MUSIC FEATURE: Inside The Mind Of… Shane Told, Silverstein
Since forming at the start of the millennium, Silverstein have been at the forefront of the emo scene. However, the band have slowly started to shift to more of a post-hardcore sound on their recent albums, most apparent on their tenth offering A Beautiful Place to Drown (check out our review of the record HERE). We caught up with lead singer Shane Told to discuss their new record, the band’s 20th anniversary, his Lead Singer Syndrome podcast and more.
2020 marks Silverstein‘s 20th anniversary. A lot can change in two decades, and with huge advancements in technology the quintet has reaped the benefits, helping to ease the process and offer them flexibility. “We took a bit of a different approach than we did back in the day, just because the way that technology is now,” Shane explains as we discuss the new record. “You’re able to record things on your own and send things back and forth over the internet, and you’re able to bounce ideas off of each other without having to be in the same place – you can be anywhere in the world! When we started, there wasn’t access to that – you didn’t make [records] on the computer, you made them in [recording studios] and then you recorded them, and it was all real instruments.” This approach also led the band to some realisations during the writing and recording process. “I think what struck us right away was that all of the songs were very catchy, a lot of them could be singles, there weren’t that many songs that were what I call ‘album tracks’, or what other people call ‘Track 7s’”. New approaches provide new ways to experiment, something that Silverstein had in the forefront of their collective minds as they created A Beautiful Place To Drown. “We started experimenting with different textures and sounds, which we hadn’t before,” he adds. “We were all like, “well look, these songs are catchy”, and I think having those elements can only make a record better. So we said “You know what? Fuck it! We’re gonna take a bit of a chance here”, and for the most part, I think it paid off!”
Arguably it’s important for a band to take chances and let their sound develop during the writing and recording process, especially so when, like Silverstein, you’re releasing album number ten. “When you’re a young band – this wasn’t just us – you don’t really know what you’re doing. You write songs just with a feeling and energy. It’s always a natural thing, pretty much. We don’t talk about what kind of record we want to make,” Shane says as we discuss the journey of Silverstein’s sound over the years. “It’s cool, because if you take record number six and number seven, those records don’t sound completely different, any of those songs could be on either record, but if you compare it to record number three, it’s way different. When you go a few steps away, then it makes less sense, but when you go step by step, it does. That’s important for your fanbase, right? They’re not waking up in a coma twenty years later saying “I want to check out my favourite band – what the fuck happened?” They’re following along – two years, here’s a record – and they see the journey that you’re taking creatively – if that makes any sense”.
A Beautiful Place to Drown features several guest appearances, from Beartooth’s Caleb Shomo and Underoath’s Aaron Gillespie, to the slightly less obvious collaboration with Princess Nokia. With more time to spare than they anticipated after completing the album, Silverstein were able to ensure the collaborations happened as they intended. “Typically, when we do these features, we just go through the songs, and as we’re working on them, sometimes an idea will just pop in our head, something like “Oh, this part would be cool with *this person*’s voice”, Shane explains as we discuss the process of setting up collaborations. “In the past we’ve done some features, but not as many as on this record. The reason why there’s so much more [of them] on this record is that we had the songs done quite a bit ahead of time, so we were able to have a lot of time – for example, with my friend Pierre [Bouvier] from Simple Plan, I hear Pierre’s voice over this part, so let me text him. So I text Pierre and say “Hey man, we’ve got this song”, he’s like “Cool, send it over”.
Aside from the artists previously mentioned, there’s one more feature on this album that has a slight “side effect” of sorts. We’re talking about Aaron Marshall, a.k.a Intervals’ appearance on the song Bad Habits. “We pretty much just said “rip a solo”, and he did three of them – a medium, a fast, and a super-fast, and we were like “Oh yeah – give us the super-fast!” It’s funny, a lot of people hear that and they think it’s that guy singing – *laughs* – they don’t realise it’s a guitar solo feature, so a lot of people are like “Ohh, I love Intervals’ voice!” and it’s like “Oh no, no, no, that’s actually Paul Marc [Rousseau, lead guitarist],” Shane laughs.
Speaking of Paul Marc, A Beautiful Place To Drown marks his fourth album with Silverstein since joining in 2012. However, this isn’t the first time his vocals have been featured on a song. “He sings on the song Arrivals, which is from This Is How the Wind Shifts”, Paul Marc’s first album with the band, Shane explains. We continue on the same path, as the conversation moves on to his journey to become a member of Silverstein. “He’s much younger than us, and he grew up as a fan, buying our first record. Then, when he was 18 or 19 he came on the road with us, selling merch, then he was our guitar tech. Obviously we always knew he was a great musician, with his other projects [I Am Committing a Sin].”
When the band had to let Neil Boshart [their former guitarist] go, they had a list of people in mind as possible replacements. “Paul Marc was on the list too, but it wasn’t an obvious choice at that point. Since he lived in the same city as us, we said “Hey, do you want to come over?” and literally at that first practice, he came in the room, and was like “Hey, I don’t wanna overstep my boundaries here or anything, but I kinda wrote this Silverstein song last night”, and he played it for us, and it was Stand Amid the Roar [the first track on This Is How the Wind Shifts]. Right away, I had to pick up my jaw off the floor, I was like “This is perfect! It’s a Silverstein song, but it has a cool new element, it’s good!” Shane exclaims, emphasising how blown away they were by Paul Marc. “He fit in great, and over the four albums that he’s been a part of the band – crazy, man, four albums! – he’s really stepped up his songwriting game, he’s worked with other artists, he’s produced other records, he has just improved so much to where, in a lot of ways, I think he’s surpassed me as a songwriter!”
Switching gears to the band’s 20th anniversary, Shane weighed in on Silverstein’s journey from a fun side project in high school, to a successful band touring the world two decades later: “It’s pretty crazy! When you think back to starting the band, I was still in high school – we were all still in high school. It was just for fun, we were in other bands and this was just a side project. With Silverstein, we didn’t even know if we were going to ever play a show, let alone record an album, and tour, and let alone sell millions of albums and play to thousands of people – that is insane to think back to.” Despite their success, however, he stresses the fact that he still feels the same. “People used to ask me this question, earlier on in our career, “Hey man, has it you yet, that you’re a professional singer?” or “Has it hit you yet that you’re in this big band?” or whatever. I’d always be like “No, it hasn’t hit me yet!” I was expecting for it to hit me, and twenty years later it hasn’t hit me yet. We’ve taken it as it comes, enjoyed the ride, and now we have so many amazing memories, but I don’t feel like I’ve changed too much, or any of us have. This has become us, and we’ve grown up with this. But when you put it like that, it is pretty crazy, man, to think back. We never expected any success, now it’s been more than half my life I’ve been in this band. No matter what I do for the rest of my life, Silverstein could end tomorrow and I could do something else, and even still I’ll always be known mostly for being the singer of this band.”
While on the topic of Silverstein’s 20th anniversary, the conversation turned to the band’s anniversary tour which was ongoing in North America at the time of the COVID-19 outbreak. To celebrate the milestone, each night consisted of three different sets: greatest hits; an acoustic performance with Shane; and a performance of Discovering the Waterfront in its entirety. But with such a lengthy back-catalogue, how do you go about choosing a set-list? “Well it was hard, we’ve got ten albums, a bunch of other stuff. It would be a shame if we just played albums because we’d miss so many songs on other albums, and we feel pretty good about all our albums,” he muses. “We felt like it would be wrong to ignore things that we really liked. What we did is we decided on three sets: Discovering the Waterfront in its entirety, because that record was a pretty defining moment for us, and that’s the record that started it all in terms of the machine that is Silverstein, that was our breakthrough album – and we play most of those songs anyway. So we thought we’d play that one all the way through, then we would do a greatest hits set, and then we would also do an acoustic set, just to break it up.” Shane explains that the band chose to add some medleys to their greatest hits set, so they could play as many songs as possible without playing for four hours every night: “Nobody wants to see a band for four hours,” he laughs.
On the subject of touring it was time to talk about the proverbial elephant in the room: the COVID-19 pandemic and how it caused the postponing of their tour: “We’re not going to sit here and say we aren’t disappointed because sure, we are. We were ten shows in, it was so good. People were coming out in droves, we were killing it, I was singing amazing. When it all went away, all we could do, collectively, was shake our heads, and laugh, and say that’s just fucking typical”, Shane says as he bursts into laughter, before making it clear that neither he nor his bandmates could take it in their stride. “Of course it’s disappointing, but at the same time, we have to realise that people are dying. This isn’t a small thing, this is serious. That’s why all five of us have taken a very strong approach that we’re not leaving our houses, unless we’re talking about going out to take a walk around the block, staying away from people, or getting in the car to take a drive just to stay sane. Otherwise, we’ve got to do our part as citizens of this world and make sure we’re social distancing. It’s very important right now to do that, and that is bigger than anything else, because it does mean life or death – and I’m not being dramatic, it literally does! So, yeah, it’s bigger than all of us, and it’s disappointing, but we were able to reschedule every single show, so we won’t miss anything. That’s really important, so that all of our fans have something to look forward to, because I’m sure some of them are just as disappointed as we are”.
So, what are the Canadians going to do, now that they’ve got a lot of time on their hands? It’s unlikely that another Silverstein album will surface, the singer tells us: “Personally, I am not really there yet to write another Silverstein album. I can’t speak for the rest of the guys, they might be at home, working on it, but for me, I haven’t felt super inspired. However, I do have a solo project that I have been trying to write an album for four years now, and I’ve made a little progress with that, so that’s going to be something that I can do.” He then turns to one of his other projects, his Lead Singer Syndrome podcast: “I’ve also done a lot of extra podcast bonus stuff, interviewing a lot of people, because a lot of people have a lot of downtime. I talked to the singer from Jimmy Eat World [Jim Adkins] the other day, I’ve talked to Lauv, that big pop artist, a lot of really cool people are available to do interviews – just like I am!”
We continue to discuss the podcast, in particular the origins and background. Shane explains: “A long time ago, Buddy [Neilsen] from Senses Fail and I were asked to interview each other for a magazine, so we came up with some questions, and I really enjoyed it! I enjoyed coming up with some questions for Buddy, and I enjoyed the questions that he wrote for me. He reached out to me and said “Hey man, I really enjoyed that,” and I said “I really enjoyed that, too!” and I thought about it and I was like well maybe there’s something there – a lead singer interviewing another lead singer, they can relate to each other. I came up with the idea and the name, Lead Singer Syndrome, which I thought was hilarious.” Shane explains that the original plan was to create a YouTube channel, but quickly realised the difficulties posed by the logistics and filming, so he turned to podcasting instead. “Somebody suggested a podcast. At the time I listened to a few podcasts, but I didn’t know the first thing about producing one. I hooked up with a company, they helped me out, they pushed me, and here I am, 219 episodes later!” He stresses that nine times out of ten he“get[s] off the phone with someone and [says] fuck yeah I loved that!” and he doesn’t take what he does for granted, mentioning the likes of Anthony Green [Saosin, Circa Survive], Bert McCracken [The Used], Frank Turner, Jeremy DePoyster [The Devil Wears Prada], Fat Mike [NOFX] and Milo Aukerman [The Descendents] as some of his favourite guests. What about his dream interviews? “I think that I’ve become a really good interviewer, and I think I can pretty much do anybody, so I really hope that my dreams will come true, and that one day I’ll be able to interview some of those huge artists, whether it’s Paul McCartney, or James Hetfield, or Morrissey,” he says filled with hope and confidence.
We rewind back to 2017 when Silverstein and Beartooth briefly joined forces to create Silvertooth. Can we expect a reunion once the COVID-19 pandemic is over? “The longer this goes on, the more people will look back and go “oh man, those were good times.” I could see, after this is all done, a lot of people saying “let’s not waste any more fucking time, let’s make hay while the sun shines,” and “if we’re gonna do this Silvertooth thing, let’s do it NOW, let’s make it happen!” Beartooth and Silverstein first crossed paths in 2015 when Beartooth released their debut album and opened for Silverstein on tour. Since then they’ve become close friends. “To be able to do any collaborations with them, it’s really a natural feeling, because we’re just such close friends. I would love to do some more stuff in the future. We talk about doing a Silvertooth tour, we’ve done a few Silvertooth shows on Warped Tour where we just set up all of our gear and all ten of us were onstage playing, and that was some of the most fun I’ve ever had onstage. If we could do that again, that would be really cool.” We’ll keep our fingers crossed!
With that we start to conclude our conversation with the Silverstein frontman. There may be a lot of uncertainty in the world right now, but Shane offers some advice to those who may be struggling to remain positive. “As much as this sucks right now, and it’s kind of painful to have to go through this and have so many things cancelled, postponed, put off, I’m really trying to look on the bright side and use this time to be productive. I think a lot of people are doing the same. If you’re not, if you’re reading this, you should take my advice. Look deep into yourself and say – when are you going to have an opportunity to do this? Maybe never again! So what is it that you want to do, or need to work on, rehearse? Look deep into yourself and figure that out – don’t just sit around, watching Netflix or whatever. Focus on your future.” Emphasising the fact that everyone should use this lockdown as an opportunity to better oneself, he adds: “This is a really great opportunity for people to do that. That’s what I’m taking this as – an opportunity. I hope when all’s said and done, and I walk out of my house for the first time, to go back on tour, I really want that to be the best possible version of myself, that I’ve spent [this time] working on. Everyone has a very powerful opportunity to do exactly that.”
Silverstein‘s latest album A Beautiful Place To Drown is out now via UNFD, available to stream or purchase HERE.