Interviewing Shane Told of Silverstein

Silverstein’s lead singer Shane Told shreds on the guitar as the spotlights light up the background. Told has been with the band for over 20 years, and is known for his rugged and husky vocals. // Photo by Osman Kayali Student Publications

Last Tuesday on Sept. 13, Heaven at the Masquerade played host to a co-headlining show featuring Canadian post-hardcore band Silverstein and Australian metalcore band The Amity Affliction. Support for the show included UnityTX and Holding Absence. 

The tour follows the release of Silverstein’s 10th studio album “Misery Made Me.” Inspired by events transpiring over the last two years, the album itself represents the collective misery of the world and of Silverstein. In “Misery Made Me,” Silverstein explores angst, disassociation and the cloud of hopelessness and isolation plaguing us all. Having been on the rock scene since 2000 and having released a total of 11 studio albums, the group has seen over two decades of immense success, procuring over 500 million streams, selling over 1 million albums and gaining a nomination for the Juno Awards’ Rock Album of the Year. Despite their success and acclaim, the band claims to be “just getting started.”

Even the opening song of the album, “Our Song” represents Silverstein’s reclamation of suffering and affliction into a force that forges the band’s future. “Our Song” is an anthem for all that misery breeds survival — it breeds perseverance. Lead singer Shane Told sings, “Misery made me … nothing can break me down.”

Following Tuesday night’s show, lead singer Shane Told sat down with the Technique to talk about the pandemic, the new album and tour.

Thank you for meeting with me. So – tour, [new] album, how are you feeling right now?

Really good! The album’s been so well received. [In general, that’s] always nice but for this to be [album] number ten and us to be a band this long, and for people to have this much enthusiasm about what we’re doing and want to hear us play new songs live, not old songs live? That’s pretty cool. 

So I think doing the record and then coming to this tour — it’s an exciting time for our band. Everything’s going so well. People are into the record and people are coming to the shows, so what else is there?

In terms of the record: what was the writing process of “Misery Made Me” like? 

It was a little different because we wrote it during the pandemic when we weren’t around each other. We saw each other [a few times] when we did a couple of live streams but it wasn’t the same as when we tour [and] we see each other all the time. 

So a lot of it was written [by us] in our own individual domiciles and sending files back and forth: “Oh I wrote this, what do you think?” But it was also interesting because the record was very dark — a frustrated record. That’s how [the songs] were coming out because of what we were all going through with the isolation [in Canada]. 

Our lockdown was pretty intense and very long,

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were closed for, like, a year. It was pretty wild. It was really interesting because [the songs were] very dark but then once we got together to actually record it, we were really happy to be together and spend so much time [with each other]. 

[We] were living together, we were staying up late at night, drinking wine and waking up early to play golf and shooting hoops in the parking lot between takes, and all that stuff was really uplifting because we hadn’t had that social interaction between us for so long. We really missed each other in that way, so it was really interesting being really happy recording really sad, depressing, frutrated, pissed off music. But I think that there’s magic there. 

There was a weird [duality] for how the shape that [the record] took. I think you [can] feel a certain energy in it that, if we wrote these songs and then had to record them in our own homes, you would’ve felt a different energy, whereas, with this, there was a magic to this record that people hear. And it was something intangible.

[Would you say] the songs follow a “progression” of feelings and emotions or are they all a generalized overview [of emotions]?

Well, songwriting isn’t linear. I think that’s something that’s important. 

It’s funny sometimes when you’ll hear a song and the first line of the song is maybe a cool word or something and then the song kind of meanders to the point where you’re like “well that first line doesn’t really go with the rest of the song” because — and I’m guilty of this too, every songwriter is guilty of this — when you start to write lyrics in a linear fashion like that, then sometimes things can meander into a place where stuff doesn’t make cohesive sense. 

Something that we’ve been doing more and more lately is we start with a title and then we go “okay this is a title, this is what the song’s about” and then from there you say “okay, well what are the things associated with [the title].” 

You almost start in the middle of the page and kind of work your way out and that’s before you’re even trying to fit a cool phrase or sentence into a melody [or] into music. You have a general kind of idea of “okay this is what I’m gonna actually write a song about.” 

So I think that’s something that isn’t talked about all that much but it is a way that some of the best songwriters write. 

I don’t know if I exactly answered your question, but the other thing [that’s] very important to note [is] that no two songs are ever the same in our band. 

Like, there are songs that are written from a lyrical idea and no music and then something comes about. 

There [are] things [like] a guitar riff and that builds.

Sometimes it’s a drum beat or a drum fill, or it can be anything, and that creates the basis for the song. There’s no formula to music and [while] there is an element of science to it, it’s not an exact science — it’s an art. It’s important to remember that you can’t paint every song with the same brush. 

You have to take a different approach to figure out “what does this song need?” 

What would you say is something you want fans to take away from “Misery Made Me”? 

Well, that’s a great question. I think there was a fear, at one point, of writing “The Pandemic Record” because it seemed almost cliché, like “Oh we went through this, and here’s ‘The Pandemic Record’” and every artist is gonna have their version of “The Pandemic Record.” Once you start to think about it, really in, let’s say, the last 100 years, this is the only time there’s been something that literally every human being on Earth can relate to. 

Everyone went through some form of restrictions or lockdown.

No matter whether you’re from — Atlanta or Toronto or [anywhere else] — everybody had this experience. 

So we just embraced it and said “okay, this is how we’re feeling and I’m sure that we’re not alone in feeling this” and I think [that’s] such a beautiful thing.

Sometimes you hear a song as a fan and it speaks to [you] and [you] can relate to it so much — like the songwriter wrote it for [you] and that was what we tried to do. 

We just said, “this is what I’m going through, [these are] some of the things I used to do: get in my car and drive around because there was nothing else to do in the middle of the pandemic” — [experiences] like that. 

So I think [that] was something we just decided was honest and real and I think that it really worked in that people really relate to the record. [Because] we all went through it and even though we’ve gotten through it on paper and … we’re back to “normal,” the pain and the damage [has] been done in a lot of cases. 

Some people are still really struggling with this, or it’s changed them, or some people have various levels of PTSD, or just depression or anxiety from going through that time.

The mental health aspect of the pandemic was a little understated in a lot of ways, with people saying “oh, this is how many [cases] and this is how many deaths and this is how full the hospitals are” and it’s like, “well what about everybody’s mental state?” So I think that was just something that we really felt was important to talk about and it’s like “what else are we gonna write about? Nothing else is happening.”

Would you say [the band’s sound] has evolved and how? What would you say drove that evolution?

Oh, that’s a good question. We’ve been a band for 22 years, right? It’s important to understand, [that’s] more than half my life. 

So, when you do something that long and you do it full-on and you care about it and you work at it, then I think sometimes you’re so immersed in it that there can be some confusion of like “What are we doing? Which direction should we be going?” and I think that I — I’ll say “I,” I could probably say “we” but I’ll give myself a little bit of credit — in that, it was very important to me that we took things as they came and addressed each song and each step and we never tried to make some kind of change because we wanted to be perceived a certain way or anything because we like our band and we like our music so there’s never been a point where we make a record and we’re like “aw we [hate] this record, we wanna make a record that sounds completely different.” That’s never happened. 

We’ve always looked back and [been] like “maybe this song or this part or maybe we do this differently” but it’s always been a natural progression between records. 

So, if you listen to our first album and you listen to our tenth album, some people would say “this is like, completely different,” and if our tenth record was where our second album was, [it] probably [would’ve freaked] out our fans, right? But if you look at each increment between records five and six or records two and three, I think that people recognize some of the micro-changes and the small steps that have come to be without us getting to a place where we’re, for lack of a better term, “alienating” our fanbase or pissing them off or changing in a way that makes them not even angry but maybe sad because [when] you like a band, you don’t want them to sound completely different. 

So I think we’ve been conscious of that and, a lot of the ways that we’ve evolved have been in certain “tools” — like [we] started tuning the guitars a little lower, [and] along the way, we’ve added some different sounds here and there. 

We’ve experimented on this record, and the last one, [adding] a little bit more synths and keyboards, which we never would’ve done back in the day. So those are some things that we’ve brought in, but I think at our core, the reason that we make music and records hasn’t really changed.

Shifting a bit towards [the]tour real quickly, you’ve been on tour for about three weeks and you guys have the rest of North America and then Europe after, right? 

We’ve got a lot of stuff going on! We’ve got this tour: we’re in Atlanta today, we go to Florida, we go to Texas, through some of the Midwest and back to the East Coast, then Canada to finish, and then we do the When We Were Young Festival, which is going to be pretty crazy. 

And then we do the Emo’s Not Dead Cruise, [which will] be really interesting — we’ve never done a cruise before. And then, we go back to Europe at the end of the year with Comeback Kids and Senses Fail and that’s how we round out the year. 

Speaking of [the] When We Were Young Fest, I know what it was first announced, the first graphic that everyone saw completely flipped out the rock scene. How was that pitched to you guys? 

Yeah, I can tell you the story: it was about a year ago and we got an email that said “do you want to play a show in Las Vegas with My Chemical Romance for this much money?,” and that was it. And we said “Alright, it’s enough money, it’s Las Vegas, and [it’s] My Chemical Romance. Alright, sure, sign us up.” We didn’t know anything else. We didn’t know if it was a couple [of] bands, or just us, opening. So we just agreed to it. 

[We] completely forgot all about it until literally 30 minutes before you saw the ad-mat, I saw the ad-mat, and I remember looking at it and going “Oh … this is pretty crazy like everyone is playing this thing. Wow,” and I knew it was going to be a big deal, and then, of course, you remember what happened, everyone was trying to get tickets and then they added another day, and then they added a third day. So it’s gonna be really exciting. 

A lot of it was funny like, I had to make a statement [because] people thought it was like a “Fyre Fest scam,” [but] it’s not! 

It’s totally legit and obviously, in a place like Las Vegas, they have the infrastructure where they can make it happen. You don’t have to worry about that. So I think it’s gonna be really fun. 

To round things off, as a band, what do you think you’re looking forward to the most as you continue your career? 

I think we’ve always kind of had the same goals. When we started touring internationally, we were able to go to different countries and see the world for free. [It was] something we never thought [we’d get to do]. 

Like, I’d never been to Europe before the  band, and now I’ve been to Europe like [30] times, so it’s really cool to be able to do that, and we still want to expand [and]

play some [at] territories we’ve never played before. And I think musically, we’ve maybe hit on something with this last album and unlocked something, creatively, in how we can work and the music we can make, and I personally feel pretty excited for that chapter because I think we still have so much to give and so much to say. 

Maybe it’s partly due to the pandemic, but I think we’re getting along better — communicating better as a band. You get older and maybe a little more comfortable in your own skin, a little smarter and a little more reasonable. We’re not dumb kids anymore, so I think that all that just kind of turns into a really nice, respectful, fun, safe place that we have in our own world of Silverstein. It’s a been pretty crazy couple of years and it hasn’t all been easy but I think now, where we’ve ended up, it feels really good. 

“Misery Made Me” is out now on all streaming platforms via UNFD Records.