By Christine Leonard
CALGARY – Named for the scary-looking children’s author who turned words on their ear and penned the lyrics to “A Boy Named Sue,” Burlington, Ontario’s Silverstein has been pumping out post-hardcore tunes since the band’s inception in 2000. By 2002, the upstarts had made enough noise to attract the interest of Victory Records and in 2003 the renowned punk rock label released Silverstein’s first full-length album, When Broken Is Easily Fixed. Featuring 10 energetic tracks, including six songs from their early EPs, the introductory LP launched Silverstein into the public eye, ultimately selling 200 000 copies. Swept up in a whirlwind of international tours and press engagements, Silverstein enjoyed an upsurge in popularity that carried them through the next decade and saw them produce another half-dozen records. Notable for both their consistency and longevity, Silverstein has become a mainstay of Canada’s emo scene and Warped Tour royalty along the way. A pair of distinctions that lead vocalist Shane Told, rhythm guitarist Josh Bradford, lead guitarist Paul Marc Rousseau, bassist Billy Hamilton and drummer Paul Koehler have accepted with a sense of gratitude and responsibility.
“It’s always challenging to write another record and with this being our eighth studio album there was even more pressure, because we want to honour the long-time fans, but we also want to reach a new audience,” says Koehler.
“I think with this album we did a good job of balancing both of those things. It doesn’t get easier, it’s still a stressful process and we work through it as best as we can. It was a pretty insane beginning of the year; writing and recording it. In the end, we’re really happy with it and I can say it’s probably my favourite record that we’ve put out. And that’s a hard feat after seven previous albums, to be able to top it, but I feel like we did.”
Rolled out with the singles “Retrograde” and “Ghost,” Silverstein’s latest effort, Dead Reflection, appeared via New Damage Records in Canada in July of 2017. An examination of the tribulations endured by frontman Shane Told, who also performs solo under the moniker River Oaks, the album surveys the group’s darker side but from a more mature perspective than ever before.
“It’s a little bit about showing what we’re capable of,” Koehler confirms.
“We switched up the personnel for this record, which also resulted in a more modern production sound. It keeps the band feeling current and helps to showcase these songs in the way they were intended to be heard. So, that was the main motivation for it. Lyrically, Shane took a real deeply personal approach with that. Musically, we tried different tunings and tried to punch up the hooks and chorus to be bigger and better than ever and we also wanted the technical aspect to be more complex.”
Despite being a well-conditioned melodic hardcore entity with a considerable amount of experience under their belts, Silverstein’s in-studio performances still benefit from harsh scrutiny. Their own worst critic, the group’s guitarist Paul Marc Rousseau rose to the rank of producer and assisted noted Toronto engineer/producer Derek Hoffman on polishing Dead Reflection to a mercurial lustre.
“In the studio the producer is always the one to say ‘that was good but you can do better.’ You’re pushing your muscles as far as you physically can to create the take in the studio, but when someone says ‘you can do better!’ that’s when you reach inside yourself and realize if there’s one bit of energy left I’m going to push it out and that’s when you get those extraordinary performances,” says Koehler.
“In the moment you can be dripping with sweat, beat-up and exhausted, and you don’t know that you can do better. And sometimes it takes that third party who’s sitting in the control booth to be critical about the performance and interactions. On Dead Reflection we were really pushing the performances. We pushed it further and came out with a better performance.”
Watch Silverstein perform November 9 at The Needle (Edmonton), November 11 at The Rickshaw (Vancouver), November 16 at Marquee (Calgary) and November 17 at The Exchange (Regina).Dead Reflection, Marquee, Silverstein, The Exchange, The Needle, the Rickshaw