The Antlers’ Peter Silberman On the Books That Inspired New Album ‘Familiars’


Like any songwriter, The Antlers’ Peter Silberman draws inspiration from more than just his own experiences. As his band releases its heartfelt fifth album, Familiars, this week — one of Flavorwire’s June albums to hear — we asked Silberman, an avid reader, to curate a list of books that inspired the album.

The Antlers, from left: Peter Silberman, Darby Cicci, Michael Lerner

The first time many became aware of Silberman’s distinct songwriting point of view was in 2009, when The Antlers released Hospice. Throughout the album, Silberman uses an extended metaphor of a cancer patient and a hospice worker to speak to his experiences in an emotionally abusive relationships. No work had ever drawn from such a clinical inspiration with so much soul. In the Brooklyn band’s two albums since Hospice, Silberman has looked inward without elaborate concepts. But Familiars is also heavy on literary inspiration. Here are Silberman’s reflections on the books that informed the album’s composition, in a list that’s heavy on classic works, philosophy, and spirituality.

Peter Silberman: Many books inspired the words within Familiars. Rather than hiding those inspirations in a vault, I thought I ought to share them, in the hopes that the curious might find something of personal value in these pages.

A Joseph Campbell Companion — Joseph Campbell

I think this book set me on a vague path I’ve been traveling ever since I began it.

“As an adult, you must rediscover the moving power of your life. Tension, a lack of honesty, and a sense of unreality come from following the wrong force in your life.”

Be Here Now — Ram Dass

This will either hit you or it won’t. Depending on where you’re at in life, it might hit you so hard that you fall over and spill all over the place.

“Somewhere inside everybody knows that there is a place which is totally fulfilling, not a desperate flick of fulfillment, it is a state of fulfillment. You may experience despair that you’ll ever know that. Good! Because through the despair comes surrender, and through that surrender, you get closer to it.”

Island — Aldous Huxley

Huxley transforms his character so beautifully, and does an incredible job connecting spiritual awakenings to psychedelic experiences.

“Good Being is knowing who in fact we are; and in order to know who in fact we are, we must first know, moment by moment, who we think we are and what that bad habit of thought compels us to feel and do. A moment of clear and complete knowledge of what we think we are, but in fact are not, puts a stop, for the moment, to the Manichean charade. If we renew, until they become a continuity, these moments of the knowledge of what we are not, we may find ourselves, all of a sudden, knowing who in fact we are.”

Wherever You Go, There You Are — Jon Kabat-Zinn

JKZ writes about mindfulness, which I suppose you could think of as a compassionate attention to detail in your life.

“If you look deeply for a stable, indivisible self, for the core ‘you’ that underlies ‘your’ experience, you are not likely to find it other than in more thinking. You might say your name, but that is not quite accurate. Your name is just a label. The same is true of your age, your gender, your opinions, and so on. None are fundamental to who you are.”

The Prophet — Kahlil Gibran

There is some gorgeously delivered advice in this story-poem.

“Much of your pain is self-chosen. It is the bitter potion by which the physician within you heals your sick self. Therefore trust the physician, and drink his remedy in silence and tranquility.”

A Moveable Feast — Ernest Hemingway

The story of Hemingway’s time and community in Paris is definitely interesting in a romantic kind of way, but I unexpectedly found in it some really helpful writing strategies that I’ve kept with me.

“I would stand and look out over the roofs of Paris and think, ‘Do not worry. You have always written before and you will write now. All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.'”

The Essential Rumi — Rumi / Coleman Barks

Rumi’s become one of my favorite poets recently. There’s a real direct logic in his thought.

“The beauty of careful sewing on a shirt is the patience it contains. Friendship and loyalty have patience as the strength of their connections. Feeling lonely and ignoble indicates that you haven’t been patient.”

Illusions — Richard Bach

The protagonist meets a messiah who gradually convinces him that he’s that same messiah, as if “god”is a connectedness in which everything is everything. Reality is malleable.

“I chose this whole lifetime to share with anybody the way the world is put together, and i might as well have chosen it to say nothing at all. The Is doesn’t need me to tell anybody how it works.”

Teresa of Avila: The Progress Of A Soul — Cathleen Medwick

My mom wrote this book! St. Teresa sought to cultivate peace and quiet throughout her entire life and spent so much effort establishing places where the devoted could experience this, barefoot.

“Imagine that the soul is a castle, made entirely from a diamond or very transparent crystal, where there are many chambers, just as in heaven there are many mansions.”