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Silversunnyside Up

Debunking the myth of the sordid rock 'n' roll lifestyle, one pressed dress at a time.



Whoever heard of a rocker who rises before afternoon? It's 10 a.m. and just one hour before the Silversun Pickups are set perform a secret show somewhere in Los Angeles. Bassist Nikki Monninger says that she's already watched an entire movie, ironed her dress and just finished curling her hair. She graciously works Style into the mix to discuss things such as the band's latest dose of cacophony rock — its sophomore album “Swoon” — and the guilty pleasures of loving Martha Stewart. 

The Pickups honed their craft in the vibrant Silver Lakes music scene of L.A. following in the footsteps of folks such as Beck and Elliot Smith and took their name from a convenience store nearby. Eventually, they scored an unlikely slot at New York City's annual College Music Journal festival and landed regular gigs at Spaceland back home.

“CMJ was actually our first show,” Monninger says. “I taped one of our practices and sent it off hoping to get a show and we did.” Roughly four years later, the pieces have added up, as have the fans and modern-rock-chart busters. ““Lazy Eye” and “Well Thought Out Twinkles” from the band's debut even cracked the top 10. Its follow-up offers more ear splitters, but also a handful of down-tempo cuts expanding an already textured sound. “We just got back from Europe playing some shows. It's cool weaving the new songs into the set. I really enjoy it because they're a bit more challenging,” Monninger says.

When it comes to comparisons to Smashing Pumpkins and Sonic Youth, Monninger hopes they come from the group's sound and not just because there's a lone girl in the band. “It can get really frustrating,” she says. And to anyone who is wondering how she fares as the only girl in the band, it's really not an issue. “In general, it's not too bad,” she says with a laugh. “I will say I wish there were more girls in production and stuff when we're touring, but there's really so few. That's where I'm more the minority.”

Every night, Monninger bangs the bass like it's double-crossed her, but offstage she's interested in seeking out new duds and the occasional indulgence of bad television.

“When we're on the bus, I have to watch Martha Stewart in the morning,” she admits. When there's time, she also loves checking out art museums and is rather disappointed when she learns that the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts is closed for renovation until 2010.  A plethora of historical attractions elicit a tepid reception, but the mention of Carytown boutiques strikes gold. She wants to satiate her inner fashionista.

“Ooooh, maybe I'll go buy a new dress!” 

And then, at last, a filthy confession emerges. 

“Shopping can get a little out of control,” she says. “I've have actually shipped my dirty clothes back home to make room in the suitcase. It feels a little weird.”  S

The Silversun Pickups play the National on Tuesday, Aug. 4, with the Manchester Orchestra and Cage the Elephant. The show starts at 6:30 p.m., tickets cost $25-$28. For information call 612-1900.


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