Silverstein’s New Album Shows Early 2000s Wasn’t All Bullsh-t — Interview
There’s only one radio station in North Jersey that plays heavy music, and in many areas, it’s hard to get a clear signal. Usually I just have it on in the car as background music, but when the chorus of Silverstein’s new single “Infinite” blared through the white noise one night while driving home from work, my ears pricked up.
I didn’t know it was Silverstein at first; all I knew was it was the best single I’d heard in a long time. As the line “All this feels infinite” looped in a way that made my heart beat faster, I made it my mission to commit these words to memory so as to research them later. While the voice sounded familiar, I couldn’t quite place the name of the band. I had to know who was behind this invigorating track.
And that’s exactly the reaction Silverstein wanted to their eleventh record, A Beautiful Place to Drown.
“From right off the hop,” lead guitarist Paul Marc Rousseau explains when Note To Scene gets him on the phone some days later, “we wanted to try and write without limits. That particular song, we worked with Jon Gering from The Devil Wears Prada, and I think you can hear a lot of his production in that song, which was super fresh for us. But yeah, I think everything goes back to sounding unmistakably Silverstein once you get to the meat of it.”
“Some of the new sounds, tones and textures we tried,” vocalist Shane Told reflects, “were a little spooky to me. I think I was a little bit afraid of what people would say or think, or [if they would] judge us or not support us anymore. It took just listening to these songs and starting to understand that they were great songs. I would be really on board to try to expand on some of that. Not to say we’d overdo it, but I think we don’t need to be so scared.”
Some of these new sounds Told mentions include more pop-oriented choruses, some noodling guitars and even a jazz riff on the saxophone (“All On Me”). The record also features new voices, including features by Princess Nokia (“Madness”) and Beartooth’s Caleb Shomo (“Burn It Down”).
Simultaneously, the band anchor themselves in sounds of the past, especially on songs such as “September 14th,” which carries the irreverent emo vocals and pop-punk beat of the early 2000s. The record also carries familiar voices such as Aaron Gillespie (“Infinite”) and Simple Plan’s Pierre Bouvier (“Take What You Give”).
Striking this ideal balance between past and present is critical for a band that’s been around for two decades. That doesn’t just apply to the music, but also to the lyrical content. A Beautiful Place to Drown delves into previously explored topics such as anxiety and depression, but also wrestles with those concepts at the macrocosmic level of current events and society as a whole.
“On a super zoomed out level,” Rousseau says, “there’s a sort of golden thread that runs through everything, and that’s the viewing of events through the horrible prism of anxiety and shadowy bouts of depression. Something we were conscious of this time was taking experience from each other, so it wasn’t just one person’s story.”
“There are a lot of different subjects tackled,” Told adds. “When you take the title...there’s so much about the world right now that is so beautiful. I think that there’s been some really great headway made [over the years]. Gay people are allowed to get married and there are things that are happening that are really progressive and really great. But at the same time, there are still so many people struggling out there, whether it’s mental health issues, social media telling you you’re not good enough, or politically. These groups that are organizing that are about hatred and dividing people, a lot of people are drowning in that.”
“Four years of Donald Trump is drowning,” Rousseau says more pointedly. “[But] there are all these sub-communities and the strength of the underground is the beautiful thing. You still see all this sorrow, but you have this network of beautiful things popping up.”
“We follow that stuff despite being Canadian,” says Told. “It still affects the whole world. In a lot of ways, we’ve got it pretty good in Canada with our system — especially with our healthcare. We believe, for the most part, in radical change. It’s not just political dribble, it’s [that] we’re going to redefine how things are done. And the fact that we’re agreeing with that — so many of us young people — is really special.”
Even so, Rousseau says Silverstein are not in the business of “prescribing hope” to people.
“I think in a way,” he says, “this grand concept of hope has become a little cliché. To just blindly hope without accepting...the important thing to remember here is we’re not offering a free psychological exam. We’re just writing to get through it. Our version of hope is to just keep us going.”
And they have kept going. The fact that Silverstein are still cranking out new tunes in 2020 is a testament to the endurance of both their personal artistry and that of the larger music scene.
“I think it shows that that movement that we were part of back in the early 2000s wasn’t all bullshit like some people said it was,” Told surmises. “[Not] just a flash in the pan [or] another trend. It’s really cool to see [other] bands are doing well and in some cases, like our case, doing better than we’ve ever done.”
Thank you to Shane Told and Paul Marc Rousseau for the interview. Silverstein's 'A Beautiful Place to Drown' is out now via UNFD Records. You can purchase or stream it here.