Saturday, March 13, 2010

Exclusive: Silversun Pickups bass player talks 'Panic Switch,' women in music

By Anne Erickson, Gannett LSJ/NOISE

Silversun Pickups makes alternative indie rock, dripping with dream pop textures and catchy, sing-along melodies. Simply put, this is music that's less from the brain and more from the gut. Fans of My Bloody Valentine and the Smashing Pumpkins - you'll dig it.

The Los Angeles-based group's current full-length, "Swoon," scored it a No. 1 hit in the single, "Panic Switch," and a Grammy nom this year. Now it's on tour with alt-rock band Muse, which stops by the Palace of Auburn Hills on Saturday, March 13.

Bass player Nikki Monninger was kind enough to chitchat with me about the band's Grammy nomination and what it's like being a girl in the rock world.

NOISE: How did the tour with Muse come about?

Monninger: We played with them once before in Los Angeles, and we're just a big fan of them. I'm not quite sure the mechanics of arranging this tour, but we feel lucky to be a part of it.

"Panic Switch" was a huge hit last year. Did you know that song had something special?

Monninger: It's always nice to hear and experience that kind of success, but it's definitely not something we expected at all. It was a very nice surprise.

What was it like being nominated for Best New Artist at this year's Grammys?

Monninger: It's definitely something that came out of left field. We've been together almost 10 years now, so it was funny to be nominated for Best New Artist. But I understand that it takes a while for a band like us to get under their radar, and it was a real honor to be nominated. We had a great time, and then it was back to normal the next week.

What's your favorite memory from the Grammys?

Monninger: I thought it was really cool to see Lady Gaga just a couple of rows in front of us and Beyonce a row ahead of us. It's so surreal being around all those people you're so used to watching on TV. We also went to a Kings of Leon after party, so getting to meet those guys was nice.

What's it like being a female musician on the national level?

Monninger: I definitely think it's geared more towards guys. Backstage there aren't many women-specific places. The woman's bathroom is usually turned into a guy's bathroom, and it's pretty lopsided. We're from Silver Lake (Calif.) where there are many girls in the music scene, and I always assumed that's how it was on every level, but I do find there are only a couple girls working in production or backstage. When we play at festivals, when I go onstage, people might say, "Oh, you can wait over here," and motion offstage. They assume I'm a (talent scout) or a girlfriend.

That's funny!

Monninger: Yeah, it happens all the time. I joke about it, and then it happens again. I laugh it off.
What will you remember most about this whole experience with Silversun Pickups?

Monninger: It's so nice to travel to different cities and get to meet everyone that comes up to us after shows. Just getting to see more of America and the world than we had a chance to see before is amazing. We're very fortunate.

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