They may be nominated for a Grammy as best new artists, but the band paid their dues

By Marisa Laudadio
December 10, 2009 12:05 PM
Frazer Harrison/Getty

Are members of Silversun Pickups really secret Claymates?

Don’t hit the panic switch – they never went that far. But the indie L.A. band does have a secret connection to a decidedly less hip American Idol.

“I had a really weird experience working on a Clay Aiken music video once,” singer/guitarist Brian Aubert tells PEOPLE of his time doing day-rate work in the entertainment industry, long before his band’s best new artist Grammy nomination on Dec. 2.

“It was the worst,” he said, explaining that he and bassist Nikki Monninger wrangled extras for Aiken’s video being shot in Hollywood. “It was so hot, we were all sweating, and we were just so hung over. This extra came up to me and was like, ‘Excuse me, aren’t you in that emo band?’ And I said no – then maybe. She’d seen us play at a club.”

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Now Silversun Pickups – which also includes drummer Christopher Guanlao and keyboardist Joseph Lester – is making its own videos for hits like “Lazy Eye” off 2006’s Carnavas, and “Panic Switch” off their latest CD, Swoon.

After spending years playing clubs near their home in L.A.’s Silver Lake neighborhood (which also spawned Beck and Elliott Smith), Aubert says it wasn’t until last May they felt like they’d really made it – at least in the eyes of their parents – thanks to an unexpected appearance as a clue on Jeopardy!.

“We were in New York doing MTV Unplugged, sitting at dinner when all our phones started buzzing,” remembers Aubert.

“L.A.’s Silversun Pickups got their name from a store at the corner of Silver Lake Blvd. & this one with a famous ‘strip’,” appeared on the games how’s blue screen (the answer: “What is Sunset Boulevard?”).

“Being a Jeopardy! answer and now being nominated for a Grammy – we’ve invaded our parents’ world!” laughs Aubert. “Now they love us. We are the golden children.”

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