About a year-and-a-half ago my good buddy Steve recommended a band from England by the name of A Silent Film to me, fully expecting me to hate them for some reason. When I came back telling him how much I loved them he damn near dropped dead of a heart attack. We don’t agree on much musically, Steve and I, but this is one we were in complete accord on, and I am grateful to him for that. Fast forward to now, and the opportunity to interview vocalist/pianist Robert Stevenson arose. I pounced immediately, just in time, as they will be here this Sunday November 3 at the Kessler Theater, and I wanted to get some insights as to the writing process, and what we could expect live. Well, Robert was pretty mum on the live details, but we still had a great conversation. Join us:
So, I found you guys by accident. A friend of mine turned me onto the band in the early part of summer 2012, and that was it. Done. I spent the REST of that summer with Sand and Snow on repeat!
Robert: Oh, thank you so much, Damian. That’s awesome, word of mouth, which is our forte. Love to hear that.
Tell me the difference between first album The City That Sleeps and Sand and Snow. Because I really feel like there’s been a stylistic change.
Robert: Definitely. The first album had written for a long time, and when we had the opportunity to make it, that came very quickly, and we hadn’t toured, and we were very green to the whole experience of being in a band. It was just the four of us in a room, and it was a great way to solidify learning how to write songs. And then we started touring America which was quite a shock to the system when you come from such a small place in England and that just opened our eyes. And the inspiration is all over Sand and Snow.
You've been on the road awhile now. As a younger band, what have you learned from touring?
Robert: We’ve learned the benefits of good hygiene, taking care of one another, and eating well. I think we’ve learned how to communicate really well with our audience one on one, which is really, really important. Not to be afraid to be in close, and in touch with them, spend a lot of time with them after shows, and onstage as part of the show too. To make sure everyone’s having a good time is important.
Is there anyone on your wish list that you'd love to tour with or play a one-off gig with?
Robert: Oh, so many people. Where do you begin? Neil Young would be amazing. And one time we got to play a show in Ohio and Weezer headlined which is such a fucking cool gig for us, because we love them. We were just a few bands below them on the bill, so that was a really nice feeling.
What are we looking at in terms of a new album? Maybe mid-to-late 2014?
Robert: Oh we’ve written quite a lot of it. I imagine as soon as we get everything lined up we’ll be ready to make this record early next year. This tour is kind of an opportunity to bring out some new songs, but more importantly to get some feedback. That counts huge amounts with us. So hopefully we’re gonna play a song and people are gonna respond with a resounding, confident, “Yes!” (Laughs) And if it’s not that confident then we’ll fix things and make sure we come back with a smashing album.
Did I read that you’re doing something like six new songs for us?
Robert: Ohhhh, upwards of that, but I can’t say too much.
I get it. Going the Iron Maiden route, eh? (Robert laughs) Ok. Two albums in, what is the writing dynamic in the group and did it shift from album A to album B?
Robert: I think so. The most important thing about the songwriting dynamic in the band is trying not to have any kind of routine or a formula in your head how it should come about. It’s really important to keep an open mind where musical inspirations can come from, so it’s not always down the same path. That way you can surprise yourself. Most importantly, in the studio you want to be surprised and inspired by what’s come about, open your mind and shake it out a bit.
Were there any differences in the US vs. UK releases, as far as extra tracks or anything?
Robert: Yeah, the first album was ok in England. But it was a very strange time for us, we didn’t really connect because we didn’t have a budget for a worldwide release, perhaps that was out of our realm, we were very young, but we were fortunate to have a song go to radio in America. The album had been out in England for a year and we’d already written a lot of the new material, so the album that people hear in America has a few extra songs that weren’t on the original UK release. But, you know, maybe they came off the album for a reason, you know what I mean?
Bieler Bros records put out the first album if I'm not mistaken. Did you work with Jason Bieler and Co. at all?
Robert: Oh yeah, good Florida guys. They were great. We have to give credit to them. They’re the guys who took a chance on us. Someone passed our CD onto them and they heard it as something they thought would take off in America and that takes guts, and that’s exactly the kind of people we like working around us, who feel inspired by what they’ve heard. And they took a chance, and it’s worked out fantastic. We were able to grow the whole thing very naturally. We’re very fortunate.
"Danny, Dakota and The Wishing Well"...one of the BEST songs of 2012 in my opinion. Where did that come from? It is just this sweeping, lush tale that you get caught up in.
Robert: Thanks, Damian, we appreciate the compliment. We were traveling across America. One thing that just struck me was story songwriting, like Springsteen’s “The River” where he gives his characters names. I wanted to try perhaps writing a song that had a long enough story that you could understand it as well as maybe see yourself in one part of it, because it goes through a number of years. So people who are older can relate to the end of it, and the younger ones can relate to the beginning. And we’ve had a few people come up to us at shows and say, “We’re the real-live Danny and Dakota!” I think that personal, emotional connection is just so wonderful to us. That’s what we were hoping for, so it means a lot.
One last thing…what would you like to say to all the A Silent Film fans out there who are reading this?
Robert: Oh, man! This next album is gonna be the best thing we’ve ever done and thank you so much. Stick around, the best is yet to come!
A Silent Film plays The Kessler Theater Sunday, November 3. You should really come see these guys, as they'll be holed up writing and recording after this, so get your fix now!