Silversun Pickups aim to surprise audience at Tulip Festival

Silversun Pickups frontman Brian Aubert likes to throw the band’s fans for a loop. The Los Angeles q
Silversun Pickups will perform Saturday at the 65th Albany Tulip Festival.
Silversun Pickups will perform Saturday at the 65th Albany Tulip Festival.

Silversun Pickups frontman Brian Aubert likes to throw the band’s fans for a loop.

The Los Angeles quartet’s third album, “Neck of the Woods,” released in May of last year, is a prime example. Layers of skittering electronic beats find equal space amid Aubert’s omnipresent fuzz guitars found on the band’s first two full-lengths. While the band still rocks hard and often on the album, the focus is on the atmospherics and interplay among Aubert, bassist Nikki Monninger, keyboardist Joe Lester and drummer Christopher Guanlao, rather than earth-shattering guitar riffs.

It’s a definite departure for the band, but Aubert’s used to hearing this from fans and critics — every record the band has released since its EP debut, “Pikul,” in 2005 has gotten almost the same reaction.

“ ‘Swoon’ [2009], our second record going on from ‘Carnavas’ [the band’s first full-length, released in 2006] — some thought that was a huge departure, although I feel like it was more similar to our first record,” Aubert said recently from the band’s tour bus in Washington, D.C.

“The biggest leap was for people who were really into the EP, when we came out with the first album. That one really took people by surprise — the EP was much more lo-fi, very, very warm sounding; the album we purposely made kind of fizzy. . . . So we’re used to it, and people are just used to us throwing curve balls. It puts us in a really grand place.”

Delayed reaction

It also means the band’s music doesn’t always hook its audience right away, and Aubert is happy with this too.

“We’ve always been one of those bands where people go, ‘OK, now I like it,’ ” he said.

“We never really want it to just be like, ‘Oh, that’s cool, but forgettable.’ We’d rather have you kind of go, ‘Huh.’ . . . We’re kind of in it for the long game, so we’re not interested in capturing your attention in five minutes. We almost want to make a record that’s impossible to digest.”

However, fans have warmed to “Neck of the Woods” — the album hit No. 1 on Billboard’s Alternative Albums and Independent Albums charts, and single “Bloody Mary (Nerve Endings)” has repeated the radio success of earlier tracks such as “Panic Switch” and “Lazy Eye.”

In particular, the band’s relationship with independent radio across the country continues to strengthen. WEQX-FM, which was one of the first stations to get behind “Carnavas” tracks such as “Lazy Eye” and “Well Thought Out Twinkles,” is bringing the band back to the Capital Region to headline the main stage on Saturday at the 65th annual Tulip Festival.

Silversun Pickups and music schedule

Silversun Pickups with The Features, Royal Teeth

When: 1 p.m. Saturday

Where: Main stage at Washington Park, Albany

How Much: Free

More Info: 434-2032,



Main Stage:

1 p.m. — Royal Teeth

2:30 p.m. — The Features

4 p.m. — Silversun Pickups


Noon — Tulip Queen coronation

1 p.m. — Tor & the Fjords

2:15 p.m. — Olivia Quillio

3:30 p.m. — Rick Rourke & Lost Wages

4:45 p.m. — Bryan Thomas


Main Stage:

1:30 p.m. — Grand Central Station

3:30 p.m. — Bennie & The Jets


Noon — Mother of the Year award

1 p.m. — Annie & The Hedonists

2:15 p.m. — MaryLeigh & The Fauves

3:30 p.m. — The Dylan Perrillo


4:45 p.m. — Eastbound Jesus

“I think the first station that ever played us was called KEXP in Seattle,” Aubert said. “We were surprised — we had thought, we’re gonna make the EP and then make the record and see what happens. That kind of sent us to another level that we were shocked by, and when we started touring on it we did stuff through a lot of indie stations. A lot of the major stations get pretty pissed that we don’t care — I mean, there’s room for everybody, so it’s funny when people get bent out of shape. We love adventurous radio; it’s the only way to hear anything interesting or new.”

Assorted sounds

The two-day Tulip Fest, taking place Saturday and Sunday at Washington Park, will feature the usual assortment of music, both local and national. The WEQX-sponsored main stage on Saturday will also feature performances by Tennessee indie rockers The Features and Louisiana’s Royal Teeth. Also on Saturday, local bands will play on the Amp Stage at the Washington Park Lakehouse Amphitheater, including Tor and the Fjords, Olivia Quillio, Rick Rourke & Lost Wages and Bryan Thomas.

Main stage acts for Sunday include Grand Central Station and Bernie & The Jets, an Elton John tribute band. Sunday’s Amp Stage lineup will feature local favorites Annie & The Hedonists, MaryLeigh & The Fauves, The Dylan Perrillo Orchestra and Eastbound Jesus. For a complete schedule of music and other Tulip Fest events, visit

Season opener

For Silversun Pickups, the event will help kick off the band’s summer festival season after sporadic touring during the early part of the year. “There’s a lot of those festival starting now, so that’s what we’re doing for the first part of the tour — ramping up for all that and all these other things we’re doing,” Aubert said. “It’s busy, but it’s good to be busy.”

“Neck of the Woods,” recorded with producer Jacknife Lee, found the band working differently to achieve different sounds. The band recorded the entire album in 10 weeks, relatively quick for them. Much of the record was written and improvised in the studio, with all four members present for the entire session.

“It ended up being more organic than ever — instead of Christopher being there for four days, and then someone else is there for a little while, we were all there changing things constantly,” Aubert said.

“Jacknife Lee was the perfect kind of mad, controlling the ship into who knows where. We always would say [during the recording], ‘When this thing comes out, we’re gonna drink a nice, cold beer, because this is crazy.’ ”

With the improvisational nature of the recording sessions, the songs have had room to breathe in the live setting as well.

“On ‘Neck of the Woods’ we were more locked in live than ever before,” Aubert said. “But lately I’ve noticed — I don’t know, you start kind of curving things, little edges on the songs that you almost blow out a little bit, like zooming in on a part of a photo you didn’t see before. As we’re playing these songs, those little parts start to really — we just turn them up and dramatically make them more noticeable, like shining a flashlight on these things that we didn’t even notice ourselves.”

Filling in

Since summer of last year, Monninger has been on maternity leave, with The Happy Hollows singer/guitarist Sarah Negahdari filling in on bass live. Her addition into the live dynamic has been a breath of fresh air for the band, which had gotten a little set in its ways.

“Having somebody come in and see [how we work] for the first time, it opened our eyes to how numb we were — like, ‘Yeah, you’re right, this is insane,’ ” Aubert said. “And then we started even making set lists on what she thought. We didn’t even think about — we never had an input of somebody who was a fan of the band before they got in the band.”

It’s still up in the air when Monninger, who gave birth to twin girls at the end of last year, will return to the band full time (she’s made a few smaller appearances, including an acoustic show in Los Angeles with Aubert for Record Store Day on April 20). But after more than 10 years of playing together, the dynamics within the band are still strong.

“We’re kind of more family, to a point where, if you see somebody six months later, nothing’s threatened as far as band relationships,” Aubert said. “That thing’s pretty much set in stone. I think everybody is just really good at stepping off people; everybody knows their ways and knows who needs what at what time. We’re lucky, I guess — I know a lot of bands that have to go to therapy. I’ve seen it, and they need it, but we don’t even think about those things.”

Other events

Besides the music, Tulip Fest is a weekend of fun and tradition for families. Scheduled events include:

— Carillon Concert, 11:30 a.m. Friday, City Hall

Charles Semowich plays City Hall’s 49-bell carillon.

— Street sweeping, noon, Friday, State and Lodge streets

The traditional Dutch practice of scrubbing the streets, plus an address by Mayor Jerry Jennings and an introduction of the 2013 Tulip Queen finalists.

— Tulip Festival Luncheon

Proceeds benefit the Tulip Fund at the Community Foundation. For tickets, call 275-6813. 12:30 p.m., Friday, Hotel Albany (State and Lodge streets).

— Drawing Up Central: Sidewalk Chalk Art Contest

Artists compete for prizes in a sidewalk chalk art contest. To compete, visit or call 462-4300. 10 a.m. Saturday, Lower Central Ave.

— Tulip Queen Coronation

2012 Tulip Queen Emily Finnegan and Mayor Jennings lead the five finalists to the Lakehouse Amphitheatre Stage at 11:45 a.m., Saturday, for the noon coronation of the 2013 queen. Amp stage.

— The Royal Tulip Ball

Proceeds benefit The Albany Promise. For tickets contact Capital Affairs at 388-9240. 6:30 p.m. Saturday.

— Solar City’s Green Market

Green expo highlighting sustainable goods, energy-efficient resources, recycling tips and more. Saturday and Sunday, Willett Street and Hudson Avenue park entrance.

— KidZone

Activities and entertainment for children in the park, including Airborne Jugglers, Melvin the Magnificent, Radio Disney Road Show.

— Zumba

Corrine Bland leads the Latin-inspired dance fitness workout. 12:30 p.m., Sunday, Washington Park Parade Grounds.

Reach Gazette reporter Brian McElhiney at 395-3111 or [email protected]

Categories: Entertainment, Life and Arts

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