story / LOGAN BRENDT photography / AUTUMN DE WILDE
“I’m not used to being so spontaneous,” confesses Nikki Monninger, bassist of indie darlings Silversun Pickups. On their third album, Neck of the Woods, Silversun Pickups stay true to their original sound while exploring new elements, thanks to the spontaneous production style of famed producer Garret “Jacknife” Lee.
Monninger stands out not just because she’s the only female in the band but also because of her bass playing which, especially on this album, is remarkably good. I ask about about “Gun Shy-Sunshine,” an exceptional track on the album. Monninger agrees that it’s also one of her favorites since she was able to explore deep sub-bass. “Jacknife pushed us to try new things. I liked his style of recording,” she says.
Part of what Monninger refers to is the electronic sounds featured in another excellent song, “The Pit.” “I think that’s why we chose [Jacknife] in the first place. We knew he had a more electronic background, and a lot of experience in that realm. So we didn’t want to necessarily change our sound, but we were open to things like that and suggestions he had.” Other production ideas brought to the table, including classical and funk music, inspired her as well.
For Neck of the Woods, deluxe CDs are being marketed that include a different band photo in each one, along with hand-cut lyrics to make something unique and special for each person. In love with the idea, Monninger says, “I really appreciate album artwork.” Because physical record sales have gone down in favor of digital distribution, it will be nice for the fans to have something that encases the recordings as a work of art.
Since the recording is complete and they’ll now be playing live, Monninger admits, “The finality of it puts more pressure on performing. It’s definitely gotten easier though. The bigger the venue is, the easier it is to play. I’ll be nervous when we first start. We haven’t played in a year and a half.”
Disappointed by the lack of females in successful bands, she says the music business doesn’t account for women very well. “When we went [on tour] a while back, they had switched the girls’ bathroom and put a sign over it saying, ‘Guys’ Bathroom,’ so there were no girls’ bathrooms. But then the ratio is like fifty to one, so I can see why they would.” As Monninger stays light in tone, she continues to comment on gender stereotypes that she’s had to endure. She recalls, “Sometimes when we’re at festivals, and it’s not uncommon, people will try to usher me to the side when we’re about to go on stage, and go, ‘Oh you can watch from there.’ I used to think that was funny, but it happens on a regular basis.”
Monninger was inspired by women like Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth, and encourages girls to join bands to keep the music industry’s male to female ratio more equal. “Ladygunn did an article recently on my friend Julie’s band, Deap Vally. I was just reading it and am so happy that they’re in here.” She also loves The Happy Hollows. “I think Sarah [lead singer and guitarist of The Happy Hollows] is one of the best musicians. She’s so interesting to watch.” Monninger is also into Beach House, as well as An Horse, Magnetic Fields, and Band of Skulls.
Happy to bring awareness to smart and talented females in the music business, Monninger is also an inspiration to other girls who have picked up an instrument and learned how to play because of her. “I’m happy if someone’s been inspired by something I’ve been doing. That’s always nice to hear,” Monninger delights.
Check out more SILVERSUN PICKUPS in the #5 Ladygunn out now!