"It’s just hard to think of new ways to think and to say things. So how do you combat that? You have to put in the time and that’s something we’ve always done." - Shane Told
Silverstein are celebrating their 20th anniversary as a band in 2020, a huge milestone for anybody in our world. Although they're looking back on the things they've seen and done over the years, they aren't letting the festivities get in the way of pushing their new music to places they haven't been before. That's where new album 'A Beautiful Place To Drown' comes in, a collection of forward-thinking, dynamic and full-bloodied rock songs that take the band to musical realms they never dared travel to in the past.
We caught up with frontman Shane Told to look over what keeps a band feeling excited after 20 years of writing music and what he hopes the future holds for the next 20 years of Silverstein.
How have the recent shows in the UK and Europe been for you?
Says Shane: “The two headline shows we just did in London are probably the best we've ever played there. It’s really incredible to be able to say that. It’s kind of crazy because our band is as big as it’s ever been right now. We’ve toured the UK and played London tons of times over the years and we’ve never really moved that many tickets. We’ve never sold out a show so far in advance that we’ve had to add another one. To be having these moments happening 20 years into our career is a great feeling. We’ve put a paramount on our new music being high quality and having a legacy is really important as well.”
You mention the paramount on new music being high quality. Where does that come from?
“For us, there is no good enough. Whenever we’re working, anything that’s just okay is not okay. We want everything we write to feel like the best thing we’ve ever done. I think that it gets harder as you go through your career - it certainly doesn’t get easier. It’s just hard to think of new ways to think and to say things. So how do you combat that? You have to put in the time and that’s something we’ve always done. Our work ethic has never waned and we put the pressure on ourselves.
“Up to March 06 we’ve released eight albums and we feel good about all of them. People constantly tell us that we’re incapable of releasing a bad song or they’ve never heard a bad album from us and a lot of our fans believe that our last 3 or 4 albums have been our best too. When you start to hear these things and people mean them, they aren’t just saying it. I think you really have to make sure you’re not doing yourself a disservice. I must say that with this new record we took some chances that we haven’t taken before. We did some different things stylistically and used some different sounds that we hadn’t before. I would say that this is probably the biggest change that we’ve had between records so it’s cool when you know people are excited about the newer stuff.”
So where did ‘A Beautiful Place To Drown’ first start coming to life? It’s been 3 years since ‘Dead Reflection’ but the thing is you’ve never really stopped in that time...
“Yeah, we don’t go away. We never stop. In fact we’ve never taken a break in nine albums. It’s been rinse and repeat constantly. I think we had 3 months off once from not doing anything and that’s the longest break we’ve had in the 18 years that we’ve done this full time. But yeah, making ‘Dead Reflection’ was a pretty hard time for me personally. I was going through a lot of anguish and I felt like there were a lot of setbacks. So making that record was a dark time. I can’t say this truthfully, but we did take a lot longer between records this time. We put out some other things, like the ’First 10 Years’ redux record and the ‘When Broken is Easily Fixed’ live album, but we didn’t get this album together for a little while. Once it came down to doing it, we just did it. Let’s pick up the guitar and the pen and see what we have. We didn’t really talk about dramatic changes. It was the same as every record where we went in with a natural approach and saw what came out.”
When you’re on a constant path of learning and trying new things, there isn’t time to think about what direction things will take. You just write from where you’re stood at that exact time.
"Totally. You hear it all the time when artists say ‘This record is going to be our heaviest’ or ‘I wanted it to sound like this band’ or whatever. They have this vision. So they do that and force it. Anytime that you force music, it sounds forced. People see through it because their bullshit detectors work really well. We’ve been conscious of that and we need to be feeling what we are doing 100%. It has to be something that comes organically too. I think that has always been good for us though. We’ve never followed the trends that have come and gone in our scene. Not because we were against them but because they didn’t feel right. We’ve always just tried making the best Silverstein record we can and not always the best post-hardcore record we can."
You mention the different textures this record has. Some of them can be attributed to the array of guests that appear on it. More so, what are the things that have been exciting you when it came to putting the songs together?
“I think the biggest thing we did going into this record was having a different set of rules and parameters for what we were putting on ourselves. For so many years, and I don’t know if it’s because of the scene we grew up in, we felt like we couldn’t do certain things and I think that stifled our creativity a little bit. We can’t put keyboard on this song, we can’t use this synth, we can’t use a kick drum that sounds like it would be in a dance song, we can’t put handclaps in. There are so many things we always said we couldn’t do but then we decided ‘Well, why can’t we?’ Once we took that approach there were no rules anymore. I was a little freaked out by some of it because I knew that people wouldn’t be able to see through the song and think that it’s no longer Silverstein. Though at the end of the day if you put my voice on anything it sounds like Silverstein, for better or for worse.
“With the features too, we tried to get the perfect person for the perfect song. Every feature was our first choice as well. So we thought of the part [on ‘Take What You Give] and said ‘Pierre Bouvier would sound great here’ or ‘We need a guitar solo, who would be best? Let’s get Aaron [Marshall] from Intervals [for Bad Habits’]. Those were all just so organic and as simple as sending a text, watching the dots and then getting the reply like ‘This sounds great, send the track over and I’ll do it this weekend’. It really worked out nicely. Princess Nokia was a little different though because she’s in such a different world. She’s a huge fan of Silverstein though. She was posting stuff about us then she came out to our New York City show and we hung out. We then just decided when we had this song ‘Madness’ which is kind of a male/female perspective song we said ‘Would it be cooler having someone doing more of a talking thing on here’. Right when we had that conversation we all knew Princess Nokia was who it needed to be. It really took that song a notch and told the story. I feel like most of the time a feature for the sake of a feature can make a song worse. We’re always really careful that it’s the absolutely perfect thing for the song. Even if fucking Paul McCartney wanted to do one, he would have to wait for the right song.”
When you reach a certain point, you must feel like it doesn’t matter what anyone thinks because this is your art and your vision and if it feels right then you’re going to do it no matter what...
“We have a great fan base and we want to make music that our fans love. If it were up to me I would put 12 punk songs on a record because I love punk rock. But we are known as Silverstein and that’s the music that we make. We are always thinking whether something we are making is a Silverstein song or not. If it isn’t, why isn’t it? These thoughts go through our heads all the time and with this record I feel like for the first time we are a little bit more concerned with our own vision for what we wanted. We were more concerned with appeasing ourselves. I could write another ‘Smashing To Pieces’ or another song like ‘My Heroine’ like that. We are capable of that, but after 8 records we wanted to do something that was more of a challenge. We wanted to make something that made people go ‘I didn’t know this band were capable of this’.”
It perhaps has something to do with grasping hold of that spark and just seeing how far it can take you...
“Yeah, well take a song like ‘Infinite’. That’s being played on the radio and that’s never happened before so we must be doing something right. I think that we have done so much and achieved so much that to be in a position where we're actually bigger than ever is pretty crazy, We’re not going to let any opportunity pass us by now. I’m not too cool for us to reach a different audience. Things are constantly evolving and if any person is going to give us a chance then that’s fine. We’re not trying to be an underground band.”
So finally, what does ‘A Beautiful Place To Drown’ as a title mean to you at this point in your career?
“A title of a record is always difficult. It’s not something that we take lightly. The title came from Paul Marc [Rousseau, guitarist] randomly finding this sign that I think was in Virginia. It’s by a beach and says ‘A Beautiful Place…To Drown’ and there’s a picture of the grim reaper on it and then the names of a bunch of people who have died there. We thought that it was fucking dark and intense but felt like the name worked with our shtick and the other titles we have had over the years. You then start thinking about what that title means more and more, and if you want to take it to a different level you can. It can mean things like climate change or mental health. Then you could think about all the strides we have made in terms of social programs such as gay marriage being legal but then now having our freedoms being taken in away in the form of something like Brexit. I think the duality between how the world can be a very beautiful place from the outside but inside you can feel like you’re drowning is pretty amazing.
“Also, if you look through our career, our titles define where we are as a band. ‘Discovering The Waterfront’ was literally about us leaving the centre of the continent and seeing the oceans. ‘Arrivals and Departures’ was about coming and going and missing out on things in our lives. Then ‘Rescue’ was about our mental health and ‘Dead Reflection’ was about how I viewed myself at that time. I think any time you put out a record, it should be a snapshot of your band’s current place that you’re in. I think that we’ve done that with most of our records over the years and it’s been an important part of us. This record is absolutely in line with that.”
Silverstein's new album 'A Beautiful Place To Drown' is released March 06 through UNFD.