After four full-length releases via long time label Victory Records, Canadian post-hardcore vets Silverstein established that progression was essential, and change was key. The band set out to not only find a new home, but also write and release a fresh and honorable disc from start to finish. Silverstein recently released their fifth full-length record and Hopeless Records debut, Rescue. Prior to heading out on the Take Action Tour, vocalist Shane Told spoke with Punknews' interviewer Mark Millard about the label switch, the writing process behind the new album, and for the first time, the story behind one of the most personal songs he's ever written.
Silverstein is set to release its fifth full length record and of course, the first on Hopeless Records. With that being said, what's the general vibe with the band right now?
Dude, we feel revitalized. We got through four records on Victory [Records] and 10 years of being a band. We put out the decade DVD release, played the four records in Toronto from start to finish over four nights and I think once we did that, we just felt like the first chapter was closed and it was almost like a rebirth. So I think all of us just as people are getting along better than we ever have, we're enjoying things as much as we've ever enjoyed them and now we realize we're in this just to have fun; that's why we do this. So we put together a record that we wanted to be exciting. We wanted to be fresh and we wanted to make a record the way we wanted to make it, and write the songs the way we wanted them to come out. We didn't want it to be like, "This part needs to be like this because this is what people will expect," or, "This is what Silverstein would do." We just took a different approach because we pulled from our roots a lot more, did a lot more double time; like Fat Wreck Chords band influenced stuff on there because that's what we were listening to. And you can hear that on a song like "The Artist" which is a very much like a hardcore vibe. So we kind of just threw it all out the window and did what we wanted to do; and that's the record.
Yeah man and it's interesting you say it was almost like a new chapter for the band. I don't know if this was a pun, but if you look at a release like Transitions, it's clear that was a transitional phase for the band; totally understandable after ten years of playing music together. Can you take us back to the writing process for Rescue? What was the bands overall frame of mind?
Well yeah we'll go back to Transitions. We made that record that because that's exactly what it was; it was a transitional time for us. When we were writing those songs, we didn't really know where anything was going to end up, you know? And it was exciting, a bit scary but exciting to have no record label, nothing. We just went in the studio, started recording demos and didn't know who was gonna put it out or anything. We just talked to every label possible, and there were so many labels, so many great labels we wanted to work with but unfortunately we could only pick one; and Hopeless just felt like the best fit for us, as people mostly, but musically as well. So that was kind of the frame of mind from that point, just spending as much time as we needed to get it done. There was no deadline, no release date, and I think it's the first time we ever made a record where it was like; we didnât know when it's coming out, just made the record. So it was kind of nice.
That must be refreshing for a band that's been at it for quite a while now. Obviously, you're no longer rookies to the writing process, but I'm still curious to know; being your fifth full-length record, how did you approach the vocal and lyrical aspects this time around?
Lyrically, I think the biggest difference between this record and the last record is that I really had a lot to say; I had a lot to say about a lot of different topics. The last time, Shipwreck in the Sand, it was such a conceptually based record about the economy and the struggles of people. That was the story and that was all I wrote the entire 12-song record about. This time I didn't want to just pick one thing; I wanted to talk about a lot of things going on in the world, my life, the music industry, etc. So lyrically I think it was a different approach.
I've been lucky because I never really get writers block. I can always kind of take inspiration from the smallest thing. I can have a conversation with someone and have something to say. I think in terms of song writing, and I mentioned this but we had a lot more time. So when I was writing the melodic elements of the vocals I just had a lot more time. There were a couple songs I would write a demo, go on tour and come back to the song a couple months later not really thinking about it and then really be able to analyze what we thought about the song a few months after. You don't always have that luxury when the labelâs like, "In three months, the records gotta come out." So it was good to be able to come back and be like, "I don't like that lyric there," or, "The way that melody goes," or even, "That part I'm not so stoked on." So it was really good to have that ability to go back and forth and really figure out which songs had staying power. You know, cause sometimes you'll write a song and everyone will be so fucking stoked on it; like it's the best song, then down the road you'll be like "Maybe that was okay, but it's not the best." It's cool to be able to actually reflect back before actually putting the record out.
As you mentioned, it was a less conceptually based record; you had a chance to get a little more personal. Is there a song that's most important to you lyrically on the record?
I do. The song is called "In Memory Of" and I wrote it about my cousin who passed away in 2006. So it's a very personal song for me and it was something that when he died, and I don't have a brother and we were the same age, so we were very close, he was like a brother to me. I just wasn't able to really discuss it until now. I use to sit down with a guitar, a pen and a pad and try to figure something out; like what I could say about him or what I could say about him dying - but I couldn't do it until now. So I felt that song for me was an accomplishment, because I said exactly what I wanted to say. And even though it's been over five years since he died, I think I've found some closure now; so it's a really important song to me for that reason.
Obviously that's a really tough, emotional thing to go through. But living that, and writing a song to help gain a sense of closure; can you now view music as part of a healing process, or even an escape?
It can be. I don't think that's all it is to me, but yeah it can be. There are times when I can use it as a tool to help myself, and help understand what I'm going through, absolutely. But for me it's not just that; I'm a music lover and the band's I grew up on, they weren't exactly making radical, emotional escapes in their own music; like in terms of punk rock bands and stuff. So I think for me, I love all kinds of music and I love the aggression of it, and sometimes you can get your frustration out just by singing or screaming in the microphone. It's not always what you say, but sometimes just the act of doing it. So I think music's always been something that's helped me in my life, but maybe not for any particular reasons.
Have you had a chance to sit down, listen to the record and reflect? And if so, what does Rescue mean to you at this point in your career?
Yeah I have, because some of the songs we wrote over a year ago. And the record as a whole has been recorded for a while too. I don't wanna repeat myself but I just feel a new excitement with the band with this record, and I just really like that we did things exactly the way we wanted to do them; we didn't compromise and it was a great feeling. And I'm just really looking forward to this record coming out and our fans diving into it, and people just coming to the shows and rocking out.
Now if you could just bring yourself back to the year 2000 for a second. Being a kid in high school who started a band, did you ever think that a run like this could be possible? That Silversteinâs Shane Told could be sitting here doing an interview about their fifth record that's about to come out in 2011?
No absolutely not. We started the band when I was in my last year of high school, and we didn't even know if we were gonna play a show; or record anything even. We were just kids playing music in a basement because it was fun - it was something different, or at least at the time, something different that nobody around us was doing. It was a side project, and we were playing in punk rock and hardcore bands, we were playing shows and doing that but we still never thought it was gonna be anything serious. I remember we played our first show and the response was so great, and then things just started to build and build on top of it. But I never thought that we'd tour outside of the country, or that we'd put out a record on a big label like the four we put out on Victory, and I never thought this would be something I'd have as a career, that I'd be making a living at this. So all of that is just mind blowing when I think about it. A lot of people ask me, "Well, when did it hit you?" And I don't think it does hit you, you just do it. I still feel like the same kid that I was eleven years ago in Josh's basement; I don't feel any different. Just now, the goals are different but the main goal has always been the same, just have a good time and enjoy what you're doing. Eleven years later, we're still having the best time.
So what can you attest the bandâs longevity and success to? Is it just like you said; that you're going out there and having fun with a good attitude and ultimately, doing what you love?
I think that's a good point man. Like when we were first starting out and we were doing our first tours, like local tours around Canada where you would drive four or five hours to play a show, we always had this motto which was: "No expectations, and you can't be disappointed." Like we'd go to this show in Ottawa and be like: there could be 50 kids there or there could be 300 kids there. But if thereâs 50 kids there, we're just gonna be stoked. We're not gonna get in our heads that there's gonna be 300 kids there and the show's gonna be insane. That way when we get there and there are 100 kids there, when we expected 50, we're just fucking stoked. So I think that level of thinking always kept us grounded and always just kept us happy. So many bands these days, they expect so much to happen - like, "Oh we signed to this label; this is gonna happen - we're gonna get all these tours, sell all these records and we're gonna go to all these countries." That just doesn't happen overnight for anyone, you know what I mean? Next thing you know you're disappointed and upset because you put in your head that all this shit was gonna happen when in reality it was all a really big if, you know?
Totally. I'm jumping the gun a little bit here as the record hasn't even come out yet, but with the release of Rescue; where does this leave Silverstein? What comes next and what do you ultimately want to do that you haven't necessarily done yet?
I think we just wanna continue to do things that we wanna do for ourselves. Like we put out a record for Record Store Day, a 7" record, I don't know if you heard about it.
Of course man.
Yeah, and we put one of our songs on one side and we covered three old punk rock hardcore bands that we really liked and thought maybe our fans hadn't heard of. So we just went into the studio and recorded those three songs in one day and then the next day we mixed it, it was done and then put out the record and it was special to us. So we just want to continue doing stuff like that. I feel we were kind of limited with Victory, they would never go for something like that just because they're a very sales driven label, and with Hopeless it was like we wanna do this and they're like, "Fuck yeah! We know we're not gonna make any money on it. We don't care, we wanna do it because we know it's something that's gonna be fun and you guys want to do it." So yeah I think we want to continue doing those kinds of projects; I also think this time around we're going to make a lot more music videos too, which is just something that in recent years with technology getting better, music videos are just better and actually more fun to make. I think another thing we want to do is just do more and more in terms of fan interaction, like online video chats and streaming. With all that stuff, the technology is there so why not? There are fans all over the world who want to see us a lot so how hard is it for me to just jump on the internet and say, "Hi." We just want to do more stuff like that.