INTERVIEW: Shane Told (SILVERSTEIN)
A permeating fixture in the punk and heavier realms, Ontario rockers Silverstein have blossomed from underground emo figures into bonda fide industry icons; and 22 years into their career, Silverstein remain one of the rare bands who can strengthen and grow with each passing release, cementing their legendary status wile continually facing forward to new horizons, both in and beyond creating music.
With their most recent album, 2020's ninth outing A Beautiful Place to Drown garnering millions of streams and more experimental fare beyond the post-hardcore tropes, Silverstein continued to showcase their nomadic genre flair, while also facing the unprecedented reality of releasing an album on the doorstep of lockdowns and tour cancellations. In fact, it was during the band's 20th Anniversary Tour in 2020 that the Canadian juggernauts were forced to postpone their shows and leave the album's final cycle unfinished. And yet - faced with no shows and isolation for the first time in their lengthy career and personal lives - somehow the seeds to the band's tenth full-length opus Misery Made Me were sown against the odds, leading to a sharp and innovative album that hustles darkness and hope against familiar and unexpected sonic flavours; an album born in a pandemic and yet one entirely timeless and relentlessly addictive.
And where COVID-19 brought negativity and feelings of out-and-out misery to the world and to some of the content on Misery Made Me, it's the overarching aspects of adaptability and acceptance that starkly shines through the entirety of Misery Made Me; a fact made even more authentic with Silverstein's embracing of new technologies during lockdowns and isolation, including diving into the worlds of TikTok, Discord, NFTs, the metaverse and Twitch. For a band over two decades into their journey, Misery Made Me signals that there is no ceasing the potent momentum that has carried Silverstein so firmly to this point in their career. And to celebrate the release of their brand new album, Tiana Speter spent some time with Silverstein vocalist Shane Told to chat collaborating, finding joy and how the band have been bolstering new talent along the way.
TIANA SPETER: Shane, thank you so much for joining me today and what a day to be speaking to you, a milestone day and a triumph in multiple ways; not only the release of the tenth studio album Misery Made Me for Silverstein, but we've also made it well and truly into 2022...how does it feel to be actually at this point?
SHANE TOLD: It's been a hell of a couple of years...to put it mildly. And I think that quite honestly, this really does feel like a rebirth for us. Coming into 2020, we had a brand new album, you know, it was the turn of the decade again and I think a lot of people were really optimistic - and damn did that derail quickly. I mean, starting off with the fires in your neck of the woods. And then we ended up going to the Philippines where we literally got stuck because there was a volcanic eruption and we couldn't leave for almost a full week! So, all of these things riding right into the pandemic - we really felt like our ass got kicked real hard, extra hard. It took a lot of time to recover from that, to be honest. And part of the recovery, I think, was making this album and being able to get together after not seeing each other for a long time and just really remembering what it is about each other that we like, and remembering the musical chemistry that we have. And, you know, not to say that we necessarily forgot; but when you're with people, you know...we never stop touring! We never stop working, and when you're with people constantly like that for almost two decades - I think that maybe you sort of forget that, maybe you take it a little bit for granted. For us to come in and make this album, and now we are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel, we just did a tour and it was mask free and we weren't in a bubble and we hung out and people were hanging out and it felt normal. It felt like 2019 again! For that to be happening now around this new record - man, it's damn exciting. We just could not be more stoked right now, I feel like it's a great time for the album to come out.
TIANA: Yeah, I think so many people have had that similar kind of story, that whole coming in hot into 2020, especially for anyone who had an album coming out that year like you guys did, and then the usual suspects of no proper release or touring, all of that. Everyone kind of got flipped back to this weird limb. With Misery Made Me though, what was the ultimate intention behind the album? I know you guys have said that you were able to get rid of any preconceived notions of who you guys were as a band...but did the pandemic dampen any of your instigation to want to continue this journey before you all realised you were on the journey towards album number 10? Or did you guys just dive straight into it all to distract from everything that was going on around it?
SHANE: No, I mean, to be honest, coming out into 2020 and and having A Beautiful Place to Drown...it was released on March 6th! So it was, like, six days after that when we shut down the tour and we had to go home six days after it released. You're talking about putting out a record and literally - literally the worst time in human history. It was depressing! And the last thing we were going to do was go home and start writing. We'd just put out an album, we'd put so much into that record and - we couldn't write anything, you know, we really just sat around and did nothing. We just worried about the reality, which was like: okay, well, we were doing this tour, the 20th anniversary tour, biggest tour I've ever done. That's like our money for the year, you know what I mean? Not to mention all the other stuff that was cancelled in the summer that we had planned. It was like: are we gonna be able to survive? Are we gonna be able to continue paying our bills and shit? Andthat's when we had to make some quick adjustments and do live streams and figure out what Twitch was and what an NFT was, all these things that we really dove head first into; which now, looking back, is one of the only silver linings of the whole thing, that we learned a lot about other ways to make money when we're not touring and that kind of stuff. There was no stopping, we were gonna ride this out all the way through. And eventually once we realised, okay, maybe we overreacted a little bit and they're not gonna come take our houses, you know, they're not gonna get all our shit repossessed it was like: okay, maybe now we can sit down and we can start writing. And we have some material to write about because we've had this experience. That's where all the songs from this record came from, those those dark months. And I think that it shows.
TIANA: It's fascinating to come at this point in time, like, it's an album we all kind of need in a way, it's this collective frustration and catharsis that has also actually been something really good for me personally. And I can only imagine from a band's perspective to be able to channel some of what was going on around us all into it too. With Misery Made Me, there's rage, there's emotional stuff going on, but realistically: there's also a bit of hope coming out of it, despite it all, I enjoyed those moments as well - but there's also some amazing features on the album. Obviously you've got Andrew Nuefeld from Comeback Kid, you've got Mike Hranica from The Devil Wears Prada, to name just a few. Were these features always in the mix for this adventure, or was that just purely because everyone was locked down, no one really had any excuses not to join in and do something creative?
SHANE: We did a lot of features on the last album, and that's the way music has been going over the last little while, it seems like a record without any features would almost be strange at this point - although we've done that too, but we've done a lot of features in the past. I think when we are talking about that, it's always based on the song and what it needs and what the feeling of it is. And when I wrote Die Alone: the first band, I thought it sounded like was Comeback Kid. So, it only made sense to have...well, why not just get the guy and make the song even better? Doesn't that make sense! So, some of them are obvious choices like that. A song like Live Like This with nothing, nowhere...that was one that I think was like maybe a little bit more, I don't know....I mean, that one makes a lot of sense too, but that wasn't one that was completely obvious until we started saying: what about Joe? He would kill this! And same with the Trevor Daniel feature as well. All the features were a lot of fun and it's always great to get that back, you know, when you get back to recording - because everything was recorded remotely...actually that's not true! Andrew did do do his at our studio because he's from Toronto! But just having people come in, having the songs come in and hearing it for the first time and being like: "oh my god! Wow!". Like - wow, this song just took on such a different life. To go back to what you were saying about the subject matter being so relatable and you even saying personally that you find it relatable, I mean: we've all lived this! I don't care where you're from! And it was so cool having someone like Joe, nothing, nowhere., or Trevor coming in or Mike from Prada too coming in and putting down this part of the song...you know, they live in different countries. They have different life experience, but yet the song is so relatable that they can put their own twist on exactly what we're trying to say. And I think some of the lyrics that they came up with are amazing, something like: "I don't wanna die, but I can't live like this". I mean, that's such a powerful lyric, and Ultraviolet and just the mental health aspect of what we went through, the line "is it chemical, supernatural?". I mean, those are so many thoughts that I think we all had too. I really do think that as much as this record is a Silverstein record, I wanna say it's a record for everybody. And we had these features that really helped make it that way just to show...I think if you can't relate to this record, then you've probably been on an island for the last couple of years and you don't even know what Corona is. "COVID what??".
TIANA: Yeah, "isn't Corona the beer??"
SHANE: Right?! Wasn't Jared Leto on a retreat for, like, a month? And then he like came back and was like: "what?!".
TIANA: Can you actually imagine that or just, like, waking up out of a coma or something after slipping into one in like late 2019 or something...you'd think it was actually all bullshit. But, hey - the album would still sound killer to them, so they could at least still enjoy it!
SHANE: Oh, I think that some of the themes are still timeless. I mean, just the idea of feeling alone in isolation and all that stuff...we made sure that those were very important aspects of it. It wasn't just like, "wear a mask", you know? No, we don't talk about masks at all, just so it's on record (laughs).
TIANA: I wanted to expand on something that you spoke about earlier, stemming from having Andrew from Comeback Kid being in Canada with you guys...Canada has just always had so much amazing music coming out of it, this year as well, there's so much good stuff dropping, especially of the heavy persuasion. But considering you guys have been in this scene, I know you've gone beyond Canada over the decades doing your thing, but you've been immersed in this for a very large portion of your lives. How do you feel the Canadian music scene is in 2022? Does it feel like a creative and a supportive kind of situation now that everyone's starting to pick the pieces up from the past few years?
SHANE: I think that it always has been...you know, we've always had great music coming outta Canada. I mean, even our government supports us up to a point with helping us pay for music videos and stuff, which is pretty cool. I think what really has struck me the most - and this isn't just a Canadian problem, it's just an everywhere problem - is just how hard it is for newer artists right now, artists that are trying to get off the ground, trying to play shows or tour and can't. And all they have is some amazing music, but the only way they have to promote it is on the internet with everyone else. It's just so hard to watch that happen, and seeing these amazing, amazing bands just not be able to progress. I think has been really hard, but I have seen such a great outcry support for this. And, you know, I've even done a couple things on my Twitch channel, I've done a few "locals only" segments showcasing some local bands, you know, bands that only have a couple hundred monthly listeners maybe on Spotify or whatever - but they're working it and they're trying. And I've found out about so many incredible bands, Canadian and not Canadian, through that. And I think it's really great! Now you're gonna see a lot of bands like that, that have been biding their time, working on their craft, waiting for this moment that's finally here, and they're able to really make waves. And I thought that 2021 was one of the best years on record for music ever, especially Canadian music - I'm talking about everybody from Archspire to Spiritbox. There's just so many bands putting out amazing music, Cancer Bats have a new album actually, and so does Comeback Kid...I could go on and on about it! I think you're just gonna see so many bands that have been working on their craft, putting out amazing music - and I think that the only problem is there's too much of it! That's the only problem!
TIANA: I mean - if that's gonna be the worst of it, I think that's a good problem to have. I think it's amazing too the initiatives that you guys take as a band to adapt, but also to help this next generation as well, it's incredible. And I think honestly, everyone can take a leaf out of that book. But coming back to Misery Made Me now for another moment: obviously misery is a heavy anchor in moments on this and the surrounding thematics of that concept play a broader part on the album. But on the flip side for you personally: what brings you joy in this musical journey? You've been doing this for a while now, I'm not gonna say that you're a veteran or your seasoned, only because I think Silverstein are still well and truly in this journey, there's no end point, I hope, at this point. But what is it that brings you joy in all of this despite any hurdles along the way?
SHANE: Well: everything now (laughs). Everything I took for granted, like, things that I used to hate doing - like soundcheck! I'm like: "hey, I kind of like soundcheck now!". You know, like, these annoying things that I used to just...like, oh god, I would rather watch paint dry than do this in terms of a musical career! Even doing interviews and stuff, you know, I have all these interviews to do. I'm now like: "bring it on!!". This is great! You know, much, much better than trying to find another puzzle to finish in my basement. Quite honestly, I'm really just stoked about everything, and I think that it stemmed, that the rebirth of joy really did stem from making this record, and us all being together in the studio. And what's really interesting is: Misery Made Me is the title. But the use of the word misery in both occurrences on the record...they're both in uplifting ways. And the title being Misery Made Me comes from "misery, made me nothing can break me", which really is super strong. You know, that we've been through this horrible, horrible thing in our lives and in our past, and now we're able to overcome because of that, you know, in spite of that and because of that. And then the final lyric on the record is: "I can find my peace in misery", the acceptance of what we've gone through and the acceptance that maybe the world will never be the same - but we're gonna get through that. I think the element of hope has always been something important for Silverstein. And I think that this record is no exception, but we did find joy in making this album and we're pretty happy people generally speaking, and I'm a very happy person, generally speaking. We're taking a lot of joy right now and being able to deliver this record and tour again normally - and just get back to it!
TIANA: Well, you've given a lot of joy beyond the joy that you guys have found in it too, so we're all equally extremely grateful. And I know when you're speaking to people from Australia, you'd be sick to death of the question with us all always asking if you're coming back out here, but just know that we always would love to have you. We always love to experience you guys in a live setting, but for now: congratulations on an incredible release. And here's hoping we can get even more shows and, in particular, more Silverstein back in our lives in the not so distant future!
SHANE: Well, thank you very much! And yes, when we first discovered that Australia cared about us (laughs)...back in 2005, we said: "yes, sure! Put us on a plane. We don't know. Okay, we'll come and play, I don't know, who cares!". And then - I'll never forget that first show we played in Brisbane. We were supposed to come in the day before, but our flight got canceled. So, we had to come in, like, basically land and play, we were so tired. But then hearing people on the other side of the world sing every line to our songs...it blew my mind and I'll never forget it! And since then, every time we've gotten to go to Australia, it's just been amazing. We can't wait to come back!
TIANA: Yes. Bring it on. And by then, we'll have had enough time to learn the lyrics in full to Misery Made Me. No excuses!
THE TENTH STUDIO ALBUM MISERY MADE ME FROM SILVERSTEIN IS OUT RIGHT NOW ON UNFD,
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BY TIANA SPETER