Silverstein just wrapped up a full US/Canadian headlining tour with Being As An Ocean, Emarosa, Emery, Coldrain, and Rarity. Before their Boston date, vocalist Shane Told sat down with Funeral Sounds to discuss the band’s continued success, concept albums, cover songs, and touring.
I was listening to a podcast that Paul did saying last year was, at least financially, Silverstein’s biggest year to date. Using that as a marker, how does it feel to still be going so strong this far into it? Does it feel like it musically and personally?
It feels really good. I mean it’s one thing to talk about finances or whatever. The financial growth of things is great and obviously this is our only job so it’s important to make enough money to live. That stuff’s great, but what is really special is that I think it’s because we’re making the best music of our career right now – that’s why that’s happening. Our last two albums I think have been our best two albums. People have really embraced them and really enjoyed them. It’s cool to be able to do tours now and have people wanting to hear the songs from the last two albums more than any other songs.
That coupled with doing that Discovering the Waterfront tour and having that album kind of officially solidified in history as a classic album is a really cool thing. And two have both those things going on at the same time, almost separately, but together is a really cool thing. It’s really special that we have this. We’re this classic band in a way with Discovering the Waterfront, but to a lot of people we’re a brand new band and we have young fans coming out that have just found out about us. That is even more important to us than financials or the balance sheet looking good.
So you feel like the music is the cause of that.
Right, I do. And that’s the thing; if it was like “oh, sure we did an anniversary tour and made a whole bunch of money,” like okay, that’s fine. But that’s not the whole story. So it feels really good that we were able to be doing some really special things musically.
You mentioned Discovering the Waterfront tour. I know you did that, you guys do the VIP packages at shows, and you have a lot of preorder bundles and stuff like that. It seems that you try to really cater to your fans a lot. Is that something conscious that you guys do?
Oh yeah, it’s definitely conscious. I mean we started realizing a while back that we have a very, very intense fanbase. There are quite a big number of people that our band is kind of their life, for lack of a better phrase. I think we realized somewhere along the line that us giving back to those people and giving them a better experience is something that we enjoy to. You see this acoustic guitar sitting over there? I just played a little acoustic set on the back of the bus for four fans. That’s what I’m doing every day. It’s only four people but they come and I take requests and for some of them it’s just the best thing ever to have their favorite band’s singer play to them in a private environment. And I don’t mind doing it; I enjoy it too! I play different songs and try to do whatever they request – sometimes I figure them out as I go.
I saw you did a Metallica cover the other day.
Yeah, I did a Metallica song the other day! How random is that? But that’s the kind of thing we do. It’s been rewarding to us. Just as becoming closer to our fans and seeing their love for our band is. A lot of time fans will say stuff to us about how we go them through a hard time or through the death of a loved one or their parents’ divorce or whatever our music has helped them through. Having our fans be closer to us has given us a real spring in our steps moving forward to where we feel good about what we’re doing and we feel like what we’re doing is important.
For so many years we did VIP stuff, but it was mostly just a signing line and a picture line and saying “hey.” People would quickly tell us their stories, but when you let your fans in a little closer and you get to know them a little bit better you just start to realize your impact. You’re not just stuck in a tour bus or stuck backstage thinking “oh yeah, I’m sure our music is helping people out,” but you’re really hearing the stories. The VIP stuff we’re doing has been really rewarding for us and we really enjoy it.
Going off what you said that you feel like the last two albums have been your best work yet, that was when Paul Marc came in. How have the dynamics of the band and the writing process changed with him and his new influences?
He’s an amazing musician. He started working for us when he was like 18 or something. He was super young – wasn’t even old enough to drink – and we brought him on tour. He started off as our merch guy and then he became our guitar tech. So he’s kind of been with us on the road for coming close to eight or nine years. I always respected him so much as a musician with some of his other bands and projects he was in. He respected me as a musician and songwriter too. We would always talk shop but we never really played together. Then when we had to let Neil go he was the first person we thought of because we knew he understood how we worked, how we function on the road, and that there weren’t going to be any growing pains with him coming in.
Really musically was the thing we thought going to be the trickiest part. It was literally like one practice. He came in and it was like right away we had “Stand Amid The Roar.” He brought that in and we were like “whoa, this is going to be awesome.” And he brought his own element too; in some of the ways he writes guitar parts. But it worked very well with what I do and what I write vocally and musically. So he came in and it was like we didn’t skip a beat. I think all of the stuff we’ve done with him since joining the band has been our best work. He pushes me too, to be better and to try to spice things up and be more creative. I think that that’s helped me grow as a songwriter.
You guys have sort of found a niche doing concept albums. Could you talk about how you originally form the ideas and how it ends up working out?
Well every one is different, and I think that it’s important that every one is different. The reason we started doing concept records in the first place is because I started feeling like the way we were making records was a little too formulaic. The first three records were basically done the same way. The first one was a little different because it was sort of a compilation of everything we’d written, but the second and third records for sure were done the same way. Basically we’d get in a room, write a bunch of songs, take them to the studio, and record the parts. All the songs are different entities. When the record was finished we don’t even know what track one was and we’d kind of arrange it after. It just becomes a collection of songs rather than an album. Discovering the Waterfront was written that way and obviously there’s like nothing wrong with that record at all. Some people will argue that’s our best album. But there’s nothing tying that record together. So we did that and we did Arrivals and Departures. After that record, which we didn’t have a great experience with making, I thought we needed to be more creative. I thought we could do something a lot more interesting.
I had the idea to do a concept record and it became A Shipwreck in the Sand. The most obvious way for me to do a concept record at that time was to do a linear story. So I kind of thought about some things going on in my life: there was the economic crash and my parents had a lot of money in the stock market that they lost. I just thought about how the economic crash was really affecting families so that was kind of the basis for what I wrote about. I started writing the album and really just wrote it as “Okay, I’m going to have this many songs and this is going to happen in the story and I’m going to write these lyrics.” And that to me was just a challenge, but it was also something we needed to do. Because I think we needed a challenge and we needed something a little more exciting.
And it was tough. A Shipwreck in the Sand was really tough to the point that after we finished that record I didn’t think we were going to do it again. And then Rescue wasn’t a concept record – Rescue was written the same was as the first three records were. But then once Paul Marc joined and everything I felt like we needed that challenge again. That’s when the idea for This Is How The Wind Shifts. With the new album it happened again with another concept album. I mean even Short Songs is a concept album I guess too. So now that seems like it’s something comfortable. I’m not saying every record we ever do will be a concept record because I think you can’t force it –it comes or it doesn’t come. Right now I don’t have an idea so I don’t know yet what will happen with the next record, but I do feel good about it. I feel like we’re in a really good place as musicians and as a band to where we can make another really good record.
You mentioned Short Songs and I wanted to ask a about covers because that’s something Silverstein does really well. When you’re looking for a song to cover what do you look for and what’s your process for going in and changing it? You don’t go in and do a cut and dry cover like most bands do.
That’s a good question. I think every song is different and I feel that way about original songs too. A very common interview question is like “How does your songwriting process work?” and there’s no answer because literally every song is different. A song like “Vices” started with a drum part. That’s the only song that ever started with a drum part. And then “SOS,” which is another one of our songs, came from Billy writing a bass part. There are other songs that have started with vocals, other songs that have started with guitar parts, and everything. So there’s no formula.
I think when you approach a cover song it has to be the same way. There are times with a cover song where you want to be a little more faithful to the original and there are times you can make it a little bit weirder or try to make it a more your own. Like we did a Bob Dylan cover of “Song to Woody.” That’s super, super way out of left field. We turned it into a punk song and it’s like a folky acoustic song. It’s super, super strange and that was just what we decided the approach was there. And then like some of the covers I’ve done, especially some of the more acoustic songs, are basically the same as the original – just with me singing so it sounds different. But it’s interesting that you say that we’re good at covers because we were never a cover band. We never did any covers at all the first six years of the band until we did a Lifetime cover of “Rodeo Clown,” which we only did that because it was supposed to be on a Lifetime tribute album that never happened. Once we did that we were like “Oh, this is kind of fun” so we started doing more and more covers. And now we’ve done a lot.
For sure, especially with eleven on Short Songs alone. I remember seeing Billy say somewhere that at one point you were considering doing “Maxwell Murder” for Short Songs, but he wasn’t sure if he could nail the bass part.
Ah, yeah, I don’t think he’d be able to nail the bass part – no offense to Bill. Not that I could play it either! Honestly I think that would almost be harder to figure out than play. Those Rancid songs sometimes are so hard to understand what he’s even doing – that bass player is crazy.
Were there any other songs that you had in mind for Short Songs that didn’t end up happening?
Yeah, there were quite a few. There was a Beatles song, the last song on Abbey Road. “Her Majesty” it’s called. That would have been an awesome one – really short. There was an 88 Fingers Louie song I wanted to do. Not a huge list, but probably another five or six songs were tossed around. The key was that we didn’t want to have it just be eleven punk or hardcore songs, because it could have been. We wanted to have those different things. That’s why we had the Promise Ring cover and we did the Orchid cover – just to be really different and showcase that we have a lot of influences and a lot of them have made short songs.
I also wanted to hit on the idea of a label culture and comradery. With Victory Records you guys became close-knit with Bayside and Hawthorne Heights, when you were on Hopeless you did a tour with The Wonder Years, now on Rise you’re out with Rarity.
Yeah, I think there is still some aspect of label comradery as you say. In the Victory days it was interesting because there really was a scene there. At the top you had Thursday and Taking Back Sunday and Atreyu – those bands were pretty big and all kind of toured together. Back in 2005 we did that tour that was Hawthorne Heights, us, Bayside, and Aiden. That was cool and Victory kind of sponsored the tour too so they kind of helped put us all together and we became really good friends. But with The Wonder Years I don’t think that really actually came up because of Hopeless – I think that just kind of happened. Bayside wasn’t on Hopeless when we toured with them later; we were just friends from the Victory days. We were actually friends with Bayside before they were on Victory. And we were friends with Aiden before they were on Victory – we helped Aiden get onto Victory.
So every incident is different. That being said Rise is great and there’s a lot of Rise bands, which we’re in the works right now of touring with. It’s great because your label is a lot of things; a label helps with the margining of your band, getting your name out there. They also are your bank to help pay for and finance things. But you’re right in the way that they’re also kind of like your little stamp of approval or your little categorization. A lot of times people find a band and then they find they’re on a label and then they find another band because of that. So it makes sense to tour together and Rise has been great. I hope we can do some stuff with some other Rise bands. I have a good feeling it’s going to happen.
I don’t want to take up too much more of your time, but I know you’ve hinted on social media that this is Silverstein’s only US headlining tour this year. What other stuff should we expect to see coming up?
Well it’s very early in the works right now, but we’re talking about doing another US tour later in the year with some cool bands. We’re going to be doing some festivals here and there, obviously we’re going to Europe and we’re going to Australia later in the year. This year I thought would be kind of the slower year because we went so hard last year with everything, but I think this year’s going to be pretty busy too.
Always good for fans!
Yeah, absolutely man. We enjoy it, every minute of our day. Being in this band is a lot of fun!