called indie rock. He's friendly, polite and genuinely grateful for the opportunities that keep landing in his lap.

That good fortune includes a No. 7 debut for Swoon, rampant radio play for singles like "Lazy Eye" and "Panic Switch" and prominent slots at major festivals like Coachella, South by Southwest and All Points West.

Silversun Pickups is a success story, to be sure, but not your typical post-millennial overnight success story.

The band had been playing around L.A.'s fruitful Silver Lake scene for more than half a decade when they broke through to a national audience in 2006 with debut Carnavas. That tour of duty helped them develop a blistering live show and prepared them to roll with the punches when the inevitable slew of crises spring up on stage.

"We're just used to things like the monitors breaking," Aubert said. "Things don't really faze us. Some bands might have a massive meltdown, understandably because they aren't used to playing live."

The years bouncing around L.A. also helped Silversun Pickups fine-tune their sound, a stadium-sized shoegaze guitar gloss that rides atop the aggressive rhythm section and lends itself quite accurately to a title like Swoon.

Then there's Aubert's voice, a high-pitched wail that leaves some listeners thinking Silversun Pickups is a female-fronted band.

"I love the notion of playing a show where there's this guy with his beer, and he's so excited to hear this hot chick singing, and I come out with my scrappy-ass beard," Aubert said, laughing. "Either he just leaves or his whole life's changed."

The band may not have been thrust into the spotlight too early by blog-fueled hype cycles, but the critical hive mind has bestowed one albatross on Silversun Pickups. Seemingly every mention of the band - including one in Alive two years ago - is accompanied by a comparison to Smashing Pumpkins.

Aubert said he doesn't mind the comparisons if they cause new listeners to give his band a chance. But now that Silversun has a second album under their belt, the band's distinct sound may be its own reference point.

Swoon was written during a time of coming back down to earth for the band after months of ceaseless touring and promotion for Carnavas - "trying to integrate yourself back into the world you've been away from for the past two years," Aubert explained.

As they rekindled old relationships and spent time acquainting themselves with new Silver Lake bands like the Happy Hollows and Henry Clay People, the members of Silversun Pickups couldn't help but feel a sense of gratitude for their simple twist of fate.

"We prepared ourselves for when luck strikes," Aubert said, "but at the end of the day, luck did strike."

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Silversun Pickups

When: 7 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 6

Where: LC Pavilion, Arena District

Web: promowestlive.com