A while ago my buddy El Dorko posted his thoughts on the current state of music – Manifesto: Saving Music for a (Possible) Future (read it HERE ). El Dorko believes (as I do) that there is an abundance of amazing music being made today, yet even though it’s easier for us to hear, it’s harder and harder for musicians to make a living. One of the reasons we started this site in the first place was that we wanted to share music that we connect with and maybe help a few bands along the way. Sure the Internet helps us hear bands from all over the world, but as fans do we support them “in ways which allow them to grow and concentrate their efforts on their craft”?
El Dorko states: “Real music, music with genuine passion, something to explore and say, rarely reaches a mainstream audience anymore and when it does, it’s probably not current and won’t be paid for.”
His words came back to me as I listened to the magnificent debut album – The Last American Band from Providence, Rhode Island band The Silks. As I was listening, I kept thinking – “man, I wish my Dad was still around – he would love this!” That’s not to say The Silks play music for old folks – they just play rock and roll with such virtuosity and passion – it’s like a home cooked meal. I grew up with my Dad’s record collection – he was a huge Creedence fan, loved The Band, Buddy Guy, Bob Seger, Grand Funk Railroad, and Bad Company. I can hear the spirit of those records throughout the 11 songs on The Last American Band.
Vocalist/guitarist Tyler-James Kelly channels some Mississippi John Hurt through his fingers, and Paul Rodgers with his voice and The Silks make outstanding American rock music. The fact that Paul Westerberg, (yes that Paul Westerberg), produced the record, adds an aura to the music, but it shouldn’t and doesn’t over shadow what The Silks are up to. But like El Dorko I realize there isn’t the same path for bands like The Silks to follow anymore – rock radio is too busy with Nickelback and Imagine Dragons to hear music like this. I have to think that if The Last American Band came out in the 70s, The Silks would easily have been a household name.
Go purchase this record now. If The Silks come anywhere near your town go see them. We need a another album from this band.
The Silks are:
Tyler-James Kelly – Guitar, Harmonica, & Vocal
Jonas Parmelee – Bass
Matthew Donnelly – Drums
Bassist Jonas Parmelee was kind enough to answer a few questions.
50third: How did three guys from Rhode Island get together and end up sounding like the second coming of Rory Gallagher and Bad Company?
JP: I think the common thread between the three of us is that we were all heavily influenced by the music our older family members were into. Our collective love of 60s and 70s rock, soul, funk etc., combined with Tyler-James’ blues, country and bluegrass influence just informs much of where we are coming from musically. Speaking for myself here, much of the music from my own generation always came off as whiney and kind of weak. I’ve always been drawn to playing music that has the feel of the guitar-based music from my earliest memories.
50third: For such a small state, Rhode Island has a rich musical history with The Cowsills, and of course the Newport Festivals (Folk, Jazz, Music). But the modern scene is also worthy – Throwing Muses, Sublime and more recently Deer Tick, and The Low Anthem (to name a few). What is the scene like in Rhode Island these days and how do The Silks fit in?
JP: Believe it or not, this is a really difficult question to answer. We’re very much aware of the rich tradition of RI music. There have been so many great bands to come out of this state and we would be honored to eventually be considered among them. As for how we fit in? Honestly, we feel like we don’t. We are the bastard sons of our city. We feel like outsiders. We don’t really think about things like this too much. Who knows, though? Sometimes you’re too close to something to really be able to see clearly.
50third: Paul Westerberg produced your debut album – Last American Bad – how did that relationship come about?
JP: Our relationship with Paul stems from us having the same management. We were working on some recordings and our manager played them for Paul. Apparently, he liked them enough to write a song for us. Well, we recorded his song and he hated what we did with it. Our punishment for that was being shipped off the frozen tundra on Minneapolis to go record our first record with him. Terrible, right? The funny thing is, we just ended up recording our own songs for the record. No one spoke of the song he tried to give us throughout the session.
50third: Were you fans of The Replacements?
JP: We all respected the hell out of The Replacements as a hugely influential and important band but none of us were big fans. I think that was a big advantage for all of us, including Paul. I suspect he wouldn’t have been so open and invested in the project if there had been any star-struck BS coming from our end.
50third: Your sound has a 70s aura to it; do the three of you share influences as musicians?
JP: We obviously all love 70s music but that’s just a small part of it. There’s also a lot of love for 20s through 60s music in there too. Maybe we have that sound because we’re inspired by many of the same things that were informing those records. We all love a lot of the same music, but we all also have our own unique influences too. We all have stuff that we love that the other two guys don’t. That’s actually a good thing though. Everyone teaches and everyone learns new things that way.
50third: Where do you draw your inspiration from lyrically?
JP: Personal experience is where the lyrics come from. Good times, bad times, personal demons. Life, as it’s being lived. If there’s a story being told, you can bet your ass that it’s true.
50third: If you were to write a manifesto on the state of music called the Last American Band – what would the main message be?
JP: Quit yer bitchin’ and get your whiney, feel-sorry-for-yourself BS out of my rock ‘n roll. Take your affected faux 14-year-old boy voice with you.
50third: Gene Simmons of KISS recently stated in Esquire magazine that “Rock is finally dead”. He goes on to say that from 1984 on, only Nirvana could be considered “iconic” or “timeless”. What are your thoughts on this?
JP: Gene Simmons believes this because all the “rock” that’s reached that far up the magic beanstalk and to his ears is a pile of bullshit. Rock isn’t dead. The music industry’s support of rock is what is dead. It’s a big shit sundae and only the purest of the shit rises all the way to the top. Gene Simmons apparently is just too lazy to reach right in and find all the good stuff that says stuck to the bottom.
50third: Having said that – what is playing on the tour bus (or van)?
JP: Nothing. Seriously, absolutely nothing and it makes me crazy because blasting music while driving may be my favorite thing in the world. We only have a radio in our van. No tape, CD or iPod capability unfortunately. The sad and pathetic answer to this question is that awful Beach Boys and Chicago collaboration. 🙁
50third: What’s next for The Silks in 2014/15?
JP: Hopefully more touring is in the cards for the coming year. It would be great to record and release the new material that’s been written since recording Last American Band. We shall see…