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Interview: A Conversation with Shane Told About River Oaks

river oaks

Conducted by Scott Fugger

Back in October of last year, Shane Told, the lead vocalist of Silverstein, played a special acoustic set opening for The Wonder Years and announced that he had a solo project in the works. Things then fell silent. That is until January 22 when he broke big news. The project’s name, River Oaks, was revealed along with a website, music video and three song EP available for immediate purchase. Shane was kind enough to take some time to speak with me and shed further light on the formation, release, and future of River Oaks.

“It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a really long time.” Silverstein has been going strong for 16 years and though Told sings lead vocals, his roots are as a guitar player. “I became a singer sort of by default because none of my friends could carry a tune,” he said. “I’ve done a little bit of acoustic things here and there, but I’ve missed it… I had a bunch of old riffs and lyrics that I didn’t think fit with what Silverstein was doing and just decided to finally take the plunge and start [River Oaks].”

But he didn’t just start it, Told plays every instrument on the record: guitar, bass, drums, and even keyboard in addition to vocals. “I’m a total control freak as it is, and I think I’m kind of hard to be in a band with to be honest. I think all the guys in Silverstein would agree.” Told went on to say that his strong creative opinions generally cause him to work right along with the producer throughout the recording process. So it just made sense for him to take on the whole project himself. “It was nice to kind of step out of my comfort zone and play some instruments that I haven’t really ever played seriously in a band, and really practice and get better. It was fun for me to do that.”

Even though this is a solo project, Told did not choose for it to bear his own name. “I want this to be about this project not necessarily about me – my name, my likeness.” This decision was also influenced by the fact that when he was growing up most solo projects, such as Dashboard Confessional, Pedro the Lion, and Nine Inch Nails, had their own moniker rather than simply taking the artist’s name. “The other thing,” he added with a laugh, “is I would feel really weird, and kind of lame, about just putting my first and last name on a t-shirt with a cool design and trying to sell it to people.” Still, both the name itself has a very personal connection to Told. River Oaks is the community in Oakville, Ontario, Canada where he grew up. “All my memories of my childhood and my youth come from there. There’s a certain happiness that I feel when I think about that name and there’s also a certain darkness. It really encompasses everything about me and I felt like the name was appropriate.”

As the sole member of the River Oaks, this project is more musically representative of Told’s personal tastes. “For example, I love The Beatles, like I love The Beatles. No one else in Silverstein likes The Beatles [but] they’re a huge influence of mine. I’ll reference a Beatles song and the other guys in the band won’t even know it. So there are certain influences like that that I’m sure people are going to hear more in River Oaks than they would in Silverstein.” At the same time, he said, “I write almost all of the lyrics for Silverstein anyway and I don’t really get a lot of feedback from the other guys about lyrics. So lyrically I would say it’s not going to be too much different.”

This combination gives Silverstein fans something to latch on to, while at the same time not pigeonholing the River Oaks fanbase. “I’m not trying to just appeal to Silverstein fans. If I was then I would probably use my own name or I wouldn’t even start this.” When describing the overall sound of this new project, Told remarked that “they’re all a little bit different. They range from pretty stripped down, soft acoustic to the end of the third track, ‘Roman Candles,’ [which] is pretty much full on heavy distortion and yelling almost vocally.” This is largely what led to the decision of debuting everything on the same day. “I felt like if I just put out one song people might not understand exactly what I was doing… So then I just decided, what the hell, let’s just launch everything on the same day.”

Plans for River Oaks moving forward are still uncertain. Silverstein has a full North American tour on the books, along with a string of European festivals. Told is also busy with his new podcast, Lead Singer Syndrome, where he has in-depth conversations with other front men and women about some of the lesser-known aspects of their jobs. “[River Oaks] is all kind of new… The feedback I’ve gotten over the weekend has been amazing, but I don’t know yet what I’m going to do.” Told said that he will definitely be playing some shows, though he isn’t sure of the logistics such as the extent of touring or whether they will be played solo vs. with a band backing him. “Right now it’s just the beginning… but I hope to have a full-length record out by the end of the year.”

This was posted 1 year ago by Joel Funk.
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