Silverstein's Shane Told took time out of a busy touring schedule supporting his band's latest record, Shipwreck in the Sand, to speak with Punknews' Zack Zeigler about a variety of topics. He covered how Axl Rose and Metallica paved the way for his entry into the punk rock scene, the ways utilizing modern technology has helped the Canadian quintet's popularity grow, what it means to be "sort of friends" with Fat Mike and what's on deck for the band now that their four-album deal with Victory Records has been fulfilled.
The lifestyle of the touring musician can be a rough road; how do you guys keep from burning out?
It can be a grind. When it gets to that point, which it doesnât very often, and I can tell everyone is tired and worn out, I think people make adjustments. Whether itâs playing six or seven different songs than weâve been playing, or [having] a family dinner with the band and crew. Go to a restaurant and charge it to the band credit card. Or all go out to a water park. Something like that. You know, everyone stand back and realize that we love what we doing, love playing music, love each other as friends and people.
Like a reminder that you guys have reached a spot where other bands want to be?
Yes, since we started touring six years ago things have moved up steadily and slowly. Each time weâd roll through city thereâd be more and more kids there each time. Thatâs a cool feeling to see last time there was 250, then it was 400, then it was 800, and now itâs 1,500. We go from touring in a van with no crew to a U-Haul trailer to our own trailer to a bus. Those things, that progression, can be motivating, even if youâre having a bad day or are tired or miss home… when thereâs that proof and excitement of whatâs going on with your career it helps.
Has your band discussed ways to ensure growth in popularity would happen? Were there certain rules you guys put in place?
I know some bands have rules that you canât wear shirts on stage. Like certain band shirts, or you canât do this… we never had any rules like that. We never talked about it. Some bands now are doing synchronized stage moves and stuff and very scripted things. Scripted in what theyâre saying or what theyâre doing and weâve never done that. Weâve gone out there as five dudes and played music. I think because of that kids are smart and see through the bullshit, and we tried to keep away from that, from fashion trends and musical trends that happen. But we have capitalized on things like technological advances. We were on top of MySpace early, one of the first bands to do stuff on there. Weâre pretty active with Twitter. Those things are important to keep your fans involved with your band rather than just the few times you roll through per year. But another thing is that weâve been very open and accessible with our fans. After a show Iâll just walk over to the merch table and talk with people dude to dude, person to person. I think some bands are scared of that or feel they need to be more mysterious and maybe up to a point thatâs good, but I think sometimes people just think youâre an asshole or alienating them, or you just donât care. For some bands maybe thatâs true, but most of the time itâs just they want to have this wall that they think should be there and ultimately that hurts them.
So you try to remove yourself and the band from what, maybe, the stereotypical rock star ego that some successful bands can adopt?
I think a lot of that comes down to how people grew up in terms of being a music fan. [When] I grew up, the first music I heard was big rock bands and the reason I wanted to play music was due to bands like Metallica or Guns Nâ Roses. [When you] go to the Guns Nâ Roses show you donât expect Axl Rose to come up and say, "Thanks for coming to the show." You know what I mean? Then, as I started to grow up and started going to local punk rock shows, I realized thatâs how it is in punk rock. Bands hang around with the kids and wear the same clothes the kids wear.
The fans are more than customers and the band is more than performers.
Yes, [I remember] there were kids were from my hometown and theyâre like me and playing music, thatâs when it dawned on me that I could do it too. I think that punk rock mentality is something that stuck with me and is probably why we are why we are. I canât say all bands grew up like that, some grew up with the Guns Nâ Roses side of things, and that might be why they are how they are.
Did you ever end up meeting someone you idolized and then asked yourself how you could have respected them after seeing how they really were?
Not really, no. The only person I can think of thatâs sort of like that -- and I donât want to talk shit -- was Russ Rankin from Good Riddance. I loved Good Riddance and saw them countless times growing up. And then we toured with Only Crime. Rise Against was headlining and we were below them with Only Crime opening. Russ Rankin was singing for them and seeing him around, I was almost star struck and kind of scared to talk to him. And he was this super, super quiet and keep-to-himself guy. The whole month we were on tour we didnât say one word to each other, which is very rare for me to be on tour with someone and not talk to them. So that was a little bit of a weird thing for me and I feel a little different now listening to Good Riddance. Itâs not necessarily a bad thing, I still love the band, but itâs just weird.
Then there are other people like NOFX, which was maybe my favorite band growing up, and now me and Fat Mike are kind of friends. And thatâs the weirdest thing for me, for him to know me and know my band and for him to have some sort of respect for me on one level. Itâs just so weird. That has kind of changed what NOFX means to me because I know how he is as a person. It doesnât make me like a band any [more or] less, but when you become friends with someone as opposed to kind of looking up or almost idolizing them itâs very different.
What is it like when you become acquaintances with a veteran in the industry -- like, say, Fat Mike. Is it about soliciting advice or is talking about business absent from the conversation?
Well, I wouldnât say Iâd be soliciting advice from someone like [Fat Mike]. Weâre in different worlds. They do what they do and have done it for a long time. They donât want to be on MTV, donât want to make music videos. I know theyâve made a couple lately, but you know, they do things differently than we do. Itâs a different approach.
There are times Iâve been sitting with Fat Mike playing poker or whatever and I remember him talking to Motion City Soundtrack and they had two busses out and him telling them it was a stupid idea. Two busses wastes money and youâre not going to be able to write your record on the road, so donât even try. And that kind of thing happens, but I think I get as much advice from a guy like Fat Mike than I do from my friend Anthony, you know? Itâs just like anything, when youâre in the same business in the same world you talk about things and discuss things. Thatâs what friends are; thatâs all it is.
So whatâs going on after you guys play the Warped Tour?
We go to Alaska, which will be cool since weâve never been there. Then we do a Canadian tour, our first headlining tour for Shipwreck in the Sand. We have a great lineup with that with a Day to Remember and Ten Second Epic. Then we might do some more U.S. dates, [or] maybe go back to Europe or Australia.
So itâs pretty open right now?
We still have to put everything into place. Weâve pretty much been on tour, only taking breaks to make records or a week or two here and there for the last six years. Things always seem to fall into place and we manage to keep ourselves busy.
Are you guys picky about the festivals you play or is it about getting the music out and playing wherever you can?
It depends. When you do a festival in a big market like [the] New York area or Southern California, when you do a show like that you canât do another show. Like we canât play the Bamboozle Fest and then go play another show in New York. Itâs a bit annoying, I guess. All your fans in New York or these big places can only catch our 40-minute set at the festivals. Thatâs one thing I donât like about doing festivals, but at the same time, getting your music out and to a lot of people is obviously great.
I think itâs important to keep your name out there and expose yourself to a lot of new people. So Iâd say weâre not really picky. We try to do as many as we can, as long as it makes sense.
What do you think the kids in the crowd that have a problem with bands that make videos or put effort into their production? As long as the ban isnât compromising the message they want to give off or compromising themselves as a band, why is it so bad?
I think there is a weird jealousy that goes along with that. There are so many kids that want to be the cool person that finds out about the band first and then loves the band and nobody knows them. A lot of kids are scared the band will get big and the jocks and idiots and loser or whatever are also going to like the band too and it wonât be cool to like it anymore.
Thatâs the whole sell-out perspective. Something like MTV, which is extremely mainstream and very big, thatâs one thing that does that. I think itâs one reason, radio is another … I can remember myself thinking like that, that a band would get too big. It happens. Iâm sure a lot of people donât like Rise Against anymore because theyâre this huge band now when they used to be this little punk band from Chicago. And itâs stupid; theyâre just as good as they always were and they still stand for what they always have, but thatâs just how people are. Itâs a weird jealousy thing.
Fall Out Boy for that matter. Theyâre still a good band and doing what theyâve always done but some people alienate them for their success. I canât really lump Fall Out Boy and Rise Against in the same category in a lot of ways, but in a lot of ways itâs the same mentality.
Itâs like youâre punished for progressing and succeeding.
Exactly, and it happens. Another way it happens is that someone in another band gets jealous and the shit talking begins and it spirals on and on from a band to their fans to the other bandâs fans. It can be a dirty world.
Silversteinâs website has a pretty nice gallery of fan-submitted tattoos paying homage to your band. Thatâs cool and must also be kind of strange at the same time.
I remember the first time weâd been to California, we were in San Diego, and we saw a kid with our album cover with the robot on it. I remember thinking: Oh my god, I ruined this kidâs life. Now he has this on his arm for the rest of his life. What has my stupid music done?
Now I understand that itâs not stupid music to a lot of people; it means something to people in such a way they want to represent that and have that reminder on their body, which is pretty cool.
As a musician it must be flattering to know your message, lyrics and everything you work for means that much to some people. It also demonstrates the power music can have and the amount of people it can affect.
At every show I see a kid showing me a tattoo and it always brings up the same feeling. Itâs pretty flattering and at the same time Iâm kind of like, Oh boy, I hope he doesnât regret it.
The artwork on your albums is something I think we should discuss. Itâs more than just hotel art or stuff slapped together.
The artist that has done all of our album covers is Martin Wittfooth and heâs actually doing quite well for himself. He lives in New York and does art shows and sells his art, and itâs great to see heâs made a career of it. But heâs just a guy from our hometown that Josh [Bradford] used to work in a snowboard shop with. We liked his work and we asked him to do some art for us and he nailed it. Now every record along the way heâs done for us. I think he actually did the new Used album, too. I guess the Used was like, "Man, I like the Silverstein art, letâs get that guy." And Iâm just happy Martinâs doing well. I think weâre all fans of art. None of us are extremely artistically inclined, but we all appreciate it and artwork is extremely important to us. The art direction we go with we all talk and discuss it to make sure the art goes along with the music and itâs all a big package. Weâre not a band that will ever slap a photo of ourselves on the cover.
Nowadays I understand that the art isnât as important because of iTunes, but I donât come from that world. Iâm still a music fan and when I put out an album I want it to be like my favorite albums growing up. I want people to feel how I felt. Thatâs why weâll always do it this way and take our time with the artwork and try to do special things.
Do you go through this next tour before worrying about a new record, or has it already come up in the band?
Itâs starting to approach in the back of our mind. Whatever record we do, it takes a toll on me. The last two records especially. I lost a lot of sleep over it, really worked hard, and when it was done I felt so relieved not having to think about another album for a while.
Now itâs been for months and Iâm starting to get the itch a little bit again. Iâve been picking up a guitar, writing in my notebook and brainstorming ideas and some conceptual thoughts and sooner than later weâll come out with a new album. Iâm really feeling creative again. We signed to Victory Records for four albums; weâve done four albums, and now we get to decide if we want to stay with Victory, do something ourselves [or] do some other cool things that might not be traditional. Putting out albums every two years, everyone else does it; there are a lot of options we can do now in our careers. Weâre just trying to brainstorm things we can do and things we want to do to mix it up and keep it interesting and not make it a grind.