Interview: Silverstein Guitarists Neil Boshart and Josh Bradford Discuss Gear, Touring and Their New Album, 'Short Songs'
Canadian rock band Silverstein have been a prime force in the punk and hardcore music scenes since 2000.
Silverstein, originally from Burlington, Ontario, consists of singer Shane Told, guitarists Josh Bradford and Neil Boshart, bassist and backup singer Billy Hamilton and drummer Paul Koehler.
The band, who have been with Hopeless Records since November 2011, released a new album, Short Songs, in February. It's a record filled with original music and covers of songs by some of the hardcore and punk bands who inspired them.
Guirarists Neil and Josh recently sat down with GuitarWorld.com and talked politics, music and, of course, guitars.
GUITAR WORLD: Josh, you’ve been in the band since the very beginning. How did you guys came together?
Josh: Basically, we were all in different bands in the same area, playing punk, hardcore and metal, and we were looking for something different to do musically, so we put some feelers out on a message board and got some responses on similar ideas and tastes on where we wanted to go with our music. So we started hanging out and jamming and really kind of went on from there. It’s hard to believe it’s been this long.
Neil: The band originally sounded a lot softer.
Josh: A lot softer. And when Neil joined (in 2001) he brought some of the heavier influence.
Can you tell me about your first guitar?
Josh: My first guitar was a Squire Stratocaster; I think a lot of people’s first guitar is a Strat often. It was red with a white pickgaurd, very Canadian looking and I actually got it because a friend of mine was into acting and was going to do some TV show and they needed extras so he asked me if I wanted to come along, I think I was in the seventh grade. So I went and I helped and I got a big paycheck for that day so I went spent that paycheck on a guitar.
Did you teach yourself guitar?
Josh: I just taught myself. I wanted to learn how to play certain songs I heard. The first song I played was "Smoke on the Water."
Neil: My first guitar was a gift from my parents for graduating grade eight. It was an all black, it was a Ibanez Silver Cadet, which you don’t really see anymore. They don’t make them anymore. It was like a Strat-style guitar with the three single-coils and I messed around with it a lot. Same as Josh, I just self-taught and learned a lot from Guitar World, to be honest. I bought Guitar World, issues like every month and just learned tabs out of it. Once I did that I played along with the actual song, it was a pretty good way to learn technique and just to learn good songs.
Josh: I think I used to keep a couple of copies of the magazine in my guitar case, so I could know tabs. We’re all about the tabs.
Neil: I’ve kept all of my issues. They’re quite handy. Sometimes I go back and look up a song that’s in one of the magazines -- just to re-learn it and have fun with it.
What kind of guitars are you guys using today?
Neil: I’m using my B.C. Rich Signature Mocking Bird, which is pretty much all I use now; I'm quite happy with it.
Josh: I’ve been playing Gibson SGs lately. I was a big fan of Les Pauls; they sound amazing and we end up using them in the studio a bunch. But I think a few years of playing them live and jumping around with them have destroyed my back. So I changed to the SGs. It’s a much lighter guitar.
Neil: When you’ve been playing in a band for 12 years and playing Les Pauls, it kind of wears on you a little bit.
You guys recently came out with the album Short Songs, what was the idea behind that?
Neil: We had some free time and instead of wasting that time we felt like doing something fun and different.
Josh: And listening to punk and hardcore, so many bands, very influential bands, have all these short songs that were impactful. And we thought it would be fun to do some covers; then we decided to do some originals. We were just writing the originals and they were just going so well we just kept writing them and writing them and we ended up doing half and half on that record. I think it’s a cool thing for our fans to see the music that we listen that brought us to want us to be in this band. As well hear some original songs kind of inspired by that style. I think it definitely puts our influences on our sleeve a little more than any of our other releases.
With all that’s gone on recently in the news, especially Occupy Wall Street, will you guys put any of that in the next album? What was your take on that?
Josh: I like that idea of what the whole 99 percent movement was trying to accomplish; I think the message got lost along the way. I’m not sure how much the message itself is lost or whether it’s deliberately not being broadcast. The people that own these news corporations are the people being protested against. So even though it’s noteworthy news, I feel like they are trying to almost dilute the message and make it harder to understand by not reporting on it accurately.
I have heard people say very articulate, very specific things about what they’re trying to accomplish, but it’s rare that you see any of that in the news. It seems like they’re just taking shots at them, making them seem like they’re just a bunch of disorganized clowns. It’s a real tricky thing to get behind because it affects a lot of people but it’s hard to sit in a park and occupy and feel like you’re getting somewhere. I think it’s going to take a lot of people doing it for a really long time.
Neil: It’s a tricky thing going against something like that. A lot of countries’ economies are based off of these ideas. It’s hard to fight something like that but it’s so widespread it’s just all around you.
Josh: I don’t know what the answer is but I applaud people for taking a stand and trying to do to something, trying to make a change.
Do you guys ever worry about your own careers in this financial crisis?
Josh: Since the recession has happened, we’ve noticed just touring in the States and other places that the economy is hurting and people that had a couple bucks to go spend at a show before to forget their problems are now forced to sit at home and not spend any money at all so they can pay their bills. But there’s always going to be people making music for the love of music and the art behind it. And I think the hard times have perpetuated that a little more.
Neil: A lot of musicians have stopped because they’re not making any money. And they come at a crossroad and they have to make decisions based on whether they can live or not; especially musicians with families.
Silverstein is touring in Europe through Check out Silversteinmusic.com.