The gentlemen on the cover of this year’s Spring issue of High Voltage are the fine indie rock outfit from Oxford, England, A Silent Film: Robert Stevenson and Spencer Walker. They wound up as cover artists because their fans put them there. Literally. Trying something different than simply doing a story on an artist of our choosing, we opened things up to the art of the nomination via social media. To say the least, A Silent Film’s fans (within and outside of the United States) were damned vocal and numerous. Since the numbers didn’t lie, the cover belonged to them.
2015 has been something of a unique and industrious year for A Silent Film. Their third full-length album (self-titled) comes out on October 16th, two days prior to the kick off of their U.S. tour. Back in April, they released the 5-track New Year EP. Great. Wonderful as that’s the least that a band should do nearly 3 years after their last release (2012’s full length Sand & Snow). But what accompanied that EP release is really what set the band outside of ordinary performance parameters. They orchestrated possibly the most fan-centric, fan friendly and personal concert experience: the Secret Rooms Tour.
In 12 major cities across the U.S. (such as Portland, Seattle, Los Angeles, Denver, New York, Boston, Chicago, etc.), Robert and Spencer performed in-the-round concerts in unusual spaces such as a recording studio, a bike shop, an abandoned warehouse and even a historic silent movie studio. No traditional venues came into play and every city’s location was kept secret until revealed only a few days prior to each show. All for audiences of no more than 50 with each guest receiving personalized merchandise of the event and each event was something incredible to be a part of. Fun, warm, comedic and genuine as you were treated to Robert and Spencer (already two of the more genial and gracious musicians you may ever meet) in their most vulnerable musical state. Needless to say, the entire tour sold out and did so quickly.
“Secret Rooms was a logistical nightmare; it was an idea Rob and Spence had…” admitted Lee Evans.
(Photo Credit: Megan Gotch)
And so it began. Now if you have ever met A Silent Film’s close friend and manager, Lee Evans (a fellow Brit who now lives in Arizona), you’ve met an unusually charming gentleman mightily invested in his charges and far more than at a superficial business level. But then so are the band’s fans who, since their first EP in 2007, began to fervently latch on to the piano-laced and emotionally hopeful alternative sounds. A Silent Film is a unique musical entity in design, so much so that they were able to pull off what was seemingly impossible. Especially for a truly independent and major label-free band.
But as Lee said, it wasn’t without its challenges. But exactly how the hell did this off-the-wall idea even come to be? Whose insanity is to “blame” for the Secret Rooms Tour? According to Lee, it turns out that it was a chain reaction/domino effect that all began with food, hard liquor and his wife, MaryAnn.
“Well, it actually started out last Thanksgiving dinner at my house, we had all eaten too much and indulged in some fine Scotch. MaryAnn really wanted them to play her BioAccel event and the guys were all about supporting her and it. We agreed to fly them over to do it and then the conversation turned to doing some other shows while here.
Robert got carried away with himself and came up with his dream tour where the barriers simply didn’t exist and collectively everyone loved the idea of giving back to all the amazing, amazing, amazing supporters that have given so much drive and inspiration to the band over the last four years. Robert is a fucking genius and the concept that he and Spencer came up with was shared with the new team and it just grew and grew into the Secret Rooms Tour.
Funding came from private investment which is how we have done everything since the guys came to the States and remained independent and avoided the clutches of a label. The rooms were found by endless internet searches and various contacts of people on the team.
Gear was rented in Phoenix, however, when we picked it all up it became apparent that our trusted trailer wasn’t big enough and we had to quickly buy a bigger trailer the day before heading out.
The things that you don’t have to think about when you play a regular venue like toilets, chairs, lights, refreshments, accessibility for load-in all had to be thought about and pre-planned, but the team ASF are surrounded with are off the charts professionals and through hours, days and weeks of planning and simply making shit happen pulled it off.
And then due to agreement to play MaryAnn’s event we had a tour on our hands. Soooo, we had to have new music out and there was the EP. It’s amazing in this industry how things morph and build momentum.
It appears from the outside that an EP was planned so a tour was set up and, as they were around, they played the BioAccel event when the truth is it’s quite the opposite…and all from a Thanksgiving dinner around our dining table with some bloody fine Scotch.”
Robert and Spencer have spent the better of the past four years in some way, shape or form on the road. So after the Secret Rooms Tour ended, writing the new album was done in the comfort of Robert’s home and then recorded over a five-week stretch in Oxford. The musical aim was to create a batch of new, quality songs with their own identity. “Our mission was to please ourselves first and foremost, while never compromising our initial instincts,” says Robert. “Pushing ourselves further than we have before has allowed us to write the kind of music we can see ourselves enjoying playing live more than ever.” According to Spencer, “When we played a couple of low key shows in London and Oxford during the making of the album we knew we were onto something from the audience reaction.”
Onto something, indeed.
The tour begins on October 14th in San Diego, CA with dates running until November 24th: just shy of Thanksgiving. Coincidence? We think not. While you mull that over and plan your A Silent Film concert schedule, check out the first single from the new album, “Lightning Strike.”