Silversun Pickups: Smash Your Head On The Alt Rock

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Silversun Pickups are sellouts: crass, money-grubbing media whores. If you have any doubt, just ask them.

“We’re trying to get into McDonald’s,” says singer/guitarist Brian Aubert. “We didn’t answer the phone calls before, but now it’s time. We want you to order the Silversun Happy Meal.”

Give the guy credit for maintaining a sense of humor about his band’s newfound notoriety, which has included rotation on MTV, band-to-watch status in corporate-rock mags and overwhelming support on the road. Heady stuff for Aubert’s self-proclaimed “teeny little band” from Silver Lake, Calif.

“On the last tour it really hit us, because everybody knew all the songs,” he says. “It just feels great after being holed up in a studio in a very unglamorous way, tearing your hair out and being nerdy with guitar parts.”

Silversun Pickups, named after the band’s local liquor store, started with a chance meeting on a flight abroad, when Aubert observed bassist Nikki Monninger pilfering liquor bottles from a flight attendant’s cart. The two became fast friends, roommates and eventually bandmates. One of the group’s earliest gigs was a slot at the CMJ Music Marathon, secured on the strength of three songs recorded straight to a boombox. Keyboardist Joseph Lester and drummer Christopher Guanlao were later enlisted, and a full-length debut, Carnavas (Dangerbird), was issued in July.

Carnavas is very representative of how we sound live,” says Aubert. “We wanted the record to have the same sort of bigness. Something loud and massive but still kind of warm.” Silversun’s early-’90s, My Bloody Pumpkins revivalism has definitely struck a chord with those pining for alt rock’s halcyon years, but for now, Aubert is content to poke fun at his band’s upward trajectory.

“When we become rich and famous, we’re going to play shorter sets,” he says. “We won’t have time to be caring about this rock ’n’ roll when we’ve got a yacht parked outside.”

—Matt Ryan