Over a decade ago, Silverchair won a radio contest and parlayed the prize into a recording contract. Their first single, “Tomorrow,” became an international hit and catapulted the band to mid-’90s alt-fame. The members (Daniel Johns—guitar, Chris Joannou—bass, and Ben Gillies—drums) were mere teenagers at the time. For most American fans, this is where the story ends. A song called “Tomorrow” and a bunch of young punks. At home in Australia, however, Silverchair have become the most dominant (and arguably the most popular) band in the game.
With 39 Aria Award nominations and more Top 20 singles under their belt than anyone else in the last 10 years, the band is now poised to add a new chapter in the states with the American release of their fifth album, Young Modern (July 24!) and their first full American tour since 1999. Chris took the time to speak with us about these recent developments.
Silverchair’s music is often sort of thematic in nature. What kinds of ideas were you concentrating on while you were recording?
With this record, I guess the main core of it was basically to concentrate more on just the band aspect of things. We recorded all the rhythm tracks live, so the drums, bass, rhythm guitars, keyboards and everything was recorded in one take together, which was the main idea of just capturing the essence of the band. The last record, Diorama, was so many other layers on top, so I guess that was probably one of the main focuses. And I mean, this album probably hops all over the place a lot, going from songs like ‘Reflections Of A Sound’ which has, you know, a really simple pop aspect, to something like ‘Mind Reader’ which is really quite rock.
And would you say there’s a track that ties it all together?
That’s a hard one, actually. I’ve never tried to look at it in that way. I think… yeah, I dunno. I think, because when we put an album together, it’s each song complements each other, so probably not. I think that was one of the hardest things, especially in Australia when ‘Straight Lines’ came out. A lot of people thought that Silverchair’s changed because it’s probably a lot more accessible than past music that we’ve had released. But when you actually listen to the album in its entirety, it seems to make a lot of sense to people.
Along those lines, how do you decide what direction to head into next, musically? It seems to change a lot from album to album.
Yeah, I guess we’ve always made a pretty conscious effort to kind of head off in a different direction each album, especially with Dan’s songwriting and stuff like that. We’re not a band to kind of stick with one sound and try to refine it. We’re kind of trying to do different things on each album. I think we’d get bored with it pretty quickly. So even just new concepts and ideas and things like that, we’ve been pretty conscious of. I guess it’s pushing us to come up with something different and new.
With your past few albums, especially Young Modern, it seems like guitar playing has taken a back seat to keyboards and orchestral arrangements, but the rhythm section has stayed pretty consistent. There isn’t a lot of extra percussion or orchestral activity in the bass region. Is there a reason behind that?
I dunno, I guess it’s just our style. I think that comes back to just keeping it sounding like a real band, you know what I mean? There was even one song on the album which we deliberately didn’t rehearse too much so that it really has that feeling of like, ‘This sounds like the first time they’ve ever played it,’ you know what I mean? On this album there’s even mistakes and stuff in there that we’ve kept just purely because the take as a whole has a great vibe. And how many people are gonna notice that one little mistake but probably us?
There was kind of a long break between Diorama and Young Modern. Do you foresee a similar break between now and your next project, if there’s even going to be one?
We’ll do another album, but I don’t think it’ll be as long a break. We were all off doing other projects in between Diorama and this album. I think, you know, just at that time after Diorama we genuinely needed to just get back from Silverchair and all go do something different outside of the band. I think it really helped in a way. The three of us are probably enjoying more, playing as a band, than we have in a long time. Yeah, I don’t think it’s likely that it would be as long. Well, I’m saying that now, but who knows, I can’t predict the future. But I wouldn’t think that it would be as long.
Regarding those projects that you guys were involved in on your time off, I know you did some work with a band called The Mess Hall, and Ben and Dan each had side-bands. Is there any chance of those projects continuing?
Well, I was just in a producing role, so, I mean, I would like to do some more producing later on when I get some time, for sure. I’m sure that Paul and Dan will probably do some more under The Dissociatives, but I don’t know when.
As a member of band that found success so early in your career, and in life for that matter, has there ever been a moment when you thought that music wouldn’t be what you did for the rest of your life?
Not really. I think probably because we started so young and it’s all we’ve really ever known. It’s not like we got out of school and had a day job and then the band took off. The band took off while we were in there, you know? So we pretty much left school and started touring full time. I couldn’t really imagine being in any other area. I think I’m pretty well stuck in this industry now… Not that there’s anything wrong with that!
Alright, before I let you go I just want to know about the tour that you’re starting. What can the fans expect when they go to see a show?
I guess we’ll be playing a lot of the new album, with just a few of the old ones thrown in there. Because it has been so long since people have seen the band live, so… We’ve got two keyboard players with us. Paul Mac is actually touring with us as well, which is really cool. And yeah, like I said before, we’re enjoying playing live probably moreso now than we have in a long time. So yeah, it’s a good show.
Silverchair will perform at Starland Ballroom in Sayreville, NJ, on July 26 and at NYC’s Roseland Ballroom on July 27. For more info visit chairpage.com
Photo Credit: Nabil Elderkin