Arena rock for the indie crowd

With two full-length albums under their belt and tours with Wolfmother and Snow Patrol the indie alt-rock band Silversun Pickups are now embarking on a tour supporting Muse.

Joe Lester, who mans the keyboards in the band, talked with The Oakland Post on March 2.

The Oakland Post: What sets Silversun Pickups apart from other bands?

Joe Lester: I think one of the things that’s really cool and compelling about the band is every one of us really has our own identity. The songs are written by all of us, instead of there being one main person and we all just kind of fill in or whatever — it’s the four of us and we all have our own say and our own opinions on stuff.

The Post: What is one of the band’s greatest accomplishments so far?

Lester: Finally signing to the label and putting out our first record was something that we were all really proud of. We were like, “Look, we can do this, we’re almost professional.” I think at this point we can you know, knock on wood, make a living playing music. We don’t have to come back from tour and go back to our day jobs; that’s definitely something we’re all pretty stoked about. We feel really lucky that we’re in a position to do that.

The Post: Going on tour for two years straight put somewhat of a strain on many of your relationships back home —what made that worth it?

Lester: That’s true, but the strain wasn’t necessarily apparent until we got back and then we realized: You know what? When we’re gone life still goes on it’s not like everything stops at home. It’s really weird to try and get back into your life in the town that you live in when you’ve been gone for that long. We were a live band for years before we had a record out so we like touring and I think it didn’t seem like a strain to us, like having to do it that long. I think toward the very end we just realized it was time to go home and make another record.

The Post: How does “Swoon” differ from your first full-length album, “Carnavas?”

Lester: I think it’s a much more mature record; at least we’d like to say it is. We’re more mature as a band, we’ve spent all that time touring and playing and really getting inside the songs on the first record. I think we had a much better understanding going into “Swoon,” what we wanted to do and what the songs on the first record did and what they didn’t do and what we wanted them to do. I think just on a basic level we’re all probably better musicians and better at playing on our own and with each other. It’s not vastly different but I think the spectrum is a little wider as far as the dynamics — the slower songs are slower and quieter and the faster, more rockin’ songs are more rockin’. It’s sort of an expansion of the palate that we were working with “Carnavas” — with “Swoon” we’ve spread the boundaries out a little bit.

The Post: Thoughts on illegal downloading?

Lester: If it wasn’t for the Internet we wouldn’t be anywhere near where we are now. The music industry dying completely is probably not a great thing, I just think they need to do a better job of adapting to the way people listen to music now and I don’t think up until this point they’ve done a very good job. If it wasn’t for the Internet and people — chat rooms and things like that — we probably wouldn’t exist as anything close to the form we do now. That’s how people heard about us.

(The Internet is) just a great tool for marketing bands. Anybody who makes music can put it up and I think that’s really amazing. I just think it’s opened a whole new world of music up to people and I think there’s something that you can’t discount. I understand both sides of it. We wouldn’t be able to keep making records on our label if no one bought our records. 

 Silversun Pickups will be performing The Palace of Auburn Hills on March 13.