Fans of Burlington, Ontario’s Silverstein will no doubt still be celebrating the release of Friday’s brand new album, Dead Reflection, which has already seen enormous praise. To follow up that hype, we’re publishing our interview with Josh Bradford from the very soggy Mansfield, MA Warped Tour date. Josh and I had the opportunity to chat about ‘Dead Reflection’, the band’s success, the struggle of turning music into a career, advice for emerging artists (especially when it comes to social media), and getting back to their roots. Check out the video interview below or the transcribed version a bit further down.
Your new album ‘Dead Reflection’ is out in just two days, on July 14th. You’ve said this is your most ambitious album to date. What can you tell me about the process and possible challenges of this album vs past ones?
Well, first off, we’re a very busy band, we tour year in and year out. Most of the time we’re away. So finding time to work on something is going to be a challenge for us. This time we had a little more time blocked off and were able to not only write all the songs, but also go in and fine tune every part of every song which is not something we normally get to do. Often we have a good idea of what the songs are when we go into the studio to record them. This time we went over it with a fine toothed comb, every little part, before we even started tracking it so I think it came out really nice that way. Another thing that’s maybe a little different this time around is we played around with our guitar tunings. We have a couple different tunings on the record which stimulates you to write different parts. If you’re tuned differently you can’t go to the same chord shapes you normally would…keeps you outside the box
You’ve also talked about the challenge of how to make a career out of music, and that you’ve noticed it change a lot since the time you formed. Can you talk a little more about that, and how you’ve continued to stay so relevant amidst the competition and changing landscape?
Yeah, it’s tricky. Right now we’re making the music we want and not paying too much attention to the trends. Staying so active and out there on the road, we play with a lot of younger bands, we end up hearing and seeing what they’re up to. Kind of incorporating that, even if it’s not consciously, it ends up influencing our music a little. I think if we sort of travelled in the same kind of circles, with the same old bands, we might not have as much of that outside influence of our own. And that’s helped us out a lot, staying relevant, staying in with the younger bands. We’re always paying attention to what those younger kids are doing. While still kind of ignoring them and doing what we do, but not trying to consciously write something that seems to fit with what is going on but still somehow being influenced by what’s going on.
On a similar note, you’ve talked about how you go to some countries and cultures where you don’t have a ton of fans, but you relish the experience. Is that refreshing in a way to be in a place where you’re still building a fanbase? Does it take you back to your roots a little bit and do you find it exciting to kind of be unknown a bit?
Absolutely. I think bands like to tour where they are biggest, stay where it’s most comfortable for them but we’ve always enjoyed putting ourselves out there and trying to go to as many places as we can, whether or not there is a fan base there. Try it, see what happens. And sometimes those small little shows with 100 kids, 200 kids are really wild because you’re exposing them to something that maybe they’re not too familiar with and they may not have a lot of opportunity to see live music of that style so they go crazy. At this point we have taken this band to 43 or 44 different countries. So it’s not only nice for us to get to travel as part of our job to see the world, but to let them see what we’re all about and to try and turn them on to this wonderful scene that we’re a part of.
Have there been any stand out moments you can think of from visiting one of those countries?
Yeah, we just played South America which has always been pretty good for us but some of the countries, it’s been awhile since we’ve been back so, it’s nice to see they were eagerly awaiting. Even places like Canada, the States, Australia, Germany, where they’re maybe our best market, we don’t get the treatment we do in South America where you step off the plane and there are lots of fans with posters waiting for you at the airport, it’s kind of crazy. Sometimes they tell you “you don’t need a work visa just say you’re coming in as a tourist” and we’re like “ok if that’s what you say, you do this all the time” and you get there and you’re like “just a tourist, just here to see some sights” and then as soon as you walk out the door there’s a mob of people waiting for you. It’s hard to then sell that lie of being a tourist.
A very popular tourist! haha. In relation to the business side of the industry, what is something you wish you knew when you were just starting out and what advice would you pass along for artists that are struggling to wear all those hats. Because I think a lot of artists coming up just want to focus on the music, they don’t really understand the business pieces of it going into it.
Absolutely. I mean we have in our career seen this industry change a lot. When we first started putting out records and touring we didn’t have cell phones. They existed but we didn’t own them, and the internet did not play as big a role in how people access the music. I remember being introduced to MySpace for the first time while we were on the road and being like “oh this could be a nice way to keep in touch with friends that we’ve met along the way.”
I think we took some things really, really seriously when we were younger that maybe were not so important. Like having a manager…not when we first started, but after a while we started feeling we needed one. So we went through a bunch of relationships with managers who ultimately none of them brought as much to the table as we did, so we’re just paying somebody to oversee what we’re doing but basically, we were handling it all ourselves. So at this point we manage ourselves…our drummer is our manager. He has a really good handle on what we need to do and what’s going on out there in the world.
Some of our most recent tours and records have been the best-executed plans we’ve ever had because you’re not trying to spread it out across too many people. We know what we need so we just do it. You mentioned wearing a lot of hats. It is very true, especially now with social media and that being such a big part of promoting a band and staying relevant. That was something we had to grow and learn as we grew with it. As I say it didn’t exist and then all of a sudden it is a very important thing. So taking it seriously I think at first was hard. “Twitter, what’s this, I can only use 140 characters, how am I going to express myself with that?” And now the news outlets use Twitter and everything so Twitter is HUGE, Facebook is HUGE. All these things are amazing tools for promoting your band and I think that is maybe one of the more important tasks that you should consider wearing…is managing your online identity and I hope we’re doing that well.
One of the things I notice with emerging bands I work with is with social media. They’re either selling, selling, selling all the time or they just don’t think they know what to put out there so do you have any advice for them?
I personally am still trying to figure that out. You definitely turn people off if you’re selling to them all the time. I find that when we’re posting stuff it’s maybe 5-10% selling and the rest of it is just letting them into your world. Making them feel a part of what you’re doing, sharing in any small victories, commiserating in any small tragedies that you may experience out on the road. Just letting them into your world. That is a huge difference, back in the day when we first started we didn’t even have a photograph of our band for our first record and nobody cared. It was all about just listening to the music. Now they want to be connected to not just the band but to individuals in the band and be a part of your life. I guess you have to be willing to let them in to some extent. It can be curated as far as what you portray but I think people want that extra connection that goes beyond just music these days.
Absolutely. Last question, What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received whether it’s music related, industry or otherwise?
I’ve been told many times not to take any of this too seriously and just enjoy it. That does make a difference because it’s easy to have blinders on and focus and try to force things to happen when really at the end of the day this should be fun. We all got into playing music or being around music because it’s an enjoyable thing to be around. If you’re not enjoying it you’re probably doing something wrong, trying too hard to force something. Because ultimately you don’t know if you’re going to have your band for a couple years or a couple decades. You might not even have a career at all, you might not make any money in music but at the end of the day no matter whether it’s your job or your passion, you should enjoy it. Keep trying, but with the notion that you would be playing that and doing it in the same way whether or not you have to work a day job. At the end of the day it should be something that you feel passionate about and really enjoy doing. That should be the big payoff.
Anything else you’d like to add?
This Friday, brand new record, we think we did a really good job, we hope everyone likes it!