It’s time to check in with one of our favorite Silver Lake, Los Angeles indie bands, Silversun Pickups. Brian, Nikki, Chris and Joe have a new album just out called Better Nature. From what I’ve heard of it so far, it sounds like it has all of the heart-pounding propulsion, musical sophistication and smooth/edgy vocals we’ve come to expect from this fine band. Lead single “Nightlight” has a beautifully executed dark and sensuous little film to accompany it.
As big a production as “Nightlight” is, visually and musically, “Circadian Rhythm (Last Dance)” is a quieter, more personal story. It was written and is primarily sung by bassist/vocalist Nikki Monninger, who recently lost a friend. The video visually mirrors the introspective nature of the song, filmed in black and white and featuring close-ups of the band performing in what looks like a simple rehearsal room.
The music is beautiful, and it’s no surprise. But that’s not really what I’m here to talk about. With this new album, SSPU embarks on a bold journey of self-determination. Though I’m sure they had more creative and financial control with Dangerbird than they would have had with a major label, they have now left the indie label and have formed their own, called New Machine Recordings. This is a big deal, since Dangerbird put out every SSPU release since their 2005 Pikul EP. It’s also really great news for their many fans. As a band that has always had a strong online presence and a close involvement with their fan base, they’ve taken that relationship one step further with a very exciting PledgeMusic campaign.
PledgeMusic, similar to crowdsourcing platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo, lets artists market directly to their audience. This gives a band full control and maximum returns, and it gives fans the opportunity for a closer connection with their favorite musicians and the ability to buy exclusive merchandise. It’s a Win-Win situation.
For Silversun Pickups’ Better Nature release, just a small sampling of the delicious “premiums” that have been available, for different levels of pledges, are limited edition signed vinyl, art proofs, signed handwritten lyric sheets, signed drumheads and guitars, custom SSPU nightlights, disposable cameras with behind-the-scenes band photos, hoodies, handwritten postcards from the band, vinyl test pressings and, incredibly, a private Skype drum lesson with SSPU drummer Christopher Guanlao! Pretty amazing, right? And if you’re on a tight budget, you can spring for just the AccessPass, which lets you download the new album. This special pass also provides access to private updates from the band and behind-the-scenes photos.
Personally, I think this is the way of the future for all bands who aren’t at the top of the Billboard charts and selling out arenas and stadiums (which, let’s face it, is most of them). Instead of a corporate entity making promotional and marketing decisions, the band communicates with their audience directly and asks them for support. It’s a direct, honest exchange of art for financial backing, sans middleman. All creative control and financial compensation is kept where it belongs, with the artist. For the fans, nothing is more rewarding than directly helping their favorite bands make music, and in addition to being a part of the creative process and enjoying regular updates, they can come away with unique merchandise and special opportunities.
For their Better Nature album, the first on their own label, the band went back to Topanga Canyon and recorded the album with longtime collaborator Jacknife Lee. You can read more about the recording process and their decision to strike out on their own in their interview with the Albany Herald. They promise YouTube videos of studio sessions “writing the album, finding the right sounds to each song, and having lightsaber magic glowy sword fights.” They’ve also promised more shows, so keep your eyes peeled!
In the meantime, choose a bundle from their PledgeMusic campaign or order from Amazon or iTunes below.