Words by Keane Fletcher
Inspiration is a funny thing. Fleeting. Sometimes you're plugged into the muses and then sometimes you're not. Sometimes that little burst of inspiration can strike you when you least expect it. Case in point the new single 'You Hate It' from Melbourne indie-rock band SILT (out today!), which hit lead vocalist Jess Polain like a bolt from the blue one day on an unsuspecting commute.
I wrote the lyrics in a tiny little notepad on a train ride home one day. I had been stewing on an argument all day and had so many thoughts racing through my mind...it seemed to sort of just write itself. I've heard other artists say similar things about songwriting, that sometimes it just seems to happen almost outside of you, and this song definitely felt like that.
Following on from their previous single ‘I Always Need A Break’ and featuring Polain's crisp and captivating vocals front-and-centre, ‘You Hate It’ continues SILT's trajectory toward indie-darling status with their unmistakable blend of soft-rock and indie-pop, all warm guitar, driving percussion, and sweeping, high-ceilinged strings. And to make things even sweeter, it also serves as the lead single from their upcoming debut EP 'Contact High' (out October 1). And you can thank the lockdown for that:
Prior to COVID, I think we were just in the process of playing shows and releasing singles as regularly as we could...Then we all went into lockdown in March 2020. I think we just felt we needed something to focus on as a band through this time, a bit of a floatation device. So we decided to record an EP and it really did help keep us all sane and focussed through that time.
And while there's still another month to go until it drops officially, at least we have 'You Hate It' to keep us sane and focussed while we're waiting.
To celebrate the release of 'You Hate It' we recently sat down with lead vocalist Jess Polain to talk all things music, inspo and the pressures of creating during a pandemic. Check it out below!
First of all, how did SILT come together?
It really started with me writing songs and playing open mics around Melbourne from around 2016/2017. Then I met Josh through work and he really took a liking to what I was writing and came along to support me at open mics. Before long we were performing together as a duo. We knew we wanted more of a band sound, so we put a 4-piece together in April 2019 and started gigging at venues around Melbourne like The Bendigo and Old Bar. We had the second two members leave and Harry join later in 2019 - and it's been a perfect match ever since!
Let's talk about your latest release ‘You Hate It’. What was the genesis of the song? What was the process of putting it together like?
I wrote the lyrics in a tiny little notepad on a train ride home one day. I had been stewing on an argument all day and had so many thoughts racing through my mind and it all came together very quickly. I went home and put some chords and melody to it quickly too, it seemed to sort of just write itself. I've heard other artists say similar things about songwriting, that sometimes it just seems to happen almost outside of you, and this song definitely felt like that.
It took us a while to figure out a band arrangement that we really liked. We tried a few different arrangements and always felt like it was just better as a solo-acoustic song. We were quite close to just recording it in that way, but I was feeling pretty inspired by Snail Mail at that time and her laid back, acoustic/punk style of indie rock. I came up with the main guitar riff that is in the recording, and Josh started playing it in open tuning on the guitar and it just sounded right! Then building in the strings (arranged by the amazing Danna) and the percussive elements all fell into place around that. Jimi (our producer) really guided us through putting together those big production elements that took the song to a new level.
Though we’ve seen a steady stream of releases from SILT, it’s only now that we’re finally getting an EP. What’s taken so long? And has much changed for the band since you started?
Prior to COVID, I think we were just in the process of playing shows and releasing singles as regularly as we could - we felt it was better from a promotional perspective to have a steady stream of singles. Then we all went into lockdown in March 2020. I think we just felt we needed something to focus on as a band through this time, a bit of a floatation device. So we decided to record an EP and it really did help keep us all sane and focussed through that time.
I think we've changed so much as a band within 2.5 years. The songwriting has improved and our Pro Tools skills have improved 😁. All three of us really dived into the production process of this EP and took the time to experiment a lot with sounds and layers, rather than putting together song production in a rehearsal room together. We leaned on our influences a lot and tried some different styles. It's been really fun and we're so proud of it!
I want to talk about your writing process: how does the band usually go about developing a song? Does one person take the reins or is it usually a communal effort?
Often I will write a song - meaning the lyrics, melody, structure, and often a main hook or riff. And then I'll pass it onto Josh and Harry and they will really take it to a new level with guitar, synth samples, drum beats and so on, and we'll keep developing it together like that. Josh has been the main songwriter for a few of our tracks too!
There have been a few songs lately where Josh has written a cool, guitar part, like a hook or a riff, and I have sort of written a song around that. That's been really fun.
What inspires you at the moment?
I'll be honest - I am struggling with inspiration lately. I am really feeling the pandemic fatigue and going easy on myself. I have however been really inspired lately by artists like Samia and Half Waif. I love their lyrics and catchy melodies over indie production. But we have a few new songs in the works and I have some ideas circling in my head about them!
Obviously we’re living through a particularly tricky time for artists; in what ways has the band been affected by the pandemic? Has it been useful in terms of having more time to create, or are you dying for things to open up again?
I would say we seized the pandemic as an opportunity in the early stages! We decided this was our chance to really take the time to put together a body of work that was really well thought through, that we were 100% happy with, and we achieved that! Since we finalised it around April this year, it's been quite disheartening seeing our single launches cancelled, and plans to make some content have been cancelled too. I am personally struggling more this year than last, but I think the boys are actually floating some creative ideas together which is great. Once we can get together as a band and perform again, that will give me new life!!
And finally, can you tell us a bit about the upcoming EP ‘Contact High’?
Yes! This is an EP of eclectic songs, they each have a slightly different sound and vibe, but there is a theme that ties them together, It's sort of examining the different sorts of relationships we have in our lives and how we choose to embrace or manage them. There's a love song about being with someone who lifts you up and the incredible impact that has on you, songs about needing your space and learning to ask for it, and a song about trying to get back to the good days of a relationship and living in that nostalgia. Sound-wise, it features a little more synth and experimentation with samples throughout. We really built up the songs through production a lot more than we have for our previous singles. We're so excited to release it!!
Thanks for stopping by Hipland!