Silverstein spent the Summer of 2013 on their fifth Vans Warped Tour, traveling all across North America promoting their new Hopeless Records release This Is How The Wind Blows. A stunning concept effort with parallel songs found within, the album is as passionate as anything Silverstein has recorded within their 13 year career. You would think the Canadian collective would slow down and rest on the laurels of their past, but Silverstein continue to create rapturous songs that truly stand the test of time. We caught up with front man Shane Told at the Pomona Warped Tour date, and conducted a wide ranging interview, discussing the ambitious new album, the 10 year anniversary of their classic first effort How Broken Is Easily Fixed, recent personnel changes, acquiring a record deal (then and now), and other topics of interest. And now on to sunny Southern California for a rather introspective chat with Shane Told of Silverstein. Read on…
How has the Warped Tour been going so far and what have been some of the highlights?
It’s been great. The thing about it – I think if it was our first Warped Tour, we would be really excited and probably gone a little bit harder. But since this is our fifth Warped Tour, we know we have to pace ourselves a little bit and we know how we’re going to feel in about a month when we’ve been doing this. We’re just kind of going into it with a little bit of apprehension I guess, because you know what it’s going to turn into. But it has been great – the weather has been good – really great group of bands. I counted – we have 38 bands on the tour that we’re friends with. So walking around, I stop for these little mini-chats every 20 steps. And of course it’s Warped Tour, so the shows are really insane!
Is there any concept behind the title of the new album This Is How The Wind Shifts?
It’s interesting – the idea for the album – I don’t know if you know about the parallel track – being that we tried to make another concept album. We were trying to think of a title that sort of made sense with it, but wasn’t an obvious one. The working title for the record was called Sun Moon – the idea was that Side A was Sun and Side B was Moon and it was kind of like opposites. That’s what we were calling the record in the working title stages – but we felt like that kind of title would be sort of cliché in what we are doing and it was just too obvious. With this title This Is How The Wind Shifts – and the imagery of the cover and everything – it sort of sat in the right place and it was the right vibe, without being obvious.
Tell me about the song on the Warped Tour compilation On Brave Mountains We Conquer and what inspired the lyrics.
I guess that song – and it’s counterpart In Silent Seas We Drown – they’re kind of two songs about the same thing. It’s really the most autobiographical song on the record. Most of the songs are story songs about other people, other things, other characters – but I’d say this song is most about my life. This song has to do with struggles that myself and other people have gone through in the music industry to kind of get to where they want to be. Latching on to the good people and trying to stay away from the bad people in this world – kind of figuring out who’s who. A lot of the bands that I’ve seen that have been just great bands – had everything perfect – and not go anywhere – and how that can happen. And other bands seemingly not having their shit together at all – and everything going great for them. It’s sort of putting myself into my own shoes as well as the shoes of many other artists and bands and everything I’ve seen over the years – and the struggle with the love of music and the love of what you’re trying to do versus the actually reality of it – which can be very difficult.
When Broken Is Easily Fixed is ten years old. How does that make you feel and what do you think of that album in retrospect?
I’ll admit it’s very hard for me to listen to it. It’s from a different time. What I am proud of with that record – I think despite us really not knowing how to write songs – and especially not knowing how to write what become Silverstein songs – there was a formation that took place over the first almost five years of our career that we learned what to do. But I do like the vibe of it. We went completely by feel – we’d be playing and we’d be like “We want this part now.” The structure might not have made sense, but we just went by feeling. That record had a lot or energy and power – and there’s a rawness with the recording too – I think part because it’s not a good recording and we didn’t know what we were doing in the studio – so those things put together made it what it is. It’s definitely special and doesn’t sound like anything else. But for me, listening back to it now, it’s tough to listen to.
What if someone approached you about doing that album in its entirety for a ten year anniversary show – what would you do?
We’ve thought about it – we’ve thrown that idea around. Maybe we’ll do one or two shows or something like that. But the thing is, I think we’re coming off what we feel is our strongest album 13 years after forming. And we have a new member in the band that’s contributed – and we really feel this resurgence of ourselves again. And I think dwelling on ten years ago – I don’t think we were at our best or even close to our best – to put that out there – we’re not really that proud of it. We’re way more proud of the new record and what we’re doing now. I’m all for nostalgia, but I definitely don’t want it to take focus over what we’re doing now – because I think what we’re doing now is more important – and better.
What made you decide to cover Coming Clean by The Get Up Kids for a Record Store Day single – and has anyone from The Get Up Kids ever heard it?
I don’t know if they have. It was a bit impromptu. We did a seven inch for Record Store Day in 2011 – and we really enjoyed doing that and supporting Record Store Day. We wanted to do one this year. We weren’t really sure what to do. So we decided to do a split with our friends in August Burns Red. At first we didn’t know if we were going to cover each other’s songs – maybe do some kind of super group where we all get together and write songs. And then we ended up deciding to cover some of our favorite bands from that era. I guess for some hardcore metal kids, they wouldn’t expect August Burns Red to cover Saves The Day and maybe us to cover The Get Up Kids. That being said – The Get Up Kids were the main reason we even started the band. I was all into punk rock – the Epitaph, the Fat, and the Hopeless bands – and The Get Up Kids were one of the few bands I liked outside that circle. I heard more and more bands like that and Silverstein formed. So I think it was a bit of a tribute to them – it was the first The Get Up Kids song I ever heard – and I thought we could put our own stamp on it. But I’ve met Matt Pryor a few times and we did some shows with The New Amsterdams before – but I haven’t tracked him down and played it for him.
What happened to Neil (Boshart – former guitarist) and then let’s talk about Paul Marc (Rousseau – the new guitarist). What is his background?
Well with Neil – I think we sort of started growing apart at some point years ago. I think we were a little more excited about certain types of music and things we wanted to do – like for example the Short Songs album was my idea – and Paul and Bill and Josh and I were really excited about this. And Neil seemingly didn’t understand it and didn’t really want to contribute. We had a little bit of distance there with him – and he really didn’t contribute to that record. And then on tour, we were going to some new places – like we went to Hong Kong – and he just didn’t seem like he really wanted to explore and he didn’t really have the kind of drive we had anymore. Overtime we kind of said to him you gotta jump in with both feet, because we have all. And just over time he seemed unwilling to do that, and we had to let him go. It’s hard to kick somebody out that’s been in the band almost since the beginning. It had been ten years –it was difficult – it was a guy I went to elementary school with! But it had to happen for us to keep going – for us to be positive and to be stoked. Bringing Paul Marc in – a guy who’s like 8 years younger than me – he grew up as a fan of our band – so for him to have that perspective of where we’re headed and our direction was invaluable, And being just an amazing musician as well and somebody that I respected for all his other projects as well was great! We didn’t even know when we started to record if we were going to write it with the four of us – if we were going to try to bring in some friends – some people from other bands to write with us a little bit. But Paul Marc came in and he had a song completely written and it was awesome! We were like “Fuck, this is our guy!” He had been on tour with us before working – he’d done merch for us, he’d done guitar tech for us…
So you knew him already….
We knew him. He’s our best friend. So him stepping in was easy – he had been on tour with us for years! It’s been great! I’ve never been more happy and we’ve never felt better about the music we’re making currently.
If Silverstein could open up for any band either now or from the past, who would that be and why?
I would love to go back to those festivals that I think I missed by a couple years right before we were getting going – like Krazyfest and Furnacefest and all those times and all those bands that I think were so underrated. Nowadays I think with the Internet, things just spread like wildfire – and the next thing you know, bands are touring and this shit is crazy! Back then, music was so good and special and unique – and I would just like to go back and be able to be a part of that era and see how it would be with those bands. That’s the era I miss the most. I’m not gonna give you a “Oh, we want to open for the Beatles” answer or something. But that’s the era that I miss the most. I’m glad that the vinyl’s exist and that some stuff is getting re-pressed and everything, because I don’t want that to go away – those bands and that history.
What advice would you give a new band looking for a record deal? I think you would be the perfect person to ask that!
You know, you would think I’d be the perfect person to ask, but you have to understand that we’ve been doing this a long time. And when we started the band, we were one of the few bands that even had a website. Social media just didn’t exist. To book our first tour, I got on the phone – called people, called venues – that was how we did it. And with getting on a label, it was like you make a fucking demo tape, and you mail it and you wait. And we got lucky, we mailed a CD-R to Victory Records and they wanted to sign us. Nowadays, it’s just not like that. It’s all about having a social media presence and making videos and photo shoots. I would not know what to do if I had to start over because it’s a different time. You might think I’m a good person to ask, but I’m really not. Ask Sleeping With Sirens or ask We Came As Romans what to do – because those bands have done it recently and they’ve had success – and they’re just the model of the new. And we’re kind of an in-between model.
Do you have any messages out here for your fans in the Los Angeles area?
All the L.A. fans have been so supportive for so long – just thank you. We’re going to keep trying to do more and more special things out here for the fans. And hopefully we’re doing this for a lot longer and we’ll do a lot more stuff.
The thing about Silverstein is each album has been better than the last one. A lot of bands don’t do that and seem to go downhill at this stage of their career.
We try really hard and we don’t fuck around. I think some bands – especially as they get older – they just don’t give a shit. I really think that we punish ourselves writing, punish ourselves recording. We take it seriously – every note matters – every word matters. If you watched us – the shit we fight over – you’d be like “I don’t even hear a fucking difference between the two things.” And that’s how we are. And I think that that is maybe why we’ve been successful. Every song matters – every note matters – everything matters from when we started till now. And that will never change.
And you go onstage and the passion is still there and you’re not going through the motions….
Yeah, and again that’s part of why I think with Neil we had to make a change, because we needed to still feel that excitement and that passion and that drive that we continue to have. Every record is more important than the last one and we work even harder.
Shane Told – vocals
Paul Koehler – drums
Bill Hamilton – bass
Paul Marc Rousseau – guitar
Josh Bradford – guitar
(Interview by Kenneth Morton)