Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Exclusive: mC Interview with The Silent Years

Back in July we told you about the latest effort from The Silent Years, The Globe. Without a doubt one of our favorite albums of the year, it is cohesive, concise, and complete. Awash in luxuriant sonic landscapes aided by producer Chris Coady (Grizzly Bear, TV on the Radio, Blonde Redhead), The Globe is the rare album that is simultaneously immediate and timeless. Hailing from Detroit, The Silent Years are no Rock City garage band, more likely honing their craft in the attic or on the roof. Their songs reach gloriously upward, and The Globe progresses in that direction with shades of a concept album. The dense compositions are themselves grand assertions, and Joshua Epstein’s lyrics and vocals follow suit. The album title is the metaphor at play, a symbol of scale in each direction, and the songs shift naturally from the microscopic to the universal.

Josh was kind enough to talk with the middleCoast about creativity, giving art away, and what it means to make a concept album.

The middleCoast
: It is always impressive when an album comes off as a really cohesive album, rather than just a collection of songs, and The Globe is definitely cohesive. Assuming that there is the element of a concept album here: When you have an idea or philosophy that you want to work with throughout an album, does that need to start with the lyrics, or do you trust the musical side to convey the same message?

Josh Epstein: It is my belief that music has it's own way of connecting itself. If you're writing a record, it most likely will have common musical themes and ideas since it's being conceptualized at the same time, and therefore with the same mindset and influences present. Lyrically, a "concept" album is difficult to approach because you risk sounding redundant and you really are bound. That's why the idea of a concept album being about universality was so appealing to me. It's almost as if you take away the burdens of a concept album when you say that it's about everything.

mC: I read that the film "The Powers of 10" was an inspiration. I remember seeing that in film school and being strangely moved by it - both its simplicity as well as its rather overwhelming premise. What all did you take from the film that lead to The Globe as a concept album? And is a unified theme or concept something a whole band must be willing to partake in, or does the vision of an individual take the helm?

JE: The Globe is unapologetically a concept album. That film really made me think, especially when you see the universe fully and then it goes down to the inner workings of an electron and they look exactly the same. It was really interesting to see that. That got me thinking about the fact that everything exists everywhere and it is all similar - just with different scale. Everyone was into the idea, and while I do most of the lyric writing, everyone contributes ideas constantly.

mC: I suppose the fact that I'd even ask these questions is evidence of some profound songwriting. Lyrically, there are a handful of lines that have been running through my head on repeat - some haunting, some comforting, but all that have now become personal to me as listener. What is your take on people interpreting your lyrics and assuming them as their own? Do you care that they may get it wrong? Or are you just pleased that they're getting something?

JE: That is really nice to hear, thank you. I have always been a fan of lyrics that strike you deeply right away, and then have the ability to hold many meanings as often as you can think of them. There is never a wrong meaning that can be inferred. Art - in this case, music - is everyone's. As soon as it leaves your lips as a singer it's everyone's. And I would never dream of taking it back.

mC: Musically the album soars. How was working with Chris Coady, and how much influence did he have on the album's sound? The fact that he's worked with some of the best bands out there right now - Blonde Redhead, TV on the Radio, Grizzly Bear - certainly leads one to assume that he knows what he's doing. But how did he alter your sound versus how you wanted to alter it yourselves from your self-titled album?

JE: Chris came into the picture after everything was recorded. We had the feeling that the collection of songs was good, but really busy and could end up a clusterfuck if we didn't get someone who had a bit more experience to mix it. Chris immediately made things sound clearer and more focused, which is why he is so talented and accomplished.

mC: Overall, the tone of the album brings to mind the word Bittersweet. There's this sense that, yeah things sure can get bleak, but isn't life on this planet amazing? I love the sing-along finale of "Open up our eyes wide, so we can see more!". Like a reaffirmation, or at least a reminder to keep an eye on the horizon and things will surely get better. Am I interpreting this on a personal level again, or is there some intention in the songwriting of a bittersweet notion throughout? Is it safe to assume that the overall tone of an album reflects the personal outlook(s) of the artist(s)?

JE: Life is difficult, and there is meaning in that. I had a conversation with my sister today about the idea that a utopian lifestyle would have the potential to suck the creativity out of the world. This is not to say that art has to come from suffering, but there is meaning to be found in that suffering and art can come from there.

The Globe is out now on Defend Music.

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1 comment:

Senor Juevos said...

J - Glad to hear you scored an interview with Silent Years. You are so good at this shit man. I love it...and i love their last album. Gonna pick up this one as well. Keep it up man.