Coachella Q&A: Silversun Pickups Drummer Christopher Guanlao
Although Silversun Pickups just helped close out this year's Coachella over the weekend, the L.A.-based four-piece are just getting their festival season started. We caught up with drummer Christopher Guanlao (pictured right) at Coachella in Indio, Calif. and he spoke enthusiastically about the band’s latest full-length, Better Nature, along with his fondness for one particular Star Wars sippy cup which might just make you want one of your own. Read the conversation below.
If you could be in any other band or onstage with any musician at Coachella, who would it be?
There would be two. [Laughs] I’ll give you the second one (first). The very, very close second would be Savages. I mean they were just so f---ing amazing, I was blown away by their performance the first weekend. I didn’t really know anything about them and they just killed it! Each member has their own vibe and persona. They were so great. The reason they're second, though, is because I wouldn’t want to kill that female vibe. [Laughs] I feel like I would screw it up.
So I guess the band I would want to perform with would be Courtney Barnett and her trio. I think she’s an amazing songwriter and I just love all her music. I love the fact that she has existential, everyday lyrics but then her choruses are so catchy. Then, to top it, off I think her band – being a three-piece and rocking so much – harks back to 90’s alt-rock. It's very simple but not simplistic. It’s loose, but at the same time, very tight. I miss that. I miss the three-piece rock trio sound.
An honorable mention for me: I also wouldn’t mind dancing around crazily to Sia in a tight, nude body suit. [Laughs]
What does the title of Better Nature mean to you personally?
(It's about) being our better selves and having our better natures shine through. With everyone being flawed individuals and, specifically, for us as a band to have been doing this for so long, we kind of have to lean more on our better natures than our worse natures. We’ve seen it all and we’ve been through it all, as far as all of our negative personalities as well as our positive ones.
We’ve been doing this for about 15 years and I feel like we’ve gone over some type of hump. We’ve seen the worst of ourselves and we’ve survived it. Now we’re a little bit more mature and enjoying ourselves a lot more and focusing on that as opposed to the negative.
It feels like Silversun Pickups started out as best friends and then we ended up being business partners and bandmates in parentheses. Now we’ve kind of come full circle and we’re like family more than anything else.
What about who you are as a person or musician can we hear on the album?
It’s funny because I guess now that we’ve been playing it for a while, it feels very much a part of our set and collection of music. It doesn’t feel very removed from our previous albums or songs. Initially, we were coming into thinking very "soundtracky." We were listening to a lot of Ennio Morricone and getting that vibe, messing around with more guttural sounds and landscapes as opposed to electronic or instrumental noises. It was very much about experimention and throwing things at a wall to see what sticks. Afterwards, we had the headache of actually figuring out how to play it live. [Laughs] Now it all just feels like Silversun Pickups.
What does the rest of the year have in store?
Lots of touring. We have new dates with Foals and Joywave and we’ve also got the Shaky Knees Music Fest, Hangout Music Festival, Lollapalooza and Osheaga – one of the most amazing festivals out there.
What is the one non-electronic item you must have on tour with you?
I’ve got this sippy cup. [Laughs] I bought it at Target. It’s for children. It’s a small thermos with a screw-on top and a cover. It comes in various forms, but mine is in the shape of R2-D2 and my cocktail is Jameson on the rocks. [Laughs] I love it because I can put the Jameson and ice in it and it stays cool for, like, 12 hours. I’ve been using that so I don’t have to waste cups. Everyone knows that it’s my cup. (Frontman Brian Aubert) and I even have a sippy cup song which is basically like the “Smelly Cat” song from Friends but about a sippy cup. I recently learned that I can bring it into my bunk and not spill it. [Laughs] You can take it pretty much anywhere and no one is going to question you. I’m hoping I start a trend and that Diffuser gives me the credit.