To be honest, I first heard this song on ‘Suits’. Suits is a TV show about lawyers working in a New York firm which is totally unrealistic, overdramatised and generally sensationalised and yet, I continue to watch it. When it comes to discovering a new Brooklyn-based indie band, there are several more reputable places that might serve as better recommendation tools. And yet, the explosion of energy at the intersection of music and TV drama continues to persist as a vital cultural force precisely because, although we know it’s cliche and intentionally naff and obviously mawkish and we shouldn’t fall for it because the characters aren’t real and our emotional investment in them is illusory, it is often delivered so awesomely that it’s hard to look away. Such was the case with this particular Suits episode in which I can’t even recall what was happening at the time but I do remember this song and have hazy memories of a powerful montage. Since, the song has superseded the show (as, with any trashy drama, it is bound to do) and I am left with a song, devoid of cultural context and standing alone, an unexpected and arbitrary addition to my music library. Suits may be fast-food TV but ‘Rolled Together’ is the kind of track that stays with you.
There is something powerful about bands that start off not as bands but as solo projects that are gradually scaled up to include additional players to cater to the rigours of touring and the disappointment of fans who would otherwise discover their favourite band is in fact just a dude. Michael Angelakos’ ‘Chunk of Change’ beginnings (he famously wrote the EP as a Valentine’s Day gift) and Kevin Parker’s finely tuned psychedelic rock concepts have come to flourish as more band members joined Passion Pit and Tame Impala respectively. But even when these extra hands on deck show up (and for The Antlers, that was only after original Antler Peter Silberman had recorded and released two albums on his own), there is always the sense that the founder’s vision remains core to the project. Practically, it’s hard for newly recruited members to shake the feeling that they are invited guests to what is, ultimately, the frontman’s party. Ideologically, too, whatever that sentiment at the genesis of the group was tends to take hold and is rarely influenced or diluted by the implications of new artistic directions. ‘Rolled Together’, more than any song on The Antlers’ third record ‘Burst Apart’, sounds like one man’s work.
It’s unclear whether there is in fact a harmony at work on the key lines that course through the veins of this song, becoming more intrinsic to its development than the most repeated of mantras. To my ear, it sounds as though Silberman’s vocals have been doubled up, a layered effect that makes it seem there are in fact multiple singers chanting what is an emotionally ambiguous refrain. The notion of being ‘rolled together’ suggests comfort, warmth and proximity but is at odds with the warning of imminent peril, ‘…we’re about to burst apart’. Whether one man’s depiction of a mutually destructive relationship or that of many, the musicality on the track, all reverberated guitars, splashy cymbals and lethargic drums, strips the track of urgency so that we don’t have to engage with it immediately but rather, have time to take in its nuances and revel in its space. It is this undemanding kind of perfection that makes ‘Rolled Together’ perfect for TV; it is the kind of expansive track whose meaning is not clear on its face but which hints at profundity just by virtue of its character. As a counterpoint to the obviousness and predictability of prime-time television, The Antlers offer up depth and ambiguity, whinnying guitars and sensational falsetto. Props to the music supervisor.
The Antlers – Rolled Together