Recently, I had the tremendous opportunity to speak with not only one member of a band I’ve always admired, but the chance to speak with two members. That band is Silvertide and I was able to speak with guitarist Nick Perri and vocalist Walt Lafty. I asked them both a few similar questions to help us all fill in the blanks, but I think you’ll quite enjoy both interviews. Up next is Walt Lafty!
Silvertide is band that burst upon the rock world like few have in the last 15 years. Their sound was always classic. The hooks were massive and their talent was undeniable. They relentlessly toured the world over for nearly four years and built a fanbase that many bands would commit murder for. After being let go from their record contract, the band decided it was time for a hiatus. They’d seen enough of each other and they needed time to catch up on life. Hell, who could blame them? They were still just kids. Fast forward a few years and all the wounds have healed. They’ve explored other projects. They’ve gained life experiences are ready to once again deliver the goods. We here at Unsung Melody are strong believers that music is stale and that we are surely on the verge of a musical revolution. Perhaps we just reunited our leaders.
Listen to the entire Walt Lafty interview below:
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Today, I’m welcoming Walt Lafty to the Unsung Melody family. Thanks for taking the time to speak with me today.
Thanks for having me Jonathan.
Anytime. First let me say thank God that Silvertide is back.
I’ll go ahead and the question that so many fans want to know. What took you so damn long?
Well, I don’t know if Nick touched on it, but we had signed a record deal pretty young and three of the guys were sophomores in high school. As a band when we signed our record deal. We had a big bidding war that went on with a good portion of us being in high school. We kind of skipped over a lot of normal life stuff. Lots of people probably never went to their junior and senior prom, not that, that stuff is really important in the grand scheme of things, but we kind of went into like fifth gear in a Lamborghini right away, from the get go. Then we were in LA, we were making our record. We were there for a year long. We came back, played a couple of spot dates while stuff was being mixed. Started doing press and then it was off to the races. We just went on tour. People say, “Oh you went on tour. Everybody goes on tour.” Yeah, but most bands when they go on tour, they go for one cycle of an album. Unless you’re like the Rolling Stones, where it’s worth it for you to to stay out for three years straight. Where you can financially sustain yourself. We went out in a 15 passenger van. They call it 15 passenger, but anyone who has toured in them know that they don’t really fit 15 people. We were sleeping in it. There is definitely some pictures and stuff we’ve found over the years where we had no hotel room for six days straight. I would be laying underneath of three benches, just to try and catch a nap. Then pound coffee and drive 36 hours from Pennsylvania to South Dakota. So, we did all of that fun stuff and we had a great time doing it, but the downside to it, is we came off the road to do our second record, we had only collectively had about four weeks off in three or four years. To spend time with our family and our friends growing up that weren’t in the band. When all of that stuff happened, personality differences started to come out. Just like being in a marriage, only with five guys. It ends up being this big, big thing. Then we got moved up into a tour bus eventually and we kept going. Everyone seemed like, oh now we have a little bit of space, but all that really did was give people a hole to retreat into. Then that eventually led to different camps in the band. Fistfights. Rehab. Jail time. You name it. All the while rock music wasn’t selling. We were like the weirdo band that just kept going. We were charting high. We were still selling some weekly. So the label put up with it for a while. I guess after a while, that the record label finally figured out that, “Oh, we actually signed a real rock band. These guys are literally getting in fistfights. The singer is showing up wasted on stage. What are we going to do with this?” I think that they finally figured out that it was a real rock band and they didn’t really like the musical direction we were going in either, they parted ways. That kind of caused a final rift in the band, where a bunch of us were like, “We need to get away from each other. We can’t write songs together, let alone sit down in a room together.” We kind of, we didn’t really quit, we just kind of didn’t say anything. It was like a relationship that just kind of falls apart. Then you move out. It just kind of happened. Fast forward a couple of years, my best friend coming into the band was the guitar player Mark. We had kind of stopped hanging out completely. We just weren’t even speaking to one another. It was a shame because we were best friends in high school and that just stopped. Even our significant others best friends. That whole community that we had just fell apart. A lot of friends on either side of that situation, outside of the band, they kind of chose sides and stuff and it just became this massive thing that no one talked about. It was swept under the carpet and that was it. Then, Mark bought a house and we started casually talking again. Just through a mutual friend. I was still speaking with Nick. Nick will tell you that I love Nick to death and I hate Nick to death all at the same time. We differ so much musically, but we also agree so much musically, but personally it’s a whole different ballgame. He’s almost like a brother that you would get in a fistfight with and just move on and then you trudge forward for the sake of trudging forward. With Mark it was a little different. Mark and I just started talking again and we always had a lot in common on many different levels. Personally we would just sit and talk for hours. We both kind of missed that, so we fast forward a couple of years and he had bought this house. I was living in an apartment in the North end of Philadelphia and he called me up one day and he says, “Are you going to be in that apartment forever?” I said, “No, but I don’t really think that I have enough money to get a house just yet.” He said, “Well there’s a guy that just got kicked out of his house across the street from me.” It was a foreclosure. It needed some work, but we’re both not afraid of that. So, I took a ride down and I looked at it and I ended up moving in. I ended up buying it. So I basically lived across the street from one of my best friends and musical partners. Everything just kind of fell into place after that. People started talking more. I guess that Mark and I kind of created a hub and if you knew our band, it was always kind of divided in two camps. When it came to songwriting and rehearsals. Just everything. Everything that we planned was in two camps and it was usually Mark and I, versus Nick, Brian and Kevin. Over the years, because I had stopped talking to Mark, I formed a newer, a better friendship with Brian our bass player, and Nick and Kevin. The way that things worked out, that alliance kind of broke up when Mark started talking to Kevin more. So if you were to equate to politics, party lines had been completely blurred. Which in the end became a much better situation to work in together, as a whole. Now people that had held allegiance to one camp, no matter what that one camp did, it just stopped. Everybody was like, “Ah, you remember when we were just in a band and we just played music?” I mean those personality differences are still there, but we had a show in Philly that was a bit of a test pilot for this whole thing. We just threw it together really quickly and it sold-out. It was our hometown and we were pretty happy about that. Even the rehearsals, the first one everyone were excited. The second one, people were pissed off at guys for not remembering one song. (laughing) This or that. Or somebody fucks up a chord and somebody looks at them and says, “What the hell? Didn’t you listen to the album?” That kind of stuff. There were a couple songs that we all forgot. (laughter) We forgot how to play, but that stuff was expected. That was stuff you expected. You expect to be in fistfights and then take each other out for drinks and say, “I’m sorry. I was a drunken asshole last night. I didn’t mean to punch you in the face. Can we be friends again?” They say, “Yeah sure.” We’re a little bit smarter than that now, but the personality differences are still there. Which is important because it always contributed to the sound. I write a lot of what we call the meat and potatoes. Melody, lyrics and some basic chords and then the band, God Bless them, they’ll take those ideas and they’ll really, really flush them out without me even being there. I’ll walk back in and they’ll go, “Those three songs that you wrote sucked and we can’t stand them. So, we’re not playing them.” When they’re done, I’ll just kind of start laughing. Where as 10 years ago I would’ve been like, “You guys are assholes.” Now different guys have came into their own and developed their own styles, which is nice. Because all of the pressure isn’t on one guy or two guys. It became more of a fluid environment, where the personality differences actually contribute now. Rather than contribute like a damp towel on a fire.
Nick touched upon how you’re going in the studio and things. So, I thought I’d ask you, from a vocalist and a lyricist standpoint, since the first album, how do you feel you have grown or evolved since that album and how is it relating to this music? Is it just like being a kid again and here we go or are you taking things to the next level?
I think for me it’a about dumbing it down actually. I went the opposite route, because if you remember Show and Tell, I walked into that band, more or less, trying to write songs to see where I hide. Obviously, being a lyricist, I really take pride in it. I love very strange metaphors. I’m actually a pretty avid reader. I would take these little stories, take these little thoughts and make them my own. I would take personal experiences and either dumb them down or extrapolate upon them. I figured out over the years that, it’s a lot easier if people understand what the hell you’re talking about in your songs. (laughter) It doesn’t have to be this vague, esoteric hidden meaning with this deep seeded feeling that I have within me. I just love telling stories and that can be about a girl that you meet at a bar and you take her home for a one night stand. It can be about simply getting drunk at a bar. It could be about a loved one passing away or just a fun time in general. I wrote an acoustic record in between this band and it really helped me with my song writing. I was fresh off of a label. I had no band and I wanted to do something that was the total opposite. So I put out this album called Demos and I recorded the whole thing in a month with a 57 microphone and that’s it. No overdubs. No nothing. I just sat there with an acoustic guitar and myself, with a buddy of mine in his basement on a shitty recording deck. I would play it and he would go, “Ahhh, it wasn’t that good. Do it again.” I’d do each song about five times and I’d go, “That’s as good as it’s going to get. I’m not looking for perfection here.” It was kind of like my response to being on a major label. It didn’t sell that much, but I had a shitload of fun doing it. One of the songs in particular that I fell in love with, was a song called Failed Parachute. It’s where I really got to stretch my legs for the first time. The song was about a guy on a routine, picture a guy in the military and every day he jumps out of a plane as an exercise. But then the one day that he jumps out of the plane and his parachute doesn’t open and all the thoughts that go through his head before he plummets to the ground. It sounds so dark and depressing and impossible to write in all reality in three and a half minutes, but I successfully pulled it off. When I played it out live, so many people would come up to me and were so elated at how well I told the story, even if it was dark and depressing. So I walked away from that with a whole new appreciation for story telling and I thought to myself, “Wow. If I can write a story about that. If I can write about that and make it so easy to understand without hidden meanings or anything. Just a plain story. I create this creature or person in my head that’s doing this routine military exercise, this plot, what if I applied that to basic stuff in rock. When I say basic, I don’t mean to dumb it down or give any type of pessimistic view point, it’s just that after you write songs about drinking or banging some chick so many times, you start to go, “This is kind of boring.” I’ve written 12 songs like this in a year. What else is there to write about. There’s like so many times that you can write about love, or anything like that, relationship issues, there’s so many times you can write about it, but somehow it remains fresh over and over again. The thing that dawned on me was, that’s what people live. They live to go out on a Friday night and party. Look at how many songs in country music, when you hear them you go, that’s the dumbest song I’ve ever heard in my life. Lyrically, it’s like the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard in my life, yet I get it. I totally understand it now. It’s not that I’ve learned, I’ve learned to take away. To let things be and kind of write themselves and when they write themselves, it’s just so much better. I think musically that everyone in the band felt that way as well. Mark, our rhythm guitar player, he came from a folk background. When I first met him, in high school, he was in a Volkswagen hippie bus with a pop top camper with an oven it and he had rebuilt the entire thing himself. The transmission, the engine, the interior, everything. He redid it all himself in high school. He was actually going to go to college for electrical engineering at Drexel University right before we got signed. So he’s a very, very intelligent guy and a great friend, a great human being. So he came in with that folk background and a real understanding of music. Even today, when he’s not doing band stuff, he actually writes music for shows on the Discovery Channel. Orchestrations or fun little ditty’s, whatever they ask him for, that’s what he does. He walked into it like that and I think that whenever we played straight rock, he was always a little bored. Then you had Nick, who was like Mr. Rock and Roll to counter that. That weird balance of the two of them going back and forth always seemed to, at the time, it seemed to be a horrible, horrible situation where they would be fighting over a chord progression or a feel of something, or if I should scream or if I should sing it, if the guitars should be loud or it should be quiet. Whatever Mark said, Nick said the opposite and whatever Nick said, Mark said the opposite. I think that the day that I knew that the band was going to get back together was, when Mark looked at me on his porch one day and we’re talking about the band and stuff and the possibility of the band existing in real time and he says, “Man wasn’t it fun to play rock music?” My jaw almost hit the floor. I said, “Wow. Is that like it don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you got till it’s gone?” That great, great line. They saved paradise and put up a parking lot. He’s like, “Yeah, I guess I kind of just came to a point where I really appreciated what out band did back then and I think that I can actually bring new assets to the table, still coming from a folk background. I can still appreciate rock now. I understand it.” That was when I knew, it’s time. That’s when everybody started making phone calls and stuff and started really, really talking. To answer your question in a roundabout total strung out way, as only a singer can, did I learn anything? Am I bringing something new to the table? Yes. I’m bringing nothing to the table, but nothing is more important. Literally nothingness. Space for the sake of space. Less words for the sake of less words. I’m bringing that to the table and that’s probably the greatest lesson that I’ve learned over the past couple of years.
You guys are in another band together. Sinai is the name of that group and you just dropped a new song, which is gorgeous by the way. I Won’t Walk Away From You is that track. Lyrically, where does this song come from for you? Nick talked a bit about the progression of this song and how he’s had a couple of versions of it out there. From you, where does this song come from? What does it mean to you?
Just that sometimes it’s difficult to be in a relationship with someone. I’m personally a loyalist. With whatever I’m with, I’m true to it. So it could be a dog. It could be a human being. The wife, the kids, whatever it may be. Once I make an allegiance, it’s very difficult to break and I will bend over backwards for that person. Because that’s love to me. I know that sounds very lovey dovey and 60’s of a rock singer, but it’s the truth. It’s how I feel. So for me, it’s about resolve. It’s coming from that place of, I’m not going to quit because things get difficult. I’ve been through way worse. I mean by 25 I was chewed up and spit out by the major record label. It was like, I watched politics behind the scenes. I watched some of the largest record industry buildings go from 3,000 employees to 30 overnight. I watched illegal downloading take over the industry and then it became justified by way younger kids. They were taking music at 10 years old. Someone very close to me, I don’t want to say who they are. I don’t want to crucify them. Someone very close to me that I look up to heavily, when they told me they haven’t paid for music in like three years, I was like, “Oh, that’s the new model. That’s it.” I kind of saw the end of the music industry as a whole, as a superpower. When you’re told from the age of 17, by some of the record label execs and producers in the industry that you don’t have to worry about anything. You’re going to be fine. You guys are unbelievable. You’re so talented. You’re patted on the back a trillion times. You’re taken out to these really expensive dinners. We called it wining and dining. They would literally date you. Just trying to court you to sign to their record label. We did that really early on. When that whole thing fell apart, I was actually on vacation in Paris for about two or three weeks. No one wanted to tell me in the band. No one wanted to tell me that we got a letter from the label. I got back and our manager, Brad Rubens at the time, he called up and said, “I hate to tell you this over the phone, can you stop by?” I said, “Yeah. Sure.” I came in and he told me. He goes, “They don’t want to deal with you anymore.” I said, “Okay.” He asked, “So what next?” I said, “I’ve got to see how much money I have to pay for my bills. Because if we are not going to be able to tour, I’m not going to be pulling in a lot of money am I?” I had an apartment. I had a car. I had insurance, all the normal stuff. So life kicked in really quick. If I can live through that, people have lived through way worse. People have lost their homes. I don’t know if it’s on the new there, but in Philadelphia, this poor family in South Philly, their house exploded. They’re still investigating it and they literally have no home. I’ve dealt with insurance companies before and I know that they can be a real pain in the butt sometimes. They have to be, because they don’t want to release their money. So doing this investigation, meanwhile this entire family is probably going to be living out of a hotel, wondering if their expenses are going to be reimbursed and stuff. If they can live through that, I can live through some bad relationship stuff. The bad comes with the good. So, that song came from a place of totally being a loyalist and saying I’m going to stick through it. I’m going to get through this.
I know you’re a busy guy. I always end on a random question. I asked Nick who’s personality would be the best fit if they were cast into a Quentin Tarantino film and he said it would be you. He said maybe the character would be an eclectic individual that maybe could ride a horse, but he was a locksmith. He would go around picking peoples locks and stuff. What would the name of your character be or what would the name of the movie be in that situation?
The character I would name H.P. Cadwaddler.
(laughter) I like it.
He’d be the owner of Boxes and Boxes Emporium.
(laughter) I can see this. I’m building a mental picture. Walt I thank you so very much for your time and we’ll have a writer/photographer at the two Detroit shows, so we’ll keep in touch for that. We wish you guys nothing but the best.
Preview or purchase Show and Tell below:
Silvertide – Ain’t Coming Home: