Band On Band: Silverstein’s Shane Told and Senses Fail’s Buddy Nielsen interview each other

Buddy Nielsen and Shane Told
Buddy Nielsen: Andrew Wells / Shane Told: Wyatt Clough

It’s been more than a decade since Silverstein and Senses Fail each released their debut full-lengths, When Broken Is Easily Fixed and Let It Enfold You, respectively. In that time, hundreds of pretenders to the emotional hardcore throne have come and gone, victims of flat irons and tight jeans taking precedence over good songs. But these two bands have continued to not only survive but thrive, putting out some of their most vital albums of their career—both Silverstein’s I Am Alive In Everything I Touch and Senses Fail’s Pull The Thorns From Your Heart are two of 2015’s finest releases. To coincide with their recent co-headlining tour, we asked each band’s frontman to pick the other’s brain.

Interviewed by Shane Told of Silverstein

SHANE TOLD: How was the 10-year anniversary tour of Let It Enfold You?
BUDDY NIELSEN: It was great! I was pretty hesitant on the whole idea. Thinking about it, as it was approaching I wasn’t sure if it made sense to even do the tour because none of the same members are even in the band anymore. It almost feels at times that this is really a different band than the one that made Let It Enfold You and in many ways it is but it still songs that I had a part in writing, so it will always be attached to Senses Fail and myself.

With your recent coming out and talking so honestly and candidly about your past, how has that changed you?
I feel very liberated and like a much more open and whole individual. Carrying around a piece of your personality without ever being able to feel comfortable with it creates more a lot of weight and also very distorted interactions with people. Constantly walking into any relationship knowing that there is a whole piece of your being that you cannot express changes the way in which you can be truly honest with people. I think there were some people that didn’t understand, but part of the process is to educate people on what sexual fluidity is.

How cool is it for you that some members of your band were in bands that inspired you, like Strike Anywhere and Poison The Well?
It’s awesome! We’ve had a lot of people come in and out of the band, and they each leave their mark. I’ve learned so much about songwriting and music because I’ve been lucky enough to be make music with some many different viewpoints. If you had told me that this would be the case when we started, I wouldn’t have believed you.

Senses Fail has changed musically but also lyrically throughout the years. Do you think the nature of what you’re trying to say has affected the musical vibe or are they mutually exclusive?
The change in music started around the same time I decided to change the message. It was sort of an overall change of what the band was going to be. Once our main songwriter Garrett [Zablocki] left, it was an opportunity to really go in any direction we wanted. When you have one person writing songs, it is super-safe and easy, the process is streamlined and you stay very much inside the box because of their interests and limits. Without that fencing, we were free to really explore what else is out there, and it only made sense that the new version of Senses Fail carry with it a different lyrical approach. Without getting sober, meditation and coming out, none of this would have changed—I would still be singing songs about alcohol and depression.

What advice would you give to a band member that is struggling with being open with their sexuality?
Find other people who have walked the path and can help give a voice to your insecurities and fear. There are really good resources like the Trevor Project and It Gets Better—these non-profits can help connect people in places that lack the local infrastructure to support the LGBTQ community. S


Interviewed by Buddy Nielsen of Senses Fail

BUDDY NIELSEN: At this point in your career, given that amount and longevity of your success, what inspires you to continue?
SHANE TOLD: When we started the band, it was to prove I could sing this style and I could be a standalone frontman. Throughout the years there’s been other challenges that have come and gone, like proving I could write a concept album. But certain things like seeing the world, inspiring other people through our music and trying to write great songs, those are always there and push me every day. People sometimes ask if I’m ever bored: There’s so much going on, I could never be bored.

If you could be any ice cream flavor, what would you be?
I’d want to be something classic, but something that sometimes people momentarily forget about. Like strawberry: Have you had strawberry ice cream lately? Probably not, but if they ran out of all the flashy new favorites at Baskin-Robbins, you’d get strawberry and be like, “Holy fuck, I forgot how awesome this was… Real chunks of strawberries? Are you kidding me?”

Given how much the industry and the world has changed since both our bands began, do you think it is easier or harder to be in a band today?
I don’t know if it’s easier or harder, but it’s way fucking weirder. For us, it was simple: Get a band together, practice your ass off, play locally, record a demo, try to get a little following going and then try to grow that fanbase. That’s it. Now there’s all the social media stuff, YouTube is a huge thing even for finding band members, it’s so complicated with streaming and downloading now, and bands need videos practically before they have songs. It’s easier because you can get music directly to people all over the world, but it’s harder to get people to care. But I think no matter what era a band comes from, if they write truly great songs and meaningful lyrics they should be able to maintain their success. Once people truly love a song they always will. Those songs will be passed down to other generations and be loved again.

How did you survive Victory Records?
Victory never interfered creatively, and they knew how to sell albums. The things we butted heads on the business side we kept on the business side and didn’t think it was important to send a laundry list of complaints to our fans or the media. There’s a mutual respect between our band and Tony and all the great employees there. They gave us our start and that still means a lot.

When it is all said and done, what do you want Silverstein to be remembered for?
Great songs, consistency and not being a band full of assholes. We care about our relationships in the industry and the scene and want to not only be respected but known for being respectful as well. And we probably know more about beer, coffee and vegan food than any other band out there. S

A version of this piece was published in Substream #48.