Silvertwin on the “Times Of Our Lives” | Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Sunday, June 23rd, 2024  

Silvertwin on the “Times Of Our Lives”

The London five-piece discuss the importance of DIY, the pitfalls of London,and why labels like "industry plant" are bullshit

Aug 30, 2023 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

London based five-piece Silvertwin make classic pop that’s drawn comparisons with a host of artists from The Beatles, ELO and Supertramp through to Elvis Costello, The Cure and The Feeling. Having released their self-titled debut album in the summer of 2021, the quintet – Isaac Shalam, Alicia Barisani, Chester Caine, Lauric MacIntosh and Antonio Naccache – spent the ensuing couple of years writing and recording new music, culminating in arguably their finest composition yet, “Times Of Our Lives”, which came out as a single in June of this year.

Having also returned to the live circuit with a sold out show at London’s Omeara venue, the second half of 2023 is shaping up to be a productive time for Silvertwin. So Under the Radar caught up with founder member and main songwriter Shalam alongside multi-instrumentalist Barisani to discuss the past, present and future for one of the capital’s most hotly-tipped acts.

Dom Gourlay (Under the Radar): When did the project start? Was Silvertwin always intended to be a band or did it initially begin as a solo project?

Isaac Shalam: It all kind of happened a bit back to front. When starting out, in my mind I wasn’t really thinking of it as being either a band or a solo project. I just started writing songs, and then wanted to see what happened from there. I’ve always been a huge fan of songwriting and songwriters. The approach was to write the songs first and then whatever happens. In my mind, the band’s made up of two parts. I write and arrange everything then tend to record a lot of it on my own. But then I bring it to the band and they help flesh it out and make it kind of doable live. They’re such good musicians as well. They help improve the parts and make them more gig friendly. Otherwise, we’d probably be recording around one hundred guitar parts, and obviously for a five piece there’s only so much you can do. The band probably started in late 2017, early 2018.

Alicia Barisani: You got some of the first album songs done in 2018.

Isaac Shalam: Yeah.

Alicia Barisani: We started playing live as Silvertwin towards the end of 2019, then the first single came out just before Covid. Which was a strange time for us.

I guess that that must have caused problems if you were just starting to gig at that point, but at the same time, did it give you the opportunity to take a step back and write more songs? Did it aid that part of the process?

Isaac Shalam: It did, but we almost reluctantly had to accept that. We released a single in January of 2020, and then obviously lockdown happened in March. Initially we all thought it would be a couple of weeks of madness and then we’d be back to normal in no time. But then after a couple of months went by we started to wonder if it was ever going back to normal? I think that’s when it kind of set in that maybe this was a good time for reflection. Not just how do we want to do this, but also why do we want to do this? I think everyone had that moment where their lives just zoomed out a bit so I was in my front room for an entire year writing.

Alicia Barisani: It gave you a lot more time

Isaac Shalam: It definitely changed my approach to writing. I’ve heard so many lockdown singles in the last year, which gave me a perspective of where everyone was at. So, I think there was definitely a positive in that sense. Here’s some new inspiration to write about what you know. It was certainly the first time I’d written about something that’s affecting me in a certain way. So, I guess it was potentially a good thing. I know we both just really missed being able to gig and enjoy music as a communal thing. I really missed that, but it also makes me cherish it so much more now that we’re able to do that again.

Do you see yourselves more as a live band or do you prefer working in the studio? Do you get the same level of enjoyment from both?

Alicia Barisani: I guess for you, being in the studio is more like a comfort zone.

Isaac Shalam: They’re such different beasts with different levels of satisfaction. I love recording and writing. That’s always been my biggest love. But then I also love gigging. I think the writing stuff comes more naturally to me. Whereas the gig stuff I have to approach differently. It feels like a different set of challenges.

Alicia Barisani: But I think the rest of the band are very much a live band. They play live a lot. They were all involved in multiple different projects before Silvertwin. For me, this was always my first project on guitar, and I haven’t really accepted any other projects on guitar. So, this is my main band. But everyone else has their own stuff going on. They do a lot of live shows, so they’re really good.

I was going to ask whether you’d all either played together before or played in other bands. Mainly because the music you’re making sounds very accomplished. It has a very timeless pop feel about it. I can hear elements that remind me of Billy Joel, ELO or Supertramp for example, and it’s interesting because there’s one or two artists emerging at the minute that are very similar. You’ve recently started playing live again last month, but most of your shows to date have been in London. Will there be a UK tour? Are you planning on branching out and playing more shows outside of London in the future?

Isaac Shalam: A UK tour stuff has been something we have wanted and want to do massively. It’s just so bloody expensive. So, the second that it becomes affordable, we’ll do it. We’ve been trying to tackle this for the last year or so. But how do we do it? Not even in a way where maybe we can break even. We know we’re probably going to lose money. It’s so expensive to hire a van even. But the second we can afford to go on tour, we will. Gigging in London is obviously great. We love doing it. We’re just trying to cut our teeth as much as possible which is massively important. But we are dying to go all over as soon as we can. I’m hoping that we might be able to this year, but it’s still a work in progress on where do we go and how can we make this happen?

Being a London band has obviously got a lot of advantages in that you’re sort close to where the music industry is based and there’s lots of venues. But at the same time, do you feel that you’re almost in a goldfish bowl with so many other bands? I imagine London being very competitive right now, especially if you’re a new band trying to establish yourselves?

Alicia Barisani: Personally, I think the difficulty with London is to find a home as a band. Especially if you’re not in the post punk band community. Places like the Windmill in Brixton and similar venues where all of these new bands pop up have really exciting scenes. But when you’re not in that bracket it can be quite difficult to find your home in London.

Isaac Shalam: There’s a few well-established ecosystems, but none of which that we’ve ever really related to or seen ourselves as part of something. So, in that sense it can be a bit tricky. We’ve done so many shows where we’re on the bill with quite heavy punky acts, and that’s obviously cool. It’s not like we don’t enjoy that. It’s just that we definitely stick out, which I guess works in our favour sometimes too. But it’s also hard because you want to find like-minded bands and help each other out and throw gigs to each other. So, we definitely have to work a bit harder to try and find that.

Alicia Barisani: We’ve found a few nights.

Isaac Shalam: We’re starting to find a few promoters and bands in the cracks that are doing something we can rub shoulders with. But it has been a bit of a challenge. Obviously being in London, you feel like there’s definitely a sense of something happening all the time. But I do wonder how it might compare if we were in Liverpool or Manchester or somewhere else has their own respective musical scenes happening.

That’s one of the things that separates your sound though, in that it has a massive crossover appeal between genres. For me, a band that’s got potential longevity is someone you can’t really pigeonhole. You can’t say they sound like this, or they’re trying to be like that. I think Silvertwin are one of those bands. There’s so many different things going on and the actual songs speak for themselves, so, I think that’s possibly an advantage.

Isaac Shalam: That’s definitely nice to hear. I think generally, we do feel optimistic. It’s more just that we’re at a stage where having friends at the same level can really help. It just gives us a boost knowing if you have a show where you can get your mates to open for you or vice versa. It definitely helps give you a sense of we’ll be pulling in a crowd that really likes what’s going on here. And also, just because it’s nice to feel like you’re part of something a bit bigger. That’s not to say that they don’t exist, it’s just you’ve really got to put the work in trying to find them.

Your debut album came out a couple of years ago which received very positive reviews off and was undoubtedly where many listeners discovered Silvertwin’s music. Since then, you’ve released three singles. The most recent being “Times Of Our Lives” which came out in June. Are these three singles a precursor to a new album?

Isaac Shalam: We’re at an interesting point because once the first record was out, I was sat on so many tunes throughout lockdown. Naturally, I’d been writing very different stuff to what was on the first album and quite a lot of time had passed so I was in a situation where I could either do another album, but all the tracks might be a bit mismatched. Or release a few stand-alone singles, which is what we’ve done. We really like these songs but don’t quite see how they necessarily fit together. I’ve got the next album pretty much written. I just need to record it. I’d love to get the next album out this year if possible. I don’t know how similar it’ll be to the previous one or whether it will be like the most recent singles. They were just meant be stand-alone releases.

Were the first two stand-alone singles “Worlds Apart” and “Break The Fall” written around the same time as the first album or did they come after?

Isaac Shalam: I think generally, everything released since the album has pretty much been written after I wrote the first album because those songs were written yonks ago! It’s just the nature of how the industry moves and also, trying to get some money to record. Months and months if not years can go by between a song being written and then finally released. I’d love to be in a position where I can record a song this month then release it next month. We kind of did that last year. I set ourselves the challenge where we were going to release one song a month until we ran out. It was just me at home knowing I needed to get it done because I had to get it out in two weeks or whatever. But I’m currently sat on the next dozen or so album songs, which I’d love to get recorded and hopefully released this year.

Everything you’ve done so far has been self-released. Do you think it’s important now for artist or a band to be signed? Does being signed to a label makes that much of a difference anymore?

Isaac Shalam: It’s kind of like the golden question, isn’t it?

Alicia Barisani: Yeah, because I feel like in a lot of ways you don’t need a label anymore, but a label definitely helps with funding a lot of things such as recording for example.

Isaac Shalam: Promotion and contacts as well. It’s weird isn’t it, because in many ways it’s the best time ever to be an artist. You can release stuff so easily. Just upload it and it’s out. But then of course, everyone’s got that. I can’t remember what the stats are about how many songs are uploaded every day, but it was a crazy number. I remember seeing that a few weeks ago. I didn’t realise just how many songs were in existence. It’s pretty mind boggling. Part of me does want a label to be involved. Even if it’s just the romantic in me thinking we’ll get signed to a label and takeover the world! I guess it would help to have a label on board and have a bigger team that believes in us and gets what we’re about. But then there is also definitely a part of me that enjoys being in control and able to do what we want.

Alicia Barisani: When you’re not with a label and I obviously don’t know what it’s like to be with a label, it can get quite tiring. Especially the creative content side of things. So up until now, what we’ve been doing is getting favours off all of our friends who are creatives that can film our music videos or be in them. So, all of that creates quite a lot of pressure when you’re trying to put out a song.

Isaac Shalam: We owe a lot of people a lot of favours!

Alicia Barisani: So, I guess from that side it may be easier because the label would help facilitate these things, and would take out a lot of the pressure when it comes to releasing something where everything needs to look perfect and really professional. But again, it’s also got a nice feel to it when you do it all yourself, put it all together and everything just works.

Isaac Shalam: It’s also hard to gauge how an audience will react to what’s considered a real DIY indie act compared to industry signed label bands as well. I feel like we’re in a really weird period where people want authenticity at its absolute purest level. In any sense that you might have had any help often turns people off. So, we’re in a very weird time, particularly for bands that labels are picking up. It’s a never-ending question really. What does it mean to have a label, and do you really need one? And if you do, why? And if you don’t, why? It’s certainly something we talk about. If someone does decide to come along and get involved, how does that sit with us and why? Why is that a good thing or potentially not a good thing? It really is tough to gauge.

I’ve seen bands wrongly accused of being industry plants and all that sort of stuff on social media. Two that immediately spring to mind are Wet Leg and The Last Dinner Party and both are incredible live and on record. What’s also good about those artists gaining recognition is they’re kind opening doors for other new artists at the same time. The Last Dinner Party in particular have a very unique sound of their own, but are also steeped in classic pop reference points similar to Silvertwin.

Isaac Shalam: For sure. I also think for all the industry plant stuff that’s being thrown around at the moment, it shouldn’t matter because the songs will always be king. If the band isn’t good and if the songs aren’t good, people won’t care. If people didn’t like the tunes they wouldn’t go to the shows or buy the music. They wouldn’t listen to it. So, the industry plant thing is just bullshit to be honest. If the music’s good and if enough people like it then it doesn’t really matter how you got there. Its just people being bitter. It’s

Alicia Barisani: Also, if someone comes along that wants to really help you out, then as a band you wouldn’t say no. Why would you?

Isaac Shalam: The Beatles’ manager was the biggest record shop owner in Liverpool. Does that make The Beatles industry plants or is the music really good and you someone spotted it early on and knew how to build it? You can get so caught up in whether bands deserve success or not, but at the end of the day if the tunes are good that should be it.

What would you say has been the highlight of your musical careers so far?

Alicia Barisani: We recently got booked for All Points East, which for us is just the craziest thing ever! I’m super excited about it, and up until now that has probably been the most exciting thing to happen for us except obviously making the first album and how it came along. There was also a lot of luck involved as well – you (Isaac) can tell the story if you want? It’s just very, very exciting that we got the chance to record an album.

Isaac Shalam: The highlight for me is when you are rewarded. There’s so much hard work and a lot of prodding around in the dark trying to be in a band at the moment. Just kind of throwing paint and seeing what sticks. So, any time that you are offered a gig or pick up a new fan who really likes it or even just selling a t-shirt for me is rewarding. I think those are all highlights for me where you have a tangible reward for all the work that goes into everything. Making the first record the way we did it was huge, so exciting, and I was so chuffed that we were given that kind of opportunity. But anything, like playing Omeara in June, can be fun. That was huge, playing such a cool room and knowing we were able to do it ourselves. Just anything like that where you get to enjoy the reward for the work you put in is a highlight for me. So, I’m hoping All Points East will be a milestone for us as well. It’s at Victoria Park too, which is such a cool spot and the line-up that day is sick. I’m going to just try and see everyone on the bill I possibly can!

Alicia Barisani: Also, I think generally when we book a show and it’s a big show for us that a lot of stress comes with it to sell tickets and how we’re going to promote it or whether we need to film a little promo video. There’s all of these things to think about and when we tie all of these together and it works, that’s really exciting. So, a lot of months of stress suddenly become worth it because you get the reward at the end.

What advice would you give to a new band or new artist that’s just starting out? What would you tell them to do? What would you tell them to avoid?

Isaac Shalam: Don’t take advice from other bands! I don’t know. We’ve been asked this before and I never know what to say. Just do whatever it takes to make it as fun as possible.

Alicia Barisani: You can take the fun out of it a lot of the time.

Isaac Shalam: I think if you get caught up worrying about the wrong things, you kind of forget why you’re doing it in the first place. It’s something we speak about a lot. There’s so much pressure to do other things as well as making the music. For example, are you making enough Tik Tok videos? Are you doing enough of this or that? So, I think you just have to do what you want to do, try and do the best you can and do the stuff that you enjoy most. I guess you just have to hope that there’s enough people around that will find you and like what you are doing.

Alicia Barisani: Go to as many gigs as possible. In London it’s quite easy, because we just find ourselves on the Dice app going to free gigs in London and it’s always nice to see what other people are doing. Checking out other bands and making mental notes about what they’re doing. How they communicate with that crowd and also with each other. I feel that’s quite useful as a band. Just to be around other bands. Meeting other bands is always a really good thing, and also just reaching out to people.

Isaac Shalam: I think I used to approach things in a way where I’d be trying to just get this one big music industry person to take notice of us. But actually, it’s far more rewarding and much more fun to get in touch with acts at a similar stage of their careers to us. To just try and make friends and support other bands. That’s helped us massively, just make some friends. It also gives you a little network of like-minded people who are all in this together.

Alicia Barisani: A lot of our support came from messaging different people on Instagram. It really works like that nowadays. We were offered a support slot for The Lazy Eyes who are this incredible Australian band. They got in touch with us over Instagram and we were friendly over messages. Then when they actually came over to the UK and we supported them it was really fun so we’re going to see them again at All Points East because they’re playing too. So yeah, it’s just nice to reach out to people and have this little community of bands and musicians around the world. I think that’s quite a special thing, and I guess that’s how a lot of scenes are created.

Are there any other new artists or bands that you’d recommend Under the Radar and its readers should be checking out?

Alicia Barisani: Our friends Preen.

Isaac Shalam: They’re great. The writing’s nice. The shows are always great. They’re just one of those bands that, you know, just being in a band ourselves, we look at them and know they’ve got their stuff figured out and do what they do really well. I’m probably their biggest fan. I’m always at all their gigs and they’re just nice people as well.

Alicia Barisani: We’ve played together as well. We’ve got a nice thing going with them and we love their music.

Isaac Shalam: They’ve got great tunes.

Alicia Barisani: I love The Last Dinner Party as well. I love the Last Dinner Party. I haven’t managed to see them live yet, but I got a reminder to get some tickets for their tour. I’ve seen footage of them live and they just seem incredible.

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