Kieran Lewis interviews new band SILVA
It’s a bustling Friday evening in Camden as I jostle my way through The Monarch’s crowded bar. Although half the population of Camden Town on any given Friday night look as if they’re poised to join a new indie band, my interviewees tonight are one step ahead of them. SILVA – never to be written in lowercase – are a newly-formed four-piece crafting a distinctive brand of alternative dream-pop. Fusing guitar melodies that wouldn’t sound out of place on an album by The xx with bold drum fills, intricate basslines and a splashing of synth, they seem, promisingly, quite indifferent to generic conventions.
Tonight marks only their third gig but when I manage to find the four band members in the venue’s smoke-filled garden, they present themselves with the conviction of a far more established outfit. “What’s interesting about us,” explains lead vocalist Sylvia Hong, “is that each one of us has a very specific style and specific influences that we’re completely attached to, and we all come in with different genres.” An Oxford graduate and classically-trained pianist, Sylvia is clear about the band’s collective vision and their egalitarian approach, which involves drawing on everyone’s musical influences: “We make it work,” she assures me from across the table.
“Different styles definitely feed into it,” agrees drummer Shakira Malkani, whose influences range from Afro-funk and Latin American rhythms to funk rock. She cites the famously fast-paced Chad Smith of the Red Hot Chili Peppers as one of her drumming heroes and, despite the concerns of the venue’s sound engineer, she’s adamant that she’ll be using enough snare tonight to make him proud. Guitarist Esther Wade credits John Frusciante – also of Chili Peppers fame – for inspiring her early playing, while SILVA’s bassist and backing vocalist Kerstin Resander professes her love for Kim Deal of Pixies.
How, then, does this eclectic mix of influences find its way into SILVA’s final product? “We all write our own parts,” explains Sylvia, doing her bit to fight the stereotype of the dictatorial lead singer. “Normally, we’ll start off with a melody, and then a bassline,” Esther agrees. “And sometimes we’ll bring in parts that we’ve already made at home,” adds Kerstin: “Someone will bring something into the rehearsal studio and we’ll just jam on that.”
With this lack of rigid structure in the writing and recording process comes an exciting flexibility that all four band members acknowledge and credit for their distinctive sound. “The tracks have transformed quite a lot,” admits Shakira. Esther also notes that they have “tonnes of songs” being perfected and, even with only three live shows under their belt, the others affirm that performing in front of crowds has already revitalised their writing ability. “It’s really interesting,” Kerstin states, “Now that we’ve started to gig, we can rehearse our parts for a setlist and then be able to work, after that, on new songs.”
Perhaps one of the most telling moments of the interview comes when I invoke the ghost of Britpop with the infamous (though slightly dated) musical litmus test: “Oasis or Blur?”. While Esther opts for the latter and Shakira and Kerstin seem torn, Sylvia is quick to respond with “Who really gives a shit, to be honest?” This highlights a certain nonchalance and a lack of interest in tradition that is echoed by SILVA’s writing process and myriad of musical muses.
Later, having escaped the smoking section and any further questioning about 90s bands, Sylvia, Shakira, Esther and Kerstin give the crowd at the Monarch a comprehensive introduction to SILVA’s refreshing style. Songs like The End and Red Fish are at once haunting and catchy, while the likes of Stone Cold and Feel Better give the Camden crowd something to dance to without compromising the cohesiveness of the set. Sylvia may use one of the sparse pauses between songs to ironically thank the crowd for coming out on a Friday, but this is, without a doubt, a band worth checking out any day of the week.
SILVA play The Hope & Anchor N1 1RL on 17 November.
YouTube: SILVA Band
Featured image credit: Kieran Lewis