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Saturday, February 16, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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A&E >  Music

Silversun Pickups find independent success with “Better Nature”

Near the end of the album cycle for 2012’s “Neck of the Woods,” Los Angeles alt-rock quartet Silversun Pickups had a decision to make.

With an ever-shifting music industry, the quartet had to figure out whether to do things the way they’ve always been done or adapt and possibly create something even better.

The band – singer/guitarist Brian Aubert, drummer Chris Guanlao, keyboardist/guitarist Joe Lester and singer/bassist Nikki Monninger – chose the latter option and, after a decade on the Los Angeles-based Dangerbird Records, decided to become independent.

“Better Nature,” the band’s fourth album, is the first to be released on the band’s own New Machine Records.

The album, which was released in 2015, brings the band to the Knitting Factory on Tuesday.

The band began thinking about self-releasing an album while working on “Neck of the Woods,” the band’s last record for Dangerbird.

After completing its contract, and given the current direction of the music industry, the band decided it didn’t make sense to sign with another label.

“When we signed with Dangerbird, it was still the old ways of the music industry where you sign for a certain amount of time, certain number of records and that was it,” Lester said. “Because of streaming and record sales and all that other stuff, now when bands sign contracts, they tend to have to sign over part of their publishing, part of their touring income and part of their merch income, so it didn’t really make sense to do that.”

Knowing they had complete control over the album didn’t change how the quartet approached the writing or recording process, as they had the same freedom while on Dangerbird.

Lester said the label never pressured them to sound a certain way. Instead, the band put pressure on themselves to release something they can be proud of.

“The most pressure that’s ever on us is on ourselves to make a record that we think is good and something that we feel like we want to put out and people to hear,” he said.

When it came time to record “Better Nature,” the quartet reunited with producer Jacknife Lee (Weezer, U2, R.E.M.), who produced “Neck of the Woods.”

Lester called Lee “a lunatic in the best way possible.”

Instead of having the band enter the studio after months of pre-production and rehearsal, Lee had them bring demos and a willingness to experiment.

“Things are open to interpretation all the way up til we’re done with the record,” Lester said.

In one instance, a song changed even after it was sent out for mixing.

The band pre-mixed the album and sent it to Alan Moulder, who mixed the record, to polish. When they got the songs back, they found one (Lester couldn’t remember which) had been changed pretty drastically.

“We were all like ‘I kind of love this,’ ” Lester said. “It’s good to be open to things all the way up until you have to let go of it.”

Silversun Pickups are open to change even after they have to let go of the songs, as it turns out.

To help close the “Better Nature” chapter, the band invited indie-rock quintet Joywave, indie-pop quintet JR JR and synth-pop artist MNDR to each remix a song from the album for an EP, “Better Nature (Revisited).”Released in October, it also features acoustic versions of “Nightlight,” “Circadian Rhythm (Last Dance)” and “Latchkey Kids” that were recorded during a session at Seattle’s KEXP.

The band also has no trouble giving creative control of its music videos to the director.

“We look at it like a way to let someone else express their creativity,” Lester said. “We like to leave it to whoever’s directing the video to put our faces in and let them be creative. I think it’s being open in all things.”

Once they get off the road, Lester said the band plans to rebuild its rehearsal studio so it can get to work on its next album.

The band has a few song ideas floating around, though nothing concrete just yet.

But for the next month, Silversun Pickups will be on tour saying goodbye to “Better Nature.”

Lester said the band has a Halloween surprise up its sleeve for the Spokane show and isn’t opposed to audience members wearing costumes.

“If anybody feels like it, that’s certainly not going to be frowned upon,” he said. “That always makes it more fun.”

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