A couple of weeks ago, I was able to have a great conversation with the lead guitarist of Silverstein, Paul Marc Rousseau. In this interview we chatted a lot about everything that went into making their new album A Beautiful Place to Drown, the collaborative efforts present on the record, the detailed writing process for these sessions, and we even discussed lead vocalist Shane Told’s consistent vocal improvements. A Beautiful Place to Drown is available everywhere music is sold this Friday, March 6th.
I’m here with Paul Marc (lead guitarist) of Silverstein. Thank you for your time today! Your band recently celebrated 20 years of existence with the announcement of a comprehensive tour playing three sets each night. What motivated you and the rest of the band to do this special tour coming up?
It’s an incredible feeling just to survive 20 years as a band let alone thrive in the way that I think we have. So I think we decided as a group pretty early on that we needed to do something that really pays it back to the fans, and if that means we’re going to stay on stage for two hours a night and work our asses off, that’s exactly what we have to do. And we wanted to change it up a bit with an acoustic set, which is something that we’ve done here and there for smaller engagements, but we’ve never taken it to a bigger stage, so we’re really pumped and that’s exactly what I’m rehearsing for today.
This new record, A Beautiful Place to Drown, is Silverstein’s 11th studio album, with records that have been consistently released just about every two years. Even though you are the band’s “newest” member, what do you attribute most to this band’s success and longevity?
Yeah, I’ve been with the band for just about half the time and maybe about half of the records as well, and I think we’re creatively hungry and we always want to be making stuff. We are always constantly working on something new too, so we just map our tour schedule to allow us the time to put pen to paper. I don’t want to say it’s easy, but it feels really natural for us to kind of work in that 18-month tour cycle and then take 6 months to write and record a record. It’s kind of just been rolling in that kind of way.
What is the meaning behind the new album title, A Beautiful Place to Drown?
The title kind of came after we were done. Sometimes we’ll get the title earlier, but we had pretty much the whole album tracked and obviously written by that point, so just looking at all the themes that were present in the songs, there was kind of this overbearing, overwhelming kind of sadness that you can kind of pick up on in the world if you listen. A lot of those songs reflect that. But there’s also a lot of beautiful things too and so much positivity if you can look in a different place. So, I think when we came up with A Beautiful Place to Drown, it’s really just the world, I guess? It’s kind of making your existence mean something, and it’s sort of like if we’re going down, we’re going to go down kind of together and with a sense of positivity.
That’s really a good way of looking at it from both an introspective and outside view of looking at everything going on in the world.
Yeah, totally. That’s important to us because we know as people touring for so long there’s like a lot of mental obstacles and roadblocks and sort of things we have to deal with on a daily basis. Things that you get confronted with, like the media is really scary all the time. It’s hard not to feel inundated with all of that, but you don’t have to look very far within our scene to also see the love and support that’s around us too. It’s just where you choose to put your focus on any given moment.
This new record features more collaborations, five to be exact, than any of the previous albums. Was this something you and the band has set out to do on this record intentionally or did the discussions happen more organically during the writing process?
I’d say a bit of both. We did do A Shipwreck in the Sand that I think had four features on it. So this was the first time in the writing process I had kind of gone outside of the band a little bit and worked with other people for some different kinds of fresh takes. Because after 20 years, you don’t want to let it get stale and you want to keep challenging yourself. Sometimes working with other people can throw a wrench in the gears in a good way. It also can get you out of your comfortable mode of thinking. So as soon as we started talking about that the feature thing kind of followed naturally from that point on. Like we would say, “who else’s voice would enrich this, or who would make this part cooler?” It kind of happened naturally like that, there wasn’t any early discussions of saying “we’re going to make this record with a ton of features.” It’s really sweet that everyone who we wanted to participate on this was able to actually do that.
Yeah, and the first two singles released from the record, “Burn it Down” and “Infinite” are also collaborations too, so it’s a pretty good indication of the record as a whole, and it’s picking up steam. People are excited!
Yeah, for sure! There’s a lot to be excited about from these two songs, and they’re also sonically different if you really take them in. But they both are really indicative of the energy of the record and the vibe of the record, it’s more like a sonic tapestry than a one-dimensional thing where every song sounds just like that. There’s a lot of different vibes and feels on this album, but it’s unified by this common energy.
How long did the writing process take for this album?
It took a long time. Like I said, I’m always kind of writing, so with a song like “Burn It Down” that was released far ahead of the album, I had started writing that song about in April of 2017. So I had a few tunes kicking around at that time and on and off for the rest of that year. Things really picked up when we got off the road last summer and I immediately went to LA and started working with some people there and came home and just wrote and demoed almost every day. I demoed at least 25-30 songs during that time. Some of those not all the way… I always think it’s funny when bands say that they wrote like 100 songs for an album (Laughter). Well, maybe you did, but there’s no way 100 of those songs were actually good. Why would you waste your time? (Laughter) And also the process of home recording is so much easier now since I can do so much more, faster. You used to have to get everyone to have the same time off, all in the same part of the schedule, with all of us in the same room together for eight hours a day, there is a lot of magic in that but it can also minimize your creativity if that’s your only way of doing things. We’re busy on tour, so we want to take some time with our significant others, girlfriends/wives when we’re home. So there would be some times where not all of us are available, but parts still need to be written. But now, Shane could do on vacation, I could write a couple of songs, and show him what I’ve got. He could listen to them from somewhere like Jamaica, or wherever he is and give me feedback like that. I think we’re able to work extra efficiently these days, which has been really freeing.
The last time I spoke with Shane, we were talking about Dead Reflection and how you guys used Dropbox to record and collaborate those parts. How did that process go on this record?
Yeah, we’re still totally doing that, and I think… I tend to be the catalyst for most of these things now. Like in the off time I write and produce for other artists, so I’m always recording things and ready to be working. So I still put a bunch of those demos and other parts through Dropbox. We’re definitely always taking feedback from everyone where we’ll always have these types of email threads open where we have suggestions of trying one thing over another. Then I’ll get Shane to sing some things over it and have Josh come in and put his flavor on it. So we kind of do that type of thing, but sometimes in reverse. Like, okay you have that riff, so why don’t we demo that real quick and see where it goes? And with the song we’re about to drop, “Bad Habits,” that was totally a time when I had been in the studio for like 15 days in a row and was like blind, and Josh came in and had this riff that didn’t even make the song, but it also inspired the whole thing. But it’s kind of cool how it can kind of just pan out that way.
That’s really cool! Looking back now on this record, do you have a personal favorite song at the moment?
It’s tough to say because there’s a lot of different hooks and different stuff on it. I think “Bad Habits” just has this energy and vibe that is fun and cheeky, and a lot of my favorite artists have kind of been like that, where they work in that type of form. Where they would have a song that’s serious, but not super serious. I think that having a sense of humor, or at least some kind of tongue-in-cheek vibe has always been pretty important to me so “Bad Habits” does a good job of that, and I really like it. There’s also a tune called “All On Me” that’s kind of left field for us. I think it’s quite different in terms of what people expect from a Silverstein song. But, I think it’s really reflective of our current influences, which happen to be a little outside of the scene at times. I thought it was cool to represent some of those more modern influences on the album.
Describe the recording process for these sessions. What was it like working with Sam Guaiana, and what are you most proud of from this studio album?
Working with Sam was great. I had worked with him on few other projects before, he and I produced a record for a Victory Records band, and he mixed an album for a band I produced called Story Untold. So I had already worked with him a couple of times, he’s a local guy, and we kind of just run into each other. When it came time to do “Burn it Down,” Sam was the guy, let’s give it a shot. And since things went so well, it was a no-brainer to go back to him for the whole album. He’s a really easy-going guy with a good melodic sense, and he cuts through the shit. He doesn’t like if you’re too self-indulgent but he does want you to shine, and I think that’s a good thing for a producer to have. It was great working with him but the hardest part about it was because I had been demoing with him for so long, and because I’m a producer, I had these very distinct songs that I needed these songs to be and very fleshed out demos that I was pretty stoked on. I had basically some bad “demo-itis” and we got into some pretty heated discussions in the studio on suggestions and things he was changing. But I think where we landed on everything was ultimately the right choice and I can see that now in retrospect. Hindsight 20/20 as they say. And now I can see with the vision that I have now that it was all the right moves.
Yeah, I’ve listened to the advance of the record more times than I’d care to say in this interview, but you guys definitely upped your game. I thought that Dead Reflection was your best record, but this one is definitely my favorite at the moment. So congrats to you and the rest of the band!
Thanks! I feel the same way. It’s kind of standard fare for the interviewee to say their latest record is their best work, but I truly believe that. Not even from a marketing or advertising standpoint, but I actually just think that we took a pretty big step forward from what we did on Dead Reflection, which I also thought was our best work. So yeah, I’m pumped!
Shane (Told)’s voice seems to be getting more polished, improved, and stronger on each record. Has he done anything differently over the years to improve or take care of his voice on the road?
You know, if he’s doing it, he’s doing it in secret. (Laughter) He’s kind of like a mystery of science to me. He doesn’t really do too much, like he doesn’t really warm up, he just kind of…I don’t know…Maybe it’s from disrespecting his voice that it gets gotten stronger, like he’s ferberized it like when you let a baby cry or whatever. He’s kind of callused so now nothing can hurt him. He sounds amazing for sure! You would think all of that constant singing, screaming, and touring 175 days a year would at some point make him run out of gas, but he just keeps getting better. In the studio, recently I’ve been kind of beating him up kind of bad, like on the Dead Reflection sessions I wouldn’t settle for a mediocre take when I knew he had better ones in him. I don’t know if producers before that were doing that to him but it’s probably because I know his voice more intimately than maybe someone else producing the record might. Like, I would say, “No, dude…I know you can do this better, I’ve heard you do better!” So, that can be part of it, if I’m going to take some of the credit…which I will! (Laughter)
Last question: There are tons of surprises on this album from the introduction of new instruments (saxophone, etc.), guest appearances, and new stylistic choices on songs. What will you remember the most from these recordings?
Oh man, I got to think about that one for a second…I think it’s the creative freedom that I felt, and that we all kind of bought into together. I don’t want to say that there was ever a time where we felt we could or couldn’t do something, but there is a certain level of pressure when you’ve been a band releasing new music as consistently as we have, to never travel too far outside the zone, and for the first time we felt like everything we do is Silverstein. The past doesn’t decide what we are, the future does. So that was kind of a mantra that we all sort of had repeating in the back of our heads that allowed us to make more free and creative decisions. I think the coolest part of that is that it was a little scary, like with the saxophone for example, but at the end of the day I can look back at this record and say it still feels like us. That’s probably what I’ll take away from that and what I’ll try to re-create in the future. I want to keep feeling that creative freedom at all times.
That’s great, and I can’t wait for everyone else to hear this record come March 6th! I appreciate your time today, best of luck on your upcoming tour, and try to not get too worn out playing those triple sets!
Thanks, we’re hitting the gym so we’ll all be in peak physical condition and we’re going to get through it no problem. (Laughter) It was really great talking to you.