Silversun Pickups beam SoCal alt-rock into College Street Music Hall
The Los Angeles-based rock band swung through New Haven on Friday to promote their latest album, “Physical Thrills.”
Zoe Berg, Senior Photographer
The stage of College Street Music Hall was transformed into a post-apocalyptic lunar landscape on Friday. White sheets were draped over equipment like waterfalls. Scattered circular lights glowed red. On a kick drum at the center of the stage, a painted wolf howled up at the stage lights.
On Nov. 4, Los Angeles-based rock band Silversun Pickups visited New Haven to promote their most recent album “Physical Thrills,” released last August. Formed in 2000, Silversun Pickups consists of frontman Brian Aubert, bassist Nikki Monninger, drummer Chris Guanlao and keyboardist Joe Lester.
New Haven was one of the first stops on a busy month of touring for the band. Guanlao described the first week of the tour as “nerve-racking,” with the band encountering several technical difficulties during production rehearsals.
“But after the first week, we started to gel, and now we’re able to have fun,” Guanlao said. “I’m super excited for all these shows and I feel ready and re-energized.”
Silversun Pickups emerged from the early 2000s rock scene in the Los Angeles neighborhood Silver Lake. The band got their start playing opening or closing sets for more established groups, sometimes taking the stage far after midnight. Guanlao said he fondly remembers the camaraderie that they shared with other up-and-coming L.A. rock bands.
“We were like the little brother of everyone,” Guanlao shared, “It was just so motivating.”
The Silver Lake music scene helped forge Silversun Pickup’s musical style, which is often defined by driving and rock anthems.
“As far as our sound goes, everyone kind of tells us we like a SoCal band or like a L.A. band,” Guanlao said. “But it’s funny, because we don’t know how to make Southern California music, you know, it just kind of comes out of us.”
Silversun Pickups made “Physical Thrills” in collaboration with producer Butch Vig. Guanlao said that, being a percussionist himself, Vig has “that kind of drumming sensibility,” and likened their communication in the studio to “mental telepathy.”
Guanlao also mentioned that the collaborative energy of the whole band is similar to a family. Past conflicts around business issues had “never really lasted” or caused major rifts.
Friday’s show was opened by Australian pop-rock band Eliza & The Delusionals. Frontwoman Eliza Klatt led the band through songs like “Swimming Pool” and “Just Exist” with her unrelenting, soaring vocals.
New Haven was just one stop on a cross-country trek for Eliza & The Delusionals, who embarked from San Francisco and drove east on a tour bus.
When asked about the band’s tour rituals, guitarist Kurt Skuse commented that “we always have a gin and soda” and “we wear the same clothes constantly, because we don’t wash any clothes.”
The Silversun Pickups opened their set with the slow-paced “Stillness (Way Beyond),” which features ghostly, echoing vocals. The set list also included older hits like “Panic Switch,” from the band’s 2009 album “Swoon,” which highlighted Monninger’s explosive bass skills.
Silversun Pickups gave an energetic performance throughout the set. Each time a chorus hit, Monninger jumped up and down on stage, a huge smile on her face. Guanlao played a drum set on which the crash cymbal was suspended above his head, his face almost completely obscured by a shaggy mane of brown hair.
“I think they are absolutely amazing. I’ve never heard them before, and yeah, I got really pumped up,” said audience member Jess Sanderson, who won tickets with her boyfriend through the radio station 10.41.
Silversun Pickups are slated to headline 12 more shows before Thanksgiving.