Silverstein: Writing great songs and timeless albums as best they can

Silverstein: Writing great songs and timeless albums as best they can

By Paul Silver

Jul 18, 2017 12:35

Canadian post-hardcore veterans Silverstein have some unusual characteristics for a band. They’ve been together for the better part of two decades, yet still have mostly the same line-up as in their early days. And, unlike many bands that have been around as long, they continue to write and release new music, rather than resting on their laurels and playing past ‘hits.’ They have been quite busy lately, too: the Burlington, Ontario quintet have a new album, ‘Dead Reflection,’ which released on 14 July on Rise Records and they’re spending the entire summer touring across North America on the Vans Warped Tour.

The first thing to know is that no one in the band is named Silverstein. The name comes from author and musician Shel Silverstein, who wrote many books for children (and some for adults, as well). The band’s members fondly recall reading Silverstein’s books as children, and chose the name due to their admiration of the author. “My favorites were ‘Where the Sidewalk Ends,’ because of the clever, quirky poetry and illustrations, and ‘The Giving Tree,’ because of its beautifully melancholic depiction of love, selflessness, and loss,” says guitarist Josh Bradford. “My favorite song written by him is the one that was made famous by Johnny Cash, called ‘A Boy Named Sue. Quirky as ever and I enjoy the way the tale unfolds. And also because Johnny Cash, duh!”

The band formed in 2000, and the line-up has remained nearly unchanged for most of their seventeen years together. Bradford attributes this line-up stability to the fact that they didn’t achieve success quickly, but grew steadily together. “I think that makes it easier to keep a level head. We also attempt to be respectful of each other and we all genuinely enjoy playing the music we make, so it’s been a labour of love that keeps us invested.” The members also spend a great deal of time together on their lengthy tours. Though they do spend some time together when they’re not touring, they find that it’s refreshing to take a break from living together. “Then we come back feeling super excited to play music!” exclaims Bradford.

Early in their career, Silverstein signed to the sometimes-controversial record label Victory Records. The label has been very successful, selling hundreds of thousands of records for their bands, but there have been lawsuits and hard feelings over unmet promises and unpaid royalties. Silverstein, like many bands on the label’s roster, had a mixed experience. “They signed us as a tiny little band that knew nothing and put our music out there for the world to hear,” says vocalist Shane Told. “Without them we would never have got to where we are. We’re grateful for that.” But working with Victory Records wasn’t without its difficulties. “There were some struggles getting certain things we were promised, all while we were selling hundreds of thousands of records for them.” Once they satisfied their contract with Victory, Silverstein made the decision to move on. “At the time we thought Hopeless [Records] was a better fit for us, but it wasn’t an easy decision at all,” says Told. “We finished our contract with [Victory], as we thought it was the right thing to do, and we moved on.” Told has some nice things to say about Victory boss Tony Brummel. “He is extremely driven. He has told me he just wants to win and he’s willing to take all the steps necessary to do that. He’s a marketing genius and works so hard he barely sleeps.” Brummel’s reputation may come from a lack of patience for people who don’t work as hard as he does and don’t have the same mind for business, according to Told. “At the end of the day Tony himself found us, signed us, and did everything on the label side for us. And some of those things were done very successfully.”

Silverstein describes their evolution over time as being a natural progression. “We’ve been careful not to force any trends into our music,” explains Told. “When that happens you end up with a disjointed sound that can end up dated. We try to write great songs and timeless albums as best we can. From album to album we don’t always change that drastically, but if you were to compare our new album to our first, I don’t think it sounds like the same band!” Though it’s been a slow and steady evolution, there are differences in the sound of the new album. It’s darker, heavier, and a lot angrier, according to Told. “I started dropping F bombs on it and it was because I needed to. It’s highly personal and it’s more from a real street talking narrative than a poetic one like on previous records.” The band also tried some new things, both musically and in the vocals, and they’re excited about how that turned out.

Vans Warped Tour can be a grueling experience for bands, though it can also be rewarding. “It’s been raining like every day,” Told bemoans. But there have been some fun highlights so far, up to the halfway mark of the tour. “We had Beefcake the Mighty from Gwar come out the other day and ‘kill’ Bill (Hamilton, bassist for Silverstein), and play bass on two songs, so that was super fun. And also Caleb from Beartooth came out and sang with us.” Fans may recall that Silverstein and Beartooth collaborated a couple of years ago at Warped Tour, appearing as ‘Silvertooth.’ Silverstein guitarist Paul Marc Rousseau explains how that came to be. “Warped Tour is a twisted odyssey that melts the minds of all who enter. We sat with Beartooth in a parking lot every day for several eternities. From nothing there became something. Elements were formed, and then worlds, and then galaxies. And then Silvertooth!”

Putting together such a collaboration isn’t an easy task, though, and in this case the biggest problem was logistics, according to Rousseau. But he says the real problem is figuring out where they can do it again. “Scranton, San Diego, Honolulu, Orlando, Jacksonville. What’s next? Not sure. Or am I? Hard to say because of my tricky disposition.” Whether or not it’s a trick, Rousseau says that Silverstein would be willing to collaborate with other bands under almost any circumstances: with a band they’re friends with, on a hip hop track, on top of the CN tower in Toronto, during the Apocalypse, or maybe even during the Rapture.

Warped Tour continues across North America through to the 6th of August and Told says that the fans have been coming out in droves despite the heat, and they are rocking out. That’s the best part of the tour for the band. “That, and just the hangs after the show with our friends. It’s been really fun.”

Keep tabs on Silverstein at their website,