Short And Sweet

12 June 2012 | 5:00 am | Brendan Crabb

It took several years, but Canada’s Silverstein have finally embraced their inner cover band. Brendan Crabb keeps it short and sweet with vocalist Shane Told ahead of their return to our shores.

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As much as many artists claim that they make music primarily for themselves, whether they admit it or not, there is usually at least some degree of consideration given to how fans will react to their new creation. Shane Told, frontman of Canadian melodic hardcore/punk crew Silverstein, confirms that such a notion always enters their thinking to some extent, whether intentional or not.

“With all the records, there's always an element of writing a song where we're always mindful that this is for our audience,” he says, taking time out from shifting boxes while moving house to talk. “It's like, 'What will our fans think?'”

However, this outlook changed with new disc Short Songs, which is mostly comprised of tunes under the 90-second mark and released less than a year after previous record Rescue. Half the record is original material, while the other half features covers of the likes of Dead Kennedys, Descendents, NOFX, Green Day, Gob and Gorilla Biscuits. A slew of high-profile guest musicians also appear.

“With Short Songs we didn't care, we 100 percent didn't care,” Told enthuses. “It really allowed us a lot of freedom, but it's great that people still like it. The NOFX cover (It's My Job To Keep Punk Rock Elite) was a lot of fun. We did one with the original lyrics and another as a retort to the website; they're pretty brutal with their shit-talking. So we changed the lyrics and had some fun recording that; we called it It's Your Job To Keep Punk News Elite. All up, it was cool to emulate the original tracks, but also put our own spin on them. I like recording cover songs. It was a record we did for ourselves – it wasn't for the fans or the media. We just did it for fun and it's been so well-received. It's cool to do something for yourselves but have other people like it as well.”

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While he admits to being well-versed in playing covers after performing in punk bands prior to Silverstein, Told explains that it took them quite some time to be able to tackle the concept of reinterpreting other acts' material.

“We never did in the past,” he explains. “When we started the band in 2000, we never did any cover songs at all. In 2005, they were doing a tribute to Lifetime. We had a blast doing that, but the album never happened and instead the song was a bonus track on our Discovering The Waterfront album. That's when we realised, 'Shit, doing cover songs is fun'. The thing a lot of people don't know is, when we started Silverstein… I know now there's a lot of bands who sound like us. But when we started Silverstein, it was completely different from everything else. Punk was huge, ska was big around here and there were hardcore bands around. No-one, especially where we were from, was doing what we were doing, which was combining all of them.

“When we started out, it was about combining all of those together into its own thing, and not just being one of those things. We could have just been a hardcore band, but we may not have been around much longer, maybe a few more years. We were just always trying to write the best songs possible. We never bought into the trends really - we just played music we loved. The influences that we had we tried to stay away from (directly) when we were writing songs. People were like, 'What does Silverstein know about American Nightmare?' [after they covered one of their songs]. Well, plenty. But we were just trying to do something different. It's really not so out of left-field for us to do that. It made perfect sense for us to do that.”

Did they have any covers planned that didn't end up making it on to Short Songs? “Yeah, we wanted to do Her Majesty, which is the last song on The Beatles' Abbey Road, it's only like thirty seconds long. I wanted to do it and Bill (Hamilton, bass/vocals) did too. But for some reason we just forgot about it and then realised later on that we had,” he laughs. “There were a few we wanted to do. If we do Short Songs II, we'll knock them out.” He's asked if that's a possibility in the near future. “I was half kidding when I said it just now, but we could do it. We had a blast doing this one.”

Before that happens though the band plans to record another album of original material, which they hope to begin hashing out upon returning home from their imminent Australian trek. They hope to record it before the end of 2012 and release it next year. When not waxing lyrical about his love for Australia (“Australia is the best – what's not to like?” he offers when the subject is first raised), Told says they plan to incorporate some of their freshly-recorded covers during the shows Down Under, their first performances in these parts since last year's Soundwave juggernaut. Australian audiences were given their first taste of Silverstein in 2005 with a whirlwind tour of five cities in as many days and they've maintained the demanding pace, returning several times since to continue building on their loyal Aussie fanbase.

“We'll play some covers live for sure,” he says instantly. “It depends which covers they are and where we are though. Sometimes we play our American Nightmare cover and the place just goes mental, and sometimes people look around like they don't know what to do. It can really depend on a lot of things as to how it goes down live.

“But every time we come there, people are so excited about us being there. Everyone's so excited and it's great, but at the same time it's really laidback. We have been there a lot, but not since we released Rescue and Short Songs, so a lot of people haven't heard those songs live. We're doing a lot of these club shows, and those are always a different vibe. It's kinda like a party vibe; it's just everyone having a good time. Short Songs is something that just came out great and a project that we really enjoyed writing and recording, but it's going to be a lot of fun to go down there and play some of those songs live.”