Wyatt Clough

‘An Album Is Forever’ – A Conversation with Silverstein’s Shane Told

Paint a portrait of a perfect band. Look at what you create. It’s one that respects their glory days (if not in the midst of it already), reflects on their musical upbringing, and shoutouts the fans who have been there along the way, right? They’re still loving what they’re doing and the community around them, aren’t they? Face it, the band you pictured is Silverstein.

Silverstein conquered America long ago. The Canadian punks turned respected rockers are still on the up-and-up around the entire globe thanks to the music they continue to release, the tours they continue to embark on, and the evolution they allow to naturally occur. We chatted with vocalist Shane Told on the topic of the latter while touching upon the former’s riveting marks on the world, as well. Misery Made Me is one of their most inspiring albums to date with an emo(tive) reflection of the overarching human struggle and is knowingly acclaimed. The band’s current run alongside The Amity Affliction is nothing more than a dream lineup, as well, drumming up just as much attention and appreciation as it rolls onto the Starland Ballroom stage on September 24.

The last two/three years have shifted many perspectives, including that of artists. With that in mind, as a frontman and creative, what does it mean to be able to make music, tour, and connect with people around the world?

This is a great question, and to be frank, the last couple years have really sucked and just been unexpected, I think, for a band like us. We’ve been doing it for so long. We literally started touring in 2003 and we only stopped to write and records, then we’d go right back on the road. We were a band that was used to touring, you know? Back in the day we would be doing well over 200 shows a year, so for that just to be all of a sudden gone – truly at the drop of a hat – and being told, “You gotta go home. I know ‘the show must go on’ has been your mantra for 17 years, but the show must go off.”

We went home and it was pretty dark. It was pretty depressing. It was hard. It was scary. We didn’t know what we were gonna do and I think that that was a great opportunity in hindsight for us to explore some other things, both in our lives personally, but also as a band. We did a lot of interesting things with lot some of the livestream events we did and we learned about the blockchain and NFTs and that weird tech stuff. We did a whole bunch of stuff that I think we would’ve never bothered with if we were just on the road the whole time. Another thing it did was it gave us a really great break that maybe was also needed that we didn’t know – to just give ourselves a little bit of time away from each other and to kind of miss each other and miss what we did. We definitely never took it for granted, but, you know, just to realize that the best elements of myself are seen and felt when we’re on the road and we’re playing shows… I learned that. So to answer your question, I think the pandemic all kind of stretched us into this place where we could realize how much we love this band and how much we love making music so that when it came time to get together to make new music, we worked harder than we ever have before and enjoyed it more than we ever have before. From all the glowing reviews we’ve had off of this new album and, and where we’ve taken our live show and everything else, it seems like, at the end of the day, things all worked out really, really well for us.

I feel like there was this level of refreshment with the band on Misery Made Me as it has a wonderful balance to it. I found that your roots, this post-grunge kind of punk edginess that we know and love, found a way to return, but also was shifted within this modern take on rock and roll reflection. Then the meaning within the album is this double-edged sword of what misery can be. Do you think that fans have grasped the concepts and sounds that you all had hoped they would get from it over the last four or so months?

Yeah, I think overwhelmingly so. When we were making this album it was an interesting time because we were writing these songs kind of away from each other. We weren’t able to see each other. It was during the lockdown, which in Canada – where we’re from – was quite a little bit more intense than a lot of parts of the USA. We really didn’t see each other and we were writing these pretty angry, frustrated, depressing songs. When we got together, though, we were really happy [Laughs]. We lived together in a studio. We were staying up late drinking wine and watching basketball. We were waking up early to play golf with each other. We were shooting hoops between takes. We were just doing all of these really fun activities together and enjoying it, so there’s a weird sort of duality between the songs, at least in my experience, and then the actual recording process. I don’t know if there’s something there you can hear, sort of a magic or sort of exuberance that we have on the record, but that’s the truth of what happened.

There was also a conversation I remember that we had when we were going over these songs we’ve written and kind of saying, “Well, is this gonna be like the cliché thing? Every band is coming out with music and saying it is the pandemic record. People are tired of this. People are sick of being in their houses. People are just gonna roll their eyes.” We embraced it, because first of all, it’s really the only thing we could write about or think about at that point. It’s also the most relatable topic to literally everyone in the world. Why would we turn our backs on something that’s actually real and relatable? When else would that ever happen? This hasn’t happened in a hundred years where we’ve had this kind of unity, at least in terms of what we’re going through with the lockdown and with sickness and mental health (which is mostly what we focused on). I think all of that stuff really made for a lot of people to take what they needed from the record, which is always a beautiful thing and one of the main reasons that I even want to write music: so that somebody can relate to me and I can relate to them and we can have this sort of unknown, kismet kinship.

A lot of people gravitate to that and found home in this record, whether they were existing fans or new ones. Misery Made Me was a great gateway, so to speak, to join the fandom and hear how and why you got to this point. This being your 10th album is no small feat in itself, so to do it so well is commendable.

Well, thank you. That’s absolutely something that I think is important to note – the fact that we’ve been a band now for 22 years and we put out 10 albums. We have to continue to find new people to support us. Yes, there are people at our shows sometimes that have been there since the first time we rolled through, but for the most part, the people that have gotten into our band have done so as we put out new music and they’ve said, “Oh, what’s this new song about? What is this band about?” They will have heard the new stuff and then go all the way, rediscovered The Waterfront or whatever.

It’s interesting how sometimes, with certain albums, we get more of that, but at the same time, I think it’s great that we really don’t seem to lose anybody. For us to continue to grow and people to continue to say such nice things about us and, and even for people like you in the media, too, to honk our horn is really nice and feels great. It’s just amazing to be able to play, like, the biggest shows we have ever had as a band now. Our last show in Orlando was that [for us]. After all these years, it is pretty special, I think.

Absolutely. From day one Silverstein has been evolving into themselves rather than into anybody or anything that the world may have wanted you to be. That makes me curious – pandemic aside, is Misery Made Me an album that younger you, the younger version of the band, would’ve expected to be making after 22 years? If you had even thought to make 10 albums in your career!

That’s a great question, and it’s something that I have thought about. I do. I think with every album I go, “Ok, what would 22-year-old Shane think of this? Would I like this? Would this be weird? Would I believe that this is something that could potentially happen?” Yes, but honestly I know that 21 or 22 -year-old me, or at time I started the band at 19 , he would be stoked. [Laughs] He would be absolutely stoked on this album. I’d probably want more fast parts because I was just obsessed with super fast music back then, but I know that I would be like, “Wow, we could do that.” It’s like if could go back and tell yourself anything, if I could go back and tell myself anything, I would keep my mouth shut because all of these things happened for a reason. With Misery Made Me, we couldn’t have released this album in 2004. It had to wait until 2022 to come out because there’s a journey that has to take place in a career and in our career. We’ve had more of a natural progression between our records, too, and I think it’s pretty cool to see the jumps when you compare it from, you mentioned earlier “Forever and a Day,” a song that was on our very first demo actually, to something on Misery Made Me. We had to live, we had to hash it out, and we had to get here with a hundred or more songs [Laughs].

[] I think every record gets harder to make. Just in general, if you think about it, when Stephen King picks up a pen, he must be like, “Ok, well, I’ve written about this. I’ve heard about this. What the hell do I have left to write about?” There’s a little bit of an element of that, I think, when you’re working on your 10th album for a band. Also, we work harder and we care more. I’ll sing something 50 times if I have to – there’s no good enough. Maybe there used to be, but now we think about it as how this is an album forever – an album is forever. We realize that, and we’re going to make sure that every note we put down on a recording is special and has a has a whole story behind it. We take that all very seriously.

Of course. Just the other day I saw that Arrivals & Departures is getting the Record Store Day treatment for its 15th anniversary. That is further proof that an album is forever. If it is as beloved as something like that, it’s going to come back around, it’s going to get a reissue. That can be important to keep in mind; how things are going to resonate and how long it’s gonna last, because there is a chance that it’s going be forever for even just one person.

Yeah! That’s an interesting one because it’s definitely my least favorite album. [Laughs] It’s my least favorite album and there was some talk about it being 15 years and Victory Records had been sold to another company and they’ve been great to work with, but they were talking about doing a vinyl press. I said, “Can we remix the record?” [Laughs] Everyone’s like,”Alright, I guess. Yeah.” What’s funny about it is Victory didn’t hang on to a lot of the master tapes. We don’t know where they are. For example, the first record, I’m not sure where the master tapes are if we wanted to remix that record. However, I happen to have the original hard drive from Arrivals & Departures – literally it’s been in my closet for 15 years. I just happen to have it. I don’t know why I have it, but I have it, luckily, so I plugged it into my computer. It’s from 2007, so it’s like the size of a suitcase practically. It was amazing, though. I plugged it in, everything was there, I uploaded it to our producer, and he says, “Yeah, I just clicked on it and it pretty much opened right up.” It was also amazing to be able to have him do his magic and use some more modern techniques to take the original recordings and remix them. It was remastered, too, and the record sounds incredible now. I mean, the songs aren’t any better, but they’re definitely better. I swear my performances are better, too. [Our producer] says he didn’t like to use all the same takes and everything, but I don’t know, it sounds better to me. I’m really excited for this to come out because I think that that’s always been an album that I thought we could do better on, and that now this is it better.

It’s going to be fun when that comes out and people can hear, hear it. We are going to put it on the DSPs, too, so people can still listen to the new versions on Spotify. They don’t have to get out their old audio Technica turntable or whatever. They can just listen to it digitally, as well. We’re happy that we can give that a little refresh, and, for the purists: don’t worry, the old version will still be there, too.