Silverstein sacrifices for screamo’s sake
Even though he’s been crisscrossing the globe nonstop for the past couple of years, Silverstein drummer Paul Koehler knows there is so much more of the world he could see. While spending about three-quarters of the year on the road with the rest of the Burlington, Ontario–based screamo rockers, the musician admits that between playing shows, travelling to gigs, and speaking with the press, he doesn’t really have much time to sightsee.
“It’s more so of an appetizer of the world,” he explains of his extracurricular activities from his hotel suite in Nagoya, Japan. “You get a little taste of everything, but you’re not fully satisfied. Today we explored the city, took a bunch of pictures, and got immersed in it all.”
Koehler will take whatever he can get on his second visit to the country, though, claiming the language barriers and cultural differences make the tour more of an adventure. “It’s more exciting than touring the U.S. all the time. That’s fun, but it’s so normal and predictable. You know where you’re going to eat. You eat the same things. Here it’s completely wild.”
When asked what outrageous Japanese foods the group has been sampling, the drummer hesitates, if only for a moment.
“You’re going to laugh at this, but we found a Mexican restaurant that had a ton of vegetarian burritos. It was amazing,” he says with a chuckle. “The guacamole was great.”
Influenced by the band’s travels just as much as by its members’ limited downtime, Silverstein’s third disc, Arrivals & Departures, focuses on the recent changes in their lives.
“With anyone’s life there are things that come and go at a constant rate. There’s a lot of unpredictability,” Koehler tells the Straight. “You’ll meet someone at a certain phase of your life, and one day they’ll depart. You begin to appreciate the moments of a lot of things.”
On that note, Arrivals & Departures’ pop-punk opener “Sound of the Sun” finds vocalist Shane Told musing on a relationship gone sour as guitarists Neil Boshart and Josh Bradford spin out duelling, Iron Maiden–indebted leads. Much of the disc deals with lost love, and with good reason. While writing the album, Told ended a seven-year relationship with his girlfriend. While the quintet, completed by bassist Bill Hamilton, is happy to be pushing Silverstein as far as it can go, Koehler doesn’t doubt that the constant touring has caused its fair share of personal strife.
“None of us are married,” he says bluntly. “We have friends now that are getting married or are engaged or have lives with full commitments. It would be different for all of us if we weren’t in this band. I was engaged. I’m not anymore. It’s hard. We get through it, though. This is our love.”
Since forming nearly eight years ago, Silverstein has been pumping out a steady stream of pop-punk with chugging metal guitars and guttural screams. Earlier albums When Broken Is Easily Fixed and Discovering the Waterfront pushed the group into mainstream punk’s consciousness, selling over half a million copies in combined sales. Arrivals & Departures doesn’t exactly reinvent the wheel for Silverstein, but the band is trying to broaden its musical palette.
Though still seething with psychopathic screams and mosh-worthy breakdowns, the heavily effected guitar lines on “If You Could See Into My Soul” drags U2 into the screamo scene. “True Romance”, the disc’s most drastic sonic experiment, finds Silverstein mellowing out significantly. Easing off the distortion pedals, the tune’s bright chords and shuffling beat could easily pass for something you’d hear at a Texas shitkicker bar. Branching out was thrilling for the musicians, though they were unsure if they could actually release “True Romance”.
“We had our doubts about it,” Koehler confesses. “We didn’t know if the song would make sense on the record.”
Though always willing to try new things, the drummer adds that Silverstein knows it can’t stray too far from its formula. Dedicated to its rabid following—many fans sport band-related tattoos—the members had to make sure they didn’t rock the boat too much. “You don’t want to lose focus on the sound of the band. You want to be careful.”
Putting a lot of stock in fans’ opinions, Silverstein chose the lists for its upcoming shows through a poll on its Web site. “It’s something we’ve wanted to try for a while,” Koehler says.
The percussionist is aware that the outfit’s relentless schedule puts the group at risk of overexposure. He’s hoping on-line polls keep the kids coming in droves for years
“Some of these cities we’ve played a dozen times in our career. Who knows what people really want to hear? It’s going to be interesting to see what happens.”
Silverstein plays the Croatian Cultural Centre on Monday (January 28).