Interview: Silverstein

Silverstein
interview by Eric Alexy

Questions with Silverstein vocalist Shane Told following the band’s sold-out performance at Chicago’s Bottom Lounge…

Silverstein started out as a side project. When did it become a full-time gig for you?
Shane Told: We were all in other bands and I guess when our other bands slowly broke up one by one everyone’s focus became Silverstein. We weren’t like a full-time band. We weren’t touring. We were all going to school or working our shitty jobs or whatever. Then when Victory was interested, we were like ‘OK, well what the hell, we’ll take the plunge.’

What happened with your old band, The Livid, who had that offer on the table from Atlantic a while back?
I was playing in two bands, my old band and Silverstein. My old band was kind of looking like it wasn’t going to happen cause everyone was flaking out. With Silverstein, our drummer Paul had just started at a university and Chris [The Livid’s guitarist] was like ‘Do you want to jam and play a little bass with us?’ I wasn’t really into that kind of music, but I was very into The Livid. I think they’re a great band. Chris was one of my best friends, so it’s like ‘Sure, you know what, it’d be fun to play a little bass.’ Nothing serious, but sure enough, these major labels started calling us and it got really intense. For one reason or another it just didn’t end up happening. Basically it’s just Chris now and he’s got some new members and they’re still plugging away at it. But I decided when this stuff with Silverstein happened to pursue Silverstein.

How would you compare that contract with the one you signed with Victory?
It’s completely different the way major labels work and the way independent labels work. First of all, the amount of money a major label uses to record an album is like 10 or 20 times more than ours. With Victory, we were a much smaller band. We’re not expected to sell as many records. We’re only expected maybe to sell, if we do really well, 25,000, which we’ve already broken. But with a major label, if you sell 25,000 records, you’re out on your ass so fast.

You guys started out as a straight emo band, right?
Kind of. We were very influenced by Get Up Kids, Mineral, Knapsack, Hot Water Music. We started doing that and it got progressively heavier. We were all into hardcore and we put in a couple breakdowns here and there. We were into the more ‘chugging’ stuff. One day I started screaming and it sounded kind of cool. I had never screamed before. Never even knew how. Now it’s a big part of our sound.

Where do you guys usually stay when you’re on the road?
We either get a hotel or stay with people that we’ve met in our journeys. When we first started touring we were barely making any money at all. The way we started actually making money was we never got hotels. We always just stayed with people, stayed with kids. You know, meet people at a show. We still do that as much as we can. It’s a lot more fun. So many bands, they go to the show, they play, they pack up, they go to the hotel, they wake up, they go to the show, they play – it’s so monotonous. We love hanging out with kids and partying and meeting people and driving around cities and seeing what there is to see. That’s the experience for us. I love nothing else than to stay at some kid’s house, end up playing video games, drinking, doing whatever.

What are some of the highlights of touring for you?
You’re on the road with the same guys all the time and you just develop these relationships where you can say the most random fucking shit and everyone will laugh. There’s just so many inside jokes. To me that’s kind of the beauty of it.

Any weird stories from the road?
We get a lot of kids with our artwork and lyrics tattooed on them, which is pretty mind boggling to me. Then we get girls showing us their fucking parts and doing crazy shit all the time. Like the kids you heard yelling outside at us, that’s just so weird. Like, I’m just a regular dude driving a van. I wish I was like them and I could go home and sleep in my warm bed and put on my headphones and get on the Internet. But, I’m going to a party at [Victory Records], so that’s pretty cool. It’s just weird how people interpret you and think that you’re this rock fucking star. Yeah, we didn’t shower this morning. Is that glamorous?

How big are you guys in Canada?
I’d say we’re about the same size. With our label being based here in Chicago doing most of our touring in America, we tend to be bigger here. We still do well in Canada. Some bands are huge in Canada and not big here at all. That band Alexisonfire. They’re on Equal Vision in America. They’re doing pretty good there. They’re really good friends of ours. In Canada, they’re huge.

How huge?
They played in Toronto, 2,500 people come out. They’re on the radio, their videos are huge in Canada. It’s weird how that happens. I guess they have a major label backing them in Canada, so it doesn’t always cross over the border for some reason. In Canada they have a lot of Canadian Content Rules where 35 percent of music on radio and television has to be Canadian. It’s good for Canadian bands. It lets Canadian bands break in.

What’s that feeling like for you when you’re in the early stages of writing a song, and you can just tell that it’s going to be a winner?
It’s interesting now, because I’m writing a song and well, shit, thousands of people are going to hear this at one point. Whereas before, the songs that ended up being on the record, I didn’t know those songs were going to be heard on any level. I was just doing it for fun. Now I guess there’s just a little more thought about that. I don’t want to think about it, but I think it’s natural to be like, well, to work a little harder maybe. Just to think things through a little more.