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Exclusive! Riding The Silvertide of Success

By Jeff Kerby, Contributor
Tuesday, February 11, 2003 @ 2:31 PM

Jeff Kerby Talks With Silverti

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Philadelphia’s Silvertide is a young blues based rock band who has spent the last couple of years honing their musicianship and entertaining local audiences by performing as many as two sets a day in nightclubs throughout the city. Rarely has a band possessing this much youth—its oldest member is 21—been at the center of so much media attention. This maelstrom of hype has seen this group compared with the likes of the Rolling Stones, Aerosmith and Guns and Roses (uh, the latter presumably when they were good). Obviously, the prospect of living up to such elevated expectations can ruin a band before it even starts. With only a promising E.P. to its credit thus far, the band’s career is still in its embryonic stage. Although all of this attention doubtlessly assisted Silvertide in its efforts to sign a relatively large contract with J Records last year, it must be understood that these expectations come at a price. After all, anything less than a stellar debut is bound to be viewed as a disappointment by both critics and fans alike.

Today, the band can be found in Los Angeles writing the songs that will ultimately comprise their first full-length offering—a release that is sure to go a long way towards proving whether or not the numerous accolades and generous comparisons bestowed upon them are justified. When talking to vocalist Walt Lafty and bassist Brian Weaver, it’s impossible not to see the boundless enthusiasm exhibited by a couple of musicians just setting out on their hopeful journey toward fame, wealth and an inevitable VH-1 special chronicling their life and accomplishments. Right now though, no task seems either too dire or insurmountable to these band mates from Philly. Think about it--they’re young, they’ve got a recording contract and they don’t have to work a day job—what the hell is there to complain about?

KNAC.COM: How cool was it for you to look out at all the people in attendance when Silvertide opened for Aerosmith a few months ago?
LAFTY: It was only a side stage, but by the end of our set about a thousand people were there just standing and watching us. That’s not a whole lot of people to be playing for, but it kinda got the buzz started. By that night, when we went to our regular gig, people had already heard that Silvertide had opened for or played the side stage for Aerosmith—the place was packed.

KNAC.COM: Was it overwhelming? How many people were you drawing at your regular bar gig at the time?
LAFTY: I don’t know, by the end was packed though.
WEAVER: Yeah, at the end you couldn’t even move.
LAFTY: The last show we played at the Abilene was well…
WEAVER: We had to carry our equipment through the kitchen.
LAFTY: Yeah, we couldn’t even go through the front. We had to go through the back, climb up the stairs and onto the stage because you couldn’t move in front, and it would have taken us like thirty minutes to walk to the stage from the front.

KNAC.COM: How many sets a night were you playing at that time?
LAFTY: We played two sets a night there, and they were 45 minutes to an hour long.

KNAC.COM: Unlike a lot of new bands, you guys weren’t playing many covers either, were you?
LAFTY: We only did one cover, and the rest were all written by us. The first night we played, we didn’t know what we were getting into. We didn’t know that we had to play two hours---we only had an hour of material, so we just kinda jammed for a while to stretch things out.

KNAC.COM: That must have been one hell of a long drum solo.
LAFTY: Yeah, and we also played the songs two times.

KNAC.COM: Do you think you got more exposure because Philadelphia hasn’t exactly been recognized as having a thriving rock scene and has been more closely associated with R+B? Aren’t there fewer bands playing music like yours to compete with?
WEAVER: I think everything kinda contributed like the whole Aerosmith thing—that was a blessing. Not that many bands were just laying it down rock wise, so people were throwing our name around for a little bit. It was cool.
LAFTY: It was basically an R+B scene and hip-hop in Philly. There wasn’t really very much of a rock scene. There were a few bands we were friends with that were doing the rock thing, but it wasn’t the same type of straight ahead rock that we were playing. I don’t know if that had a significant part in us having the success that we did though.

KNAC.COM: I guess you could say that regardless of the geographic location, there isn’t a lot of blues based rock being made anywhere right now actually. Maybe because of that reason as much as anything else, you guys have been compared to Aerosmith and the Black Crowes. Who do you guys believe to be your most significant influence?
LAFTY: I don’t think it’s like really any one specific band.
WEAVER: I think each person in the band has their own preference, you know. But everybody has that same foundation in like old school rock and roll dating back from when they were sixteen or seventeen. After that, everyone kind of adopted their own branch. Me and Walt are actually into R+B and funk. I’m into a lot of jazz and so is Walt. Mark is like into more progressive, experimental stuff, and it’s the same with Nick and Kevin. I mean, it’s just a whole different bunch of influences, and we just kinda mesh it all together. I guess a good way of saying it is that everyone has a different favorite band, and whenever somebody brings something different to the table, we all enjoy it.

KNAC.COM: Does it help you or hurt you when everyone is coming from such disparate places?
LAFTY: It just gives us a lot of ideas. Everyday someone has an idea, and I think it’s just because of all the different genres of music we listen to.

KNAC.COM: How much pressure has there been to complete the new full-length album after the successful EP?
WEAVER: Actually, I think there was mostly just the pressure we put on ourselves to want to get it out. I mean the label has really been giving us a lot of time to just like write a lot of great songs, so that when it’s time to record, we’ll have all these different songs to choose from and all these selections to work off of. I mean, if there is any pressure, it comes from us just trying to get it out and get it done.

KNAC.COM: What was it like during the period when the buzz started and you guys were getting recruited by various record companies?
LAFTY: It was awesome.

KNAC.COM: What was something that one of them did that was especially cool and made you want to sign with them?
WEAVER: Actually James--our A+R guy now--came and met us at a show, and we had dinner with him. Then, the next week he came to another show and said every great rock band should have a banner, and he brought us a Silvertide banner—
LAFTY: It took like $3000 to get it made. It was like hand painted on canvas. It was like every night there was another guy from a label.
WEAVER: Yeah, we got a lot of free dinners. We didn’t have to buy food for like two months.

KNAC.COM: Were you finding part of yourself trying to stretch this process out for as long as you could?
LAFTY: You could say that.
WEAVER: It was just a fun time, but we tried not to let it affect us.
LAFTY: Yeah, imagine dating ten girls at once and only getting the benefits of it.

KNAC.COM: Once you choose one of them though, all the other ones have to drop off when they find out about her, right?
LAFTY: But then it’s just up to you to pick the one that’s best.

KNAC.COM: Funny thing, when I asked Tim from Soil about the whole courtship process, food came up right away then too.
LAFTY: Actually, the night we signed we went to dinner with Soil and then to one of their shows.

KNAC.COM: Yeah, they’re really good live. Do you think that a lot of the energy you guys exhibit during your shows just comes from a basic enthusiasm for what you’re doing?
LAFTY: Definitely, we just go out there and play and have fun. Whatever we want to do to have fun we do.
WEAVER: Whether it’s lighting yourself on fire or… something.
LAFTY: It’s just whatever we want to do, you know.

KNAC.COM: Ok, well maybe you can explain in a little detail what the whole mannequin-humping story associated with you guys is about?
LAFTY: That was actually when we were doing our showcase for J Records---
WEAVER: They had half a mannequin in the basement, and we were sitting there drinking before the show, and I saw a mannequin, and one of the guys told me to bring it onstage and that it would be funny. So we kinda just dressed her up a little bit and threw her on stage with us.

KNAC.COM: How hard is it for you to play those showcases when you may be on stage and trying to rock while staring out at ten stoic faces?
LAFTY: It’s just so much more fun because they don’t expect it. It’s hilarious because you’ll just be playing and they’re expecting you to just play some songs and stand there because they see you play live, and they sometimes think that it’s the people in the crowd who create the energy. You just have to decide what level you want to take it to. If you want to take it to insanity, do it. If you wanna take it to just a good time, do it.
WEAVER: That’s all we did, and it was a lot of fun. There were times where I, during one showcase, was standing on an eight-foot ladder. I was just hopping up and down on it, and they were looking at me like ‘what the fuck are you doing?’
LAFTY: We just wanted to have fun. We never treated it as an audience.

KNAC.COM: Did it take the pressure off of you knowing that you had plenty of labels that were interested?
WEAVER: It was more like, “hey, we get to go play up in New York for eight songs or whatever and just have a good time.” Usually our manager would also take us out to eat or something, so we didn’t care.

KNAC.COM: How cool is it exactly to be young and not having to hold down a regular job at Burger King and being able to concentrate on making music?
WEAVER: I’ve done it man. In comparison, there’s no way in hell I would go back now. I’m just so used to living this way, you just can’t—

KNAC.COM: “Living this way” meaning what exactly goes on in that house you guys share?
WEAVER: Well, now we’re not in the house, we’re in an apartment, but in the house we had some pretty killer parties. It’s great because you bump into other musicians and other people with common interests. You can bring them back to the house and get a huge jam session with people from different bands and everybody kinda just plays.
LAFTY: And when we threw a party at our house it wasn’t like you go to a frat party and you don’t know anybody there. If you didn’t know somebody there, they wouldn’t be a dick to you or anything. It was just a really good vibe, and it was just all cool people who loved music there would be a party going at almost all hours of the night. I remember going to bed at six in the morning and like ten people above me singing Beatles songs and stomping their feet.
WEAVER: My room was right above the jam room and people would play til about four or five AM and like all the shit would be rattling from the bass.

KNAC.COM: So it wasn’t the best environment to get sleep in?
WEAVER: It was all right man—a couple of beers, you know.
LAFTY: It wasn’t the best place to try to get sleep on the weekends.

KNAC.COM: How much creative freedom do you guys get regarding what you write and the lyrics? How much pressure is there to show the label guys the songs that you’re working on or have completed so far?
LAFTY: It’s a pretty cool process, we just write—I mainly write all the lyrics—but Mark is my lyric buddy now too. On a couple of the newer ones we’ll write something, send it in and they’ll tell us if it makes sense or if it doesn’t. That’s all it really comes down to.

KNAC.COM: So you don’t find it intrusive at all? You’re just saying that it causes you to re-evaluate what you’ve written?
LAFTY: Yeah, I mean when you first start doing it and you first start getting feedback, it’s a little weird because you’re not used to getting any. Sometimes you just gotta take a step back and just really evaluate what you’re doing musically. If it’s too crazy, you have to find a time and place for it. If there’s something that’s out there and it isn’t clear, people might not understand it or might just not get it.

KNAC.COM: What if you wanted to say “fuck” in the middle of a song that the label thought could get some airplay or even on MTV? Would you have the freedom to keep it in the lyrics or would the label ask you to change it?
LAFTY: We wrote this song called “Go Fuckin’ Crazy” and we think it’s a great song—we honestly believe this song to be something great. Our guy told us to send it in and let him hear it, but he pretty much had the attitude that the song wasn’t going to make it as a single. Then, after he heard it, he told us not to change the lyric at all because he got what it was about, and it was just that type of song and that radio might still accept it if they heard it because it was a really cool song.

KNAC.COM: I’m sure they’re expecting some pretty big things from you because there was all kinds of talk about the size of the contract you guys signed—does the band ever discuss how many records you want to sell or set goals for that type of thing?
LAFTY: We have talked about many things, but not with that angle on it. I mean, in our eyes if you play enough, people will buy your albums. Even if they don’t understand the music right away, they will eventually grow into it if they hear it over and over again.

KNAC.COM: Basically, you guys want to be a tour driven type of band.
LAFTY: We are definitely a live band, and that’s the way we have always been. We are a live energy band who feeds off of just playing.

KNAC.COM: Do you guys ever get the feeling that you are living the section of Behind the Music where everything’s great and cool, but that things are bound to change?
LAFTY: Personally, a lot of the other guys in the band kinda feel this way. The more things change and have their different turns and alleyways, the more music will be created because you feel something different and therefore different sounds, lyrics and melodies are bound to come out. Everything in life has its ups and downs basically, and as long as you love something and you’re willing to stick with it, then it’s always going to be good. It’s like pizza, there’s never really any bad pizza. We all love music, so it’s like the same thing, we’re still doing music. That’s what we enjoy.

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