"The music is all us" : Interview with Shane Told from Silverstein

  Inge van Nimwegen    23 april 2015

Right as the first fans were about to enter the cosy Melkweg Oude Zaal in Amsterdam, we had the chance to speak with Shane Told, vocalist and lyricist of Canadian post-hardcore group Silverstein, who are at that moment rounding off their European leg of their tour for the tenth anniversary of their success album 'Discovering the Waterfront'. Not only did they take this celebration of old songs to Europe, but the same tour was done in the US, Canada, UK and Australia as well.

First of all, congratulations on the anniversary!

Thank you. It feels good!

Why is this album ['Discovering the Waterfront'] in particular worth celebrating?

It was our breakthrough album, as they call it. It’s the album that took us from just being a bunch of kids fooling around to a real band. And it turned out, ten years later, to still be our most loved album, our most celebrated. It just made a lot of sense to do this right now, since we had some time at the beginning of this year to have a little party and celebrate.


Had you played every single song on the album live before or were there songs you’d never done?

We’d played them all in the past at various times, but some of them it had been a while. Some we hadn’t played in years, so we did sort of have to go back and relearn  them and. We did a lot of practicing and tuned up the songs. Some of them I’d forgotten the words to, so I was on my phone googling lyric websites, just to find that some of them were wrong. But it was cool to reflect back on some of that stuff, put myself back in that frame of mind when I wrote some of those songs since I’d kind of forgotten.


Do you experience that a different audience is coming out to these anniversary shows as opposed to your regular shows you’ve been doing the past few years?

It’s interesting: I thought it’d be more the case. I thought there’d be more older fans, those that heard the album ten years ago but now that they’ve grown up and had kids don’t get a chance to go out to more shows, I thought it would be more that kind of a crowd. But it’s actually not really; more just our typical fan base, that really ranges everywhere from the people I mentioned, people in their thirties, all the way down to people that are like thirteen, fourteen years old. And even younger sometimes! It’s really cool how we have this turning over of fans. I don’t know where these young kids hear about our band and get into us, but they do, and it’s a cool thing.


And on top of all this, you’ve finished the new album [I Am Alive In Everything I Touch – set to be released this spring].

We’ve finished it.

Can you tell us a little about it?

It’s really good [laughs]. We really, really worked hard on it. Spent a lot of time in all of the processes, everywhere from writing to recording and everything in between, and we’re really happy with it. It is a concept album, so it’s got a lot of kind of inner workings. It’s more of a personal record, for me, lyrically, than ‘This Is How the Wind Shifts’ was. That was more of a collection of short stories touching on different things, whereas this new album is all just sort of from my focal point. It is sort of, me discussing things, from my own perspective.


What sort of idea was it that you started working with: lyrics, or music?

It’s weird; typically, when a band makes an album, they’ll write the music and then they’ll write the words, right? But the way we’ve been doing it a little bit more in the last few albums, our concept albums, a lot of it is done at the same time. We will write some music, write some lyrics, and go back and try to piece together what kind of music we need and how that works with the concept. So it ends up being a little bit more difficult, but I think it makes a lot more sense when the record comes together. You don’t just have just a bunch of music with words put over top of them, but you’re able to feel a way to have an emotional response not just from what you’re saying, and music, as separate things that happen to go together, but actually planning them as one whole piece, if that makes any sense. So for us, writing this album was very organic, it really made sense. The music and the lyrics really work together well.

Would you therefore say that writing concept albums is different from writing a ‘regular’ album?

Yeah, every time you have the concept piece of it, which we’ve done a lot over the latter part of our career, every time you do that it is an extra step because you have to think about the grand story scheme. We always have some musical themes and elements too, so for us, that’s an important part of it.

Would you then describe yourself as being a storyteller, rather than a musician, when it comes to making albums?

That’s a good question, but at the end of the day it’s still music. We’re making this piece of art in the form of an album, in the form of music, and then for the next two years, we’re gonna get up on stage and we’re gonna play it loud and rock it out and we’re gonna be musicians. So for me, as much as I like the storytelling aspect, and I’m proud of myself when we write some sort of concept album which has this story that people are intrigued with or think is interesting, I can pat myself on the back for that, but at the end of the day, we’re musicians in a band and that’s what we do. That’s the focal point of everything.


You switched labels again, for the production this album [from Universal to Rise Records]. Do you feel that this has had any influence on how the album sounds?

No, for us it really didn’t. At this stage in our career, to be honest, if not pretty much through our entire career, no one has ever told us how to write our songs or what music to play or anything like that. With Rise Records, our new label, for example, they’ve been so supportive. We literally signed to them, and they didn’t want to hear any new stuff, any demo’s, nothing! They just trusted us. Even when recording the album they didn’t want to hear anything along the way. We just sent it to them and it was finished. So, they really had zero input on anything creative at all. The music is all us. And it’s nice to be able to call your own shots. I sometimes hear about other bands having problems with their label telling they need certain kinds of songs, or should even rewrite half the album. I couldn’t imagine going through that, it would be really horrible. We’re in a really good situation like that.


Let’s talk about touring for a second. You don’t seem to be doing many support slots anymore. How does it feel to be the headlining act rather than support?

Well, the supporting thing gets harder. As your band gets more and more popular there’s less and less bands that can take you on tour that would make sense to do. But we still usually do a couple support tours a year in various places in the world, last year we did like Blessthefall and We Came As Romans for example, and supported August Burns Red not too long ago. But headlining for us is the most important thing to do. We want our fan base to come out and see us play a full set and celebrate our music, so for us, headlining is the goal. It’s the whole point of being a band, you know.

So, can we expect to see you back soon with shows for the new album?

Yeah, we’ll be back in the Netherlands and Belgium again later in the year!