For those of us of a certain age, the 2015 Warped Tour lineup read like a foreign language. Half the bands are from the last half decade or so, and if you've let your Alternative Press subscription fall by the wayside, you might've never even heard of Black Veil Brides. The bands that get to act as veterans of the tour are now, like, Simple Plan instead of New Found Glory or even NOFX. The times, my friends, have changed.
Silverstein have too, in the songs they write and the albums they produce, but not the type of band they are. The Canadian group is known for their massive, immediately recognizable sound, so when we learned they were on the bill, we had to chat with the guys. On one of the last dates of the tour, we sat down with frontman Shane Told in his bus' bunk for an in-depth interview. We're serious, we literally sat on the dude's bed.
When did you first attend Warped Tour?
1997? It was the third one they ever did. I was supposed to go to the second one they ever did in 1996 but I couldn’t get a ride. I was 16. I’m from Toronto but they didn’t do a Toronto date that year. They did a London, Ontario date. It was kind of random. My buddy’s dad drove us. It was blast. Back then it was all punk bands and I loved all that sh*t. It was the best day of my life. That year it was Pennywise, Lagwagon, Millencolin, Sick of it All. The thing people don’t realize is that Warped Tour has always been diverse with music. Even back then there was hip hop bands. I remember Black Eyed Peas played one year, I think it was 1999. I remember watching Eminem in 2000. Jurassic 5 was on it one year. They’ve always had hip hop culture and all different types of rock music and now it’s no different. Obviously the overwhelming majority of the bands now aren’t skate punk bands like the overwhelming majority was in the late ‘90s, but there is diversity. There’s pretty much everything except country.
When most people complain about Warped, it’s the stigma that usually affects pop-punk and emo bands: The idea that those bands had their heyday in the mid-aughts and in 2015, the sound is antiquated…it’s hard to make something new out of it. Those bands have an expiration date.
My whole theory is that no matter what the genre of a band is, if they write great songs, they’re gonna stick around. That’s something, kind of early on in our career, we realized. It doesn’t matter what we do with our sound, whether people want to call us an emo band or a screamo band. A lot of that scene that we came up with, a lot of those bands have broken up or fallen by the wayside or lost their popularity. We’ve continued to grow, as musicians and in popularity. For us, it’s always been about focusing on writing great songs. Whether it’s pop-punk or metal or country—whatever it is—the genre doesn’t matter as much as writing great songs. That’s what keeps bands around.
You’ve been a band for 15 years now. How do you do it?
Write great songs! Honestly, that’s of importance to us. With all of our albums, we’ve always taken the approach of “We want to do this organically. We want to take a natural progression.” Every time we make a new album, we don’t go into the studio like, “We’re going to make a super f*cking heavy record” or “We’re going to make a super pop, catchy record.” We go into a room and we play. Then we find that, obviously, if you listen to our new album compared to our first album, it’s a big jump. We’ve done it in small steps along the way. Now it’s our seventh full-length. We’ve done these little mini steps. Fans have grown with us. That, and we just get along really well as friends. We respect each other as musicians and people. That’s a big part of who we are. We’ve never made the same record twice but we’ve never done something that made people stop and ask, “What the f*ck?” We’ve found our wheelhouse to know where we’re at, to know what works for us.
You recently did a 10 year anniversary tour for Discovering the Waterfront. That’s an interesting form—people either love it or hate it.
Our albums...it's important to hear the whole thing. In our case, our fans digest whole albums. Our fans aren’t casual fans. They’re very intense. They know every word to every song. Some of our fans get bummed when we play the hits too much. They want to hear the deep cuts. It’s a great place to be. We have great fans. They always have our back.
What made you decide to start making concept albums? It’s such an undertaking.
Got bored! We did our first three albums exactly the same way. We got in a room, we wrote some music, I fumbled through my diaries and notes that I made over the last two years and put some words over them and after that we determined what the track listing was going to be. We did that for three records and I had the idea to do a concept album for our fourth album, A Shipwreck in the Sand. We wrote a story and decided that’s what we needed to do at the time. I needed to challenge myself. At that point, A Shipwreck in the Sand was by far our best album. It’s still one of my favorite albums we’ve done.
It was tough. After that album, it took a lot out of me. I wasn’t sleeping. I was drinking heavily. I was not in a good place and the record destroyed me. It’s hard to tell now if it was the record or if it was where I was at at the time but after that I was like, “We’re never doing a concept album again. It’s way too difficult.” After that we went back to our roots again and we made the album we made three times again before, Rescue. It was okay. We made it over a year and a half. We spent a lot of different writing sessions on it. Once that was done I said to myself again, “Okay, it’s been four years. I think I can do it again. I think I can write a concept album again.” I don’t want to say every album we’re going to do from now on will be a concept album because I don’t know that, and I’m not going to force that, but the last two have been and they’ve both been my favorite albums we’ve done.
What’s your form for writing a concept album? It’s an exhaustive—
—There is no form! That’s the best part! It’s formless. The definition is that there has to be some form but there’s no f*cking story. You don’t have to tell a story. There’s a million different ways you can do a concept album, from telling a story from start to finish like we did with A Shipwreck in the Sand or This is How the Wind Shifts where we actually paired up songs, side one was one perspective and side two was the “Oh what if something had changed.” The new album is more about different cities and traveling around. Who knows what the next concept record will be? But there’s no formula with writing one. You don’t have to do it a certain way.