Silverstein's Emo Ages Well Because They Don't Pretend They're Young
Published Mar 05, 2020Shane Told is happy to be one of the forefathers of emo, if that's what you want to call him. "We look back on our old music with love, and I smile," Told tells Exclaim! "I'm honoured that people want to rediscover our old music. It's really honest."
Between sips of coffee from his home in Windsor, ON, the Silverstein vocalist reflects on the band's career in advance of the forthcoming album, A Beautiful Place to Drown, which marks a 20th anniversary for his band. For Told, emo music is just as relevant now as it was at the beginning of the millennium.
Coinciding with the new release, Silverstein commence a challenging and ambitious tour, performing three sets in one night: sophomore record Discovering the Waterfront in its entirety; an acoustic portion; and a selection of greatest hits. Silverstein, Told says, will never retire songs: "A lot of bands do that, but that's not us."
"I think about those times and how much they continue to mean to me," Told says. "Hopefully, the reason it resonates with people today is because they feel that raw emotion. I don't think kids these days are any different than I was. If anything, people should be more angry about the way things are going."
Emo and post-hardcore music from the '00s found a new home in a wide range of music throughout the last year, from the aesthetic and jagged anger of Wristmeetrazor to the melodies and melodrama of Juice WRLD, and led to Silverstein's collaboration with hip-hop Princess Nokia on "Madness." Told says the hip-hop artist showed her appreciation for the group via social media, singing along to their music and wearing their merchandise in Instagram stories. After inviting her to Silverstein's most recent New York City show, Told reflected on being an influence for her work and "how cool it would be to bring her into the fold."
"It definitely wasn't something we did to grab new fans. The subject matter of the song lent itself to having a woman's voice, and she certainly delivered," Told explains. "So many records these days have songs with mostly features on it. I don't always know if that's great. Sometimes it gets a little forced — 'Because someone has access to a certain popular artist, it could synergize their music to different genres,' or whatever the corporate suits have to say about it."
A Beautiful Place to Drown checks most boxes of what one may expect from Silverstein — earworm choruses, a balanced palette of heavy guitars and radio sensibility, and also finds the group embracing pop in ways they never had before. "Say Yes" welcomes sugary melodies and textures of saxophone are showcased in "All On Me," a song Told says "we would've never done previously in our career." The song, composed entirely with synths, had an empty mid-section in its earliest stages. The band — unsure about the blank spots of their canvas — were inspired by Australian indie artist Alex Cameron's use of saxophone.
"Once I start singing on something, for better or worse, it sounds like Silverstein. Sounding how I sound is both a blessing and curse," Told details. "I think it depends on what you're listening for. Saxophone is about as emo as it gets."
Told jokes, but there is a grain of truth to what he's saying. As Silverstein age, they avoid the empty political commentary of a Green Day, or teenage melodrama of a Blink-182. Their music continues to be an honest and intimate conversation about the "very real" truths of mental health through an adult lens.
"A lot of artists try faking it, putting themselves in a time when they were upset, but it never comes out honest. It isn't always so intense. Sometimes it's this underlying anxiety you feel for a day, month or perhaps always. It's not this big event, it's just there," Told says. "Mental health [issues] don't stop in your 30s and 40s. It gets even worse!"
Told details how he began to lose hair out of his beard at 27; after visits to a doctor, she asked if Told was stressed, to which he laughed at her question.
"I look back now and would love to feel that way again, with no anxiety or stress. As you age, the responsibilities mount. Nothing really gets easier. I'm sorry to say it. My 20s were pretty great. My 30s are harder. Time goes so much faster as you age. I can remember conversations I had five years ago like they were yesterday," Told says. "The music we are making now is as good as anything we've ever made, and I hope in ten years we can do A Beautiful Place to Drown's ten-year tour. I hope this stands the test of time."
A Beautiful Place to Drown comes out March 6 via UNFD. Silverstein play the Danforth Music Hall in Toronto on April 11.