One day they were a group of kids playing benefit shows for the fun of it. Now they've been a band for over a decade, sold more than a million records worldwide and redefined a genre for a generation. Silverstein has outmaneuvered the obstacles that destroy most bands -- in-fighting, lineup changes, disconnection, inferior albums, trend chasing -- and planted their flag firmly into a second chapter marked by renewal, revitalization and enthusiasm in the form of Rescue, their brand new album.
"We feel so in control of where everything is going," remarks charismatic vocalist Shane Told. "We're feeling recharged. We absolutely feel a sense of renewal."
Rehearsals in preparation for a four night event marking their ten year anniversary, where the group played every song in their catalog, provided an unexpected opportunity to examine, explore and decipher their greatest strengths and mold the next progression from them.
With a new label, new management and a new sense of purpose, the Canadian post-hardcore heroes have crafted their most diverse album to date, channeling the essence of career defining landmark records like Discovering the Waterfront while charging forward into uncharted textures, colors and power.
"We've been able to become a lot more honest with who we are as a band and as musicians at this new stage in our career," explains drummer Paul Koehler.
"The honesty comes from a little bit more creative freedom and the exploration of where we are at this point, what's still driving us as a band and individuals and pouring that back into our music. We've always been able to write the songs we wanted and create the artwork we wanted, but sometimes the bells and whistles that come behind pushing a record and that kind of stuff, we didn't have as much freedom previously."
Eager to break from the workman like album / tour / album / tour grind that produced four records in six years, Silverstein wrote Rescue over the course of a full year, which was a first for the band. They'd get together between tours and work on songs. They invited outside input and opinions about how the tracks fit together and where it was going. They threw caution to the wind when it came to pairing the heaviest tracks they'd ever written with some of the most punk rock and some of the most daring with some of the most melodic. Every extreme of the Silverstein sound has expanded.
The album's opening track, "Medication," is a definitive mission statement of sorts that's representative of who Silverstein is as a band in just a few short minutes. "It's got a lot of peaks and valleys. It's a bit bolder in the statement that it makes musically," says Paul. "It's exciting because it touches on so many different things."
"Burning Hearts" is an aggressive punk song which holds nothing back.
"The Artist," which was the last song written for Rescue, was built organically from a dissonant riff coupled with one hell of a breakdown which all crashes into a dramatic, driving ending. It will instantly transport listeners to the dingy rented halls where the hardcore punk community thrives.
Alternately, "In Memory Of" is a beautiful, ballad type song which deals with the death of Shane's cousin, who was like a brother to him.
"It was a real big change in my life. I don't have a brother and we were the same age. It was really, really hard for me for a couple of years," he says. "I didn't really have the strength to write about it and get the emotion out until now. It's a song I'm really proud of and I think he would be proud of, too.
"That's just one song I think that is important to the vibe of the record and everything we've gone through as a band over ten years. We've lost a lot of people, unfortunately. It's a tribute to my cousin but it's also a tribute to everyone we've lost."
"Good Luck with Your Life" addresses a struggle of a different kind: the difficulties a group of friends whose passion for music has had to butt up against the brunt of the business side of the equation. As guys who studied the liner notes to their favorite albums to learn about studios and contemplate who all of the people in the thanks list might be in real life, they never dreamed what went on behind the scenes. "All of those details, those hoops bands jump through, the compromises they have to make to bring that music to our stereos," Shane points out with the voice of experience.
"The song is about our experience with the music industry and how many things are in your way," he continues. "It's every band's dream to get signed, play music for a living, go on tour, see the world. We've done that and we're happy. But it's a bit of a warning sign to other bands to be careful about what they're getting into."
Now the band has constructed an environment, in tandem with their new partnership with Hopeless Records, where they are free to release the special 7" singles they want, to put on the special shows they want, to create new forms of media. They've stepped back after a whirlwind decade and figured out how to keep it all pure.
What's kept Silverstein surviving and thriving as much as the strength of their songs is the stability of their relationships. The band has had only one lineup change in their eleven year career, which took place before they had even toured. Many groups in the scene with these kind of stripes have only one or two remaining original members.
Each guy is different. Some are straight edge, some party. Some are really into sports, some couldn't be bothered. But there's a unity within their diversity. They have been able to meld a common vision from the spare parts of their differences, cobbling together their various points of view and specialties for the greater good.
Shane is something of a father figure for the guys, a primary songwriter and the guy who comes to the studio every single day even when he isn't tracking himself.
Neil Boshart is the other primary songwriter and his intensity about playing guitar is what keeps him motivated to deal with the rigors of the road. He loves riffing. He loves metal. When he came into the band, they shifted from the more melodic emo stylings of bands like Promise Ring or Mineral to what Silverstein became known for doing. He was a big part of bridging the "emo," "screamo" and "metalcore" worlds.
The group's other axeman, Josh Bradford, basically founded the band. Without the ever-smiling and super positive Josh, there'd be no Silverstein. He's also the guy driving the other guys around, finding a storage space or fixing their trailer.
Shane says he had to teach Billy Hamilton how to play bass when they started the band but his passion and devotion for music - writing a fanzine, talking photos - made his participation in Silverstein an absolute must and he obviously grew into the role. He's still into collecting vinyl and he's the social glue for the band with many friends.
Paul is the business guy in the band. He's the one combing through the emails, digging into his Blackberry and making sure they are staying keen and aware of the shifting landscape of the business, marketing and so forth. Back when Silverstein had only gotten together maybe a half a dozen times, he put up their website. Remember this was in 2000 when most bands didn't have websites. He still runs it to this day.
"I've seen it with so many of our peers that we've toured with -- they have two or three different members, or they've broken up," Paul says. "Especially with these younger bands, they have a new member like every year, or every tour! I don't get it. I don't know if it's egos or people just going in different directions. The key thing is that all five of us have always been focused on the same goal and the same direction."
This positive mental attitude and devotion to Silverstein has sustained them since their first self-released EP, the subsequent genre redefining albums When Broken is Easily Fixed (2003), Discovering the Waterfront (2005), Arrivals and Departures (2007) and A Shipwreck in the Sand (2009), Warped Tour, Soundwave Festival, Scream It Like You Mean It (which they headlined) and endless international tours with bands like Rise Against, A Day To Remember, August Burns Red and Hawthorne Heights. Arrivals... sold over 27,000 copies in its first week in the US.
All the while the band has stayed true and pure to their roots, regularly offering up covers of songs by bands they've loved like Lifetime, Saves The Day and NOFX.
Incredibly, in 2011, they've done the unthinkable: they've crafted a definitive work in the form or Rescue, an album that summarizes the best of their past while looking decidedly forward to the future. "Scene" bands aren't supposed to stay relevant this long but somehow this band has, proving there's gas in the tank for years to come.
"We've seen the trends come and go; the music trends, the fashion trends," Shane points out. "We've seen a band show up in the scene and become huge for literally just a few months and then disappear. We've never latched on to the trends."
No dance beats on Rescue. No backing tracks live. No crazy bass drops. "None of that is going to change the influences I grew up on in my hometown going to hardcore and punk rock shows and listening to those records," the frontman maintains.
At the end of the day, Silverstein will continue to make albums as vital, as urgent and as impressive as Rescue because they set out to please themselves first.
"We ask ourselves: 'What are we going to do? What do we like? What do we care about?' We don't ask: 'What's the cool thing right now?' or 'What's going to help us sell records?'"
"There will always be progression in our music," he continues. "We're getting older and our influences have changed and there's different things we want to do. But we are what we are. We love the natural progression we've had through our records. But we're not going to make a massive change to appeal to anyone."
Shane Told - Vocals / Guitar
Neil Boshart - Guitar
Josh Bradford - Guitar
Billy Hamilton - Bass
Paul Koehler - Drums