The Silents Interview 2008
By: Mark Triana
MT: This is Mark Triana reporting for the Chicago Music Guide at the Metro, and I’m here with local band, The Silents—not to be confused with the Australian band of the same name. How are you doing, fellas?
MT: Could you tell us a bit about where and how you guys met, and how you all agreed on a particular style of music?
PV: Jake and I grew up in the northern suburbs of Chicago. We went to high school together, and we grew up listening to the same music. We played in various bands. As we moved to Chicago we met Eric, who was playing with some other bands, and he was a drummer we really appreciated—so we formed from there. As far as styles go, you kind of gravitate towards people that listen to the same type of music, and then everybody has their own little wrinkle that they listen to. After playing for a little bit we met Aaron, who was visiting from Detroit, and we were in luck because we really liked his style and everything he was doing, so that’s how we came to be.
MT: You’ve sort of run the gauntlet of Chicago venues for some years now. How does it feel to play at the Metro?
PV: It’s great. It’s great.
MT: How do you think the show went today?
PV: It was great. I thought we brought it.
MT: Your first full-length album, Sleepwalker, is set to be released on September 9 of this year. Apparently, you’ve been working on this album since 2006. What was the process of actually getting the album made? And did you allow new or emerging trends in the music industry to influence your songs-in-progress?
PV: Absolutely. I don’t know about emerging trends, but I know about bands that we started getting into. Those become influences. I think as far as emerging trends go, you always have three things that are going—whether it’s pop-punk, a death metal thing, or maybe more like a singer-songwriter approach. First of all, as far as Sleepwalker came to be about, it did take two years. It was a case of having money. When we started forming, we started opening up for bands, whether it was like Local H or Fu Manchu or Mudhoney, or somebody like that. You just try and get noticed, and you look for people to pick up the bill when it comes to recording. We started recording Sleepwalker as a set of EP’s, and then it took. It was just a matter of money. We just didn’t know if we were going to finish an album.
MT: You generated a fair amount of buzz since you started working on the album without actually completing it. Did that sort of encouragement give you more resolve to actually finish the album, or did it rain anxiety and fear for not living up to those expectations?
PV: I don’t think we any fear whatsoever of living up to any expectations because our expectations exceed anybody else’s expectations. What somebody gauges as being fulfillment is different for every artist. For us—we just want to do this. You get to a point where there are so many things that can break up a band, or that can stop a band from working, and I think that we just want to keep on doing it. Not at all. If anything, expectations introduced us to people that we could work with that are of great help to us.
MT: You mentioned in my last question that you had toured with Local H and Fu Manchu…
PV: We didn’t tour. These were bands that would come through Chicago.
MT: And you would just open for
PV: Yeah. We actually recorded an album that’s kind of the secret silence album. We recorded a full-length album with Arius Aldezma of Muchacho, who introduced us to Brian St. Clair of Triple Fast Action. It was always on a local scene. Most of anything we’ve ever done has been on a local scene. And we get this a lot when we go out and we play out of town. People are like, “How have we never heard of you?” And it’s because of that. The music industry has changed. It is very much do it yourself, but you can starve to death if you just take off. Fortunately, we live in a city like Chicago where we can get the attention you’re talking about. All of that happened in our backyard.
MT: Even playing shows with these bigger bands—Did you get any feedback from them?
PV: Actually—When did we open up for Burden Brothers?
AV: Burden Brothers was April of 2007. It was actually my first show with the band. Burden Brothers is ex-Toadies. And Toadies was one of the bands who always influenced me. The first records I owned in my life were The Toadies’ Rubberneck and the Smashing Pumpkins’ Siamese Dream. To play a show with a person like Todd Lewis from the Toadies was very influential to me, which was kind of interesting as my first show being with the band.
PV: And those guys came back, and we’ve stayed in touch with them ever since. It’s one of those things where you talk about feedback—you always
get the sort of stereotypical, “Hey, that was great.” But the thing that’s really cool—like Aaron’s talking about—is somebody like the front man from Toadies coming through and starts e-mailing you, starts calling you, just being like, “Hey, what are you guys up to?” That is the feedback that you get. More so you just stay in touch on a personal level.
MT: The lyrics from your latest single, “Dream on Empty,” are somewhat cryptic. What possessed you to write that particular song? And how do you normally conceive of the themes that you invoke in your songs?
PV: “Dream on Empty” is like the pinnacle of making Sleepwalker, because what it comes down to is that in order to keep a band together, you really just hang onto the thread of an idealistic thing that you have in your head, sort of a utopia. And “Dream on Empty” was very much the basis of moving forward when you just have—what are you building on? You get a lot of handshakes and hugs and a lot high fives, or something like that, but how are you moving forward? “Dream on Empty” was very much the pinnacle song of that album as far as two years just keeping on going, and you’re dreaming on empty. Typically, we just start with an idea such as that, and then they always take on certain characteristics. I think with a lot of bands there’s a common stream of consciousness they go through where you have that thought and you take it from point A to B to C to D. You also have this masochistic sort of expression. We grew up, Jake, in an era of P. J. Harvey, or something, where it was kind of primal, a kind of stream of consciousness.
JF: We had a pension for the dark and visceral. That’s really what it is, just tapping into something that’s kind of therapeutic—where you can really
let what you’re feeling resonate.
MT: You had mentioned Toadies and the Smashing Pumpkins as one of your influences—and this is a question for all of you. Generally speaking, what are some of your influences—not just old, but new as well?
AV: I grew up in a different scene than these guys. I didn’t get into music until I was in my early-teens, and for me it was all of the early-punk stuff—NOFX, Blink-182, Lagwagon, and bands like that. The cool thing for me was that it was a different feel coming in with these guys, and re-arranging my bass style to fit in with what we’ve been doing. As far as those influences go, I’ve had to adjust my bass style a lot to accommodate towards these influences that people were listening to a lot back in the day—like The Pixies and Nirvana. That’s stuff that’s kind of coming on new to me at an age of 25, which is stuff I should have been listening to a long time ago. It’s kind of a crazy thing, being one of these pop-punk kids that came from the Blink-182 scene, and then adjusting my style to fit when I became influenced by The Cure and Interpol and U2, which a lot of my influences are coming from in my bass playing. Just being with these guys and adjusting the things that I’ve learned from to fit suit for this band has been great for me.
EC: I basically got into some of the music that I’m into now because of playing with The Silents. I came from metal bands, and that kind of thing. I was always a hard-hitter and a solid player, but as far as music that I would listen to, I was a little behind in the times. I would listen to classic rock, or a mixture of things. I didn’t listen to bands like The Pixies or Nirvana or Queens of the Stone Age in-depth, like I do now. I got into Queens of the Stone Age once I got into The Silents. That’s a little late, so I went back in time with that—but the kind of music we’re playing is what I gravitate towards. That’s what I’ve grown into playing. Now I have this other music that I’m listening to that’s still continuing to influence my playing, so it’s all fresh to me—even if it’s old to you guys.
MT: Was the transition from metal-type music to The Silents done by way of listening to different kinds of music?
EC: A little bit, but I basically just jumped right into it because I liked the feel of it—I liked the sound—and I was overplaying. I listened to those early recordings and I was playing like a metal drummer. It took me awhile to adjust. I think listening to drummers and their subtleties, and some more straightforward rock-based music, did teach me that. And I’m still learning that today. It’s still exciting for me. I’m not worn-out by it at all.
PV: As Eric was saying—we feed off each other. Aaron’s a huge Cure fan. Simon Gallup and Carlos D. from Interpol are some of his biggest influences, and it’s fantastic when it all comes together, when there’s a sort of cohesiveness, you hear those different acts. Jake’s been into a lot of different types of Electronica. And it runs the gamut, but as far as things that we weren’t necessarily listening to on our own, everybody kind of brings in that different act.
MT: That’s cool. That creates a really good dynamic. Some of your songs have appeared on MTV shows like “Bam’s Unholy Union,” “Meet the Barkers,” and “Two-a-Days.” How did these opportunities arise? And what has the experience of having your songs used in such a way been like?
PV: I mean—How does it sound? It’s on a TV show. It’s nice to get recognition because it gives us something to talk about. How that came about is interesting because Wes Kidd, who was the guitarist/front man for Triple Fast Action, is a guy who we met through Brian St. Clair and Scott Lucas of Local H—and he manages that band. He got into The Silents for awhile—actually it was the beginning of Sleepwalker. The first few songs we recorded were because Wes hooked us up with Andy Gerber of Million Yen, and he was kind of our “in” to the industry. Whatever that means, I don’t know. It’s somebody from the industry who’s interested in stuff, and passing stuff along to other people in the business. That’s one of the things that we continue—name recognition, or people knowing who you are when you don’t know who they are. He had an “in” at MTV. All this business is, is if you’re good and it gets in the right hands, people will do something with it. To some degree, I think we’re not on the ball as much as we should be. But that was one instance where it got handed to the music coordinator for MTV and they liked the stuff, and they put it on there. I do masturbate often to it—when it’s on TV.
MT: You guys are starting a U.S. tour in September…
PV: I think what we’re going to do is a Midwest tour. Unfortunately, going coast-to-coast—you’d love to do it, but it’s one of those things where you
want to get the band together. We’re going to take off, and we’re going to take a week out and come back. The U.S. tour is going to be seven days out and come back—and that’ll be it. We’re hitting the Midwest, and then we’ll go out and we’ll do more of the East.
MT: Thank you so much for joining me. Everybody should look out for The Silents’ first full-length album, Sleepwalker, on September 9. This has been Mark Triana reporting for the Chicago Music Guide with The Silents.