We have watched the continual rise of A Silent Film now for years. We were hooked with the raw power of “You Will Leave a Mark” from The City That Sleeps (2009), in awe of the melodies in “Anastasia” and stunned by the incredible poetic journey of “Danny, Dakota, and the Wishing Well”, both on Sand and Snow (2013). That being said, the new self-titled release explores a new musical depth, infused with positivity and passion found in the likes of The Killers or Coldplay. This anthemic album is a stellar addition to the bands already rich discography and represents their finest work to date.
Based in Oxford, England, A Silent Film, is comprised of Robert Stevenson (vocals/piano/guitar) and Spencer Walker (drums); and operates as an independent band. Instead of utilizing a major commercial record label for funding the music production, A Silent Film release music on their own label (Silent Songs). This do-it-yourself approach is not suited for every band and requires discipline and tenacity to record, publish, and market without the deep pockets of a music label. We caught up with Stevenson recently as the band passed through town and asked, among other things, what being independent means to him. He contests, “…it means getting up every day and not taking 'no' for an answer. Spencer and I have never suffered from a lack of conviction, we know what we want and that allows us to be good leaders when times are tough.”
This refreshing approach is in stark contrast to ‘signed bands’ who, per Stevenson, “…live off the short term financial advances from the record label and then watch that same label clean up the profits in the long term”. Being independent requires a different mentality and approach altogether. “Why would a signed band care so much about that extra album sale? Why would they share hotel rooms? Why would they hustle to make a tour more profitable if they are not going to benefit from the outcome? They typically wouldn’t and that is partially why independence is a conscious choice for us. We live a little rougher but we get the satisfaction out of every ticket sold and album bought” says Stevenson, and most importantly “We enjoy complete artistic control, we enjoy sharing our journey directly with our fans.”
This independence led the band through an incredible recording process for A Silent Film where they spent over two years to create a fully realized album. Stevenson recalls spending "weeks at a time writing broad stroke melodies and lyrics that would be anchors for moments on the album." This creates a transcendental quality that is easily recognizable to the listener. The duo disappeared in those two years, leaving their established followers anxiously anticipating more, but allowing their creative minds to expand and new songs to develop organically. Stevenson elaborates, "We're strong proponents that while inspiration can flow in the moment, a song needs to be 'born' so to speak. They're two different disciplines in our mind that require equal respect." In doing so, Stevenson and Walker pushed this album further, and were able to develop their craft with very little precipitancy and all the more conviction.
To this end, A Silent Film feels more heartfelt and emotional, yet explodes with a high level of energy not seen in the previous two releases. Developing this dichotomy required a high level of creativity and inspiration which the band has honed over the years and brought them to where they are today as songwriters. Stevenson elaborates, “When you're nurturing the core of a song it's good to be able to blindfold one sense to let others breathe, in this case closing your eyes, hearing, and even feeling your way around a new song.” Stevenson prefers to take ideas to their extreme in an effort to overemphasize an emotion or dynamic to elicit a certain response. “You might feel it yourself, but what really counts is does another person feel what you're feeling? That is the most important part of making music for us - it is about human interactions, about bringing people together and shared expression.”
This shared expression through raw emotion, positivity, and passion can be felt throughout A Silent Film. The appeal of the album doesn’t stop here. There is an earnest and propulsive depth to the songs that are fostered by incredibly layered and arena like melodies and choruses that can be found in “Something to Believe In,” “Paralyzed,” and “Lightening Strike.” Songs that, despite weaving perfectly into the tapestry of the album as a whole, absolutely stand out as powerful anthems. We asked Stevenson for the inspiration. “Probably just ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ and the legacy of Freddie Mercury.” Queen, and specifically Freddie Mercury, have been a big inspiration for A Silent Film. Stevenson elaborates on this, “I saw a man that felt his emotions truly and shared them generously, fearless and adored. It is an almost impossible balance to aspire to, but one worth believing in.”
Playing these new songs was the focus of the recent twenty-seven date U.S. tour and was “by far our favorite tour we’ve ever done”, says Stevenson. The album came out on the first day of the tour and the band enjoyed the rare opportunity of seeing their live audiences grow and become more in love with the new songs every night. Stevenson recalls “…the last few shows I swear they felt like we'd been playing them for years.” Vinylmnky saw firsthand how these songs translated into a vibrant and electrifying performance at Stubbs in Austin at the close of the tour. The venue was filled to capacity with fans singing every verse.
Aside from the music, how does a small independent band like A Silent Film elicit such a passionate response from its fans? Stevenson and Walker rely heavily on social media and leverage it very effectively. “It is how we find our audience and share our music. It's the only way we can do what we do.” Stevenson explains that in terms of traditional record labels, A Silent Film is a risky gamble and would likely be dropped and consigned to the 'where are they now?' list. “Instead we are able to find like-minded fans and build a career with like-minded people that see alternatives to an outdated machine that often ends up enslaving the majority of its artists to a debt they never wanted and cannot repay.”
We at Vinylmnky are excited to watch the growth of A Silent Film in 2016 as well as eagerly anticipating the release of A Silent Film on vinyl. Stevenson and Walker are making plans for the release as they know that listening to vinyl is the most immersive, social, and artistic medium for experiencing music. We could not agree more.