Shane Told (Silverstein, River Oaks)

Shane Told is a man of many talents. When the Canadian singer isn’t performing with Silverstein (who just recently dropped a solid new album, ‘Dead Reflection‘), he’s writing acoustic emo tunes for his new project, River Oaks. Then, when he’s not filling either of those two roles, he’s talking to fellow singers about their voices, their music, their history, the music industry, and many other topics for his Lead Singer Syndrome podcast. Currently, he’s on tour in Australia with his good pals in Hawthorne Heights, as well as Mark Rose and Sienna Skies. I had a chat with Told prior to him embarking on that grueling long flight Down Under where we discussed said tour, traveling by lonesome himself, what people can expect from his River Oaks sets, his ever-growing podcast, and more. Take a read below! 

So, Shane, I think a good place to start us off of is this Hawthorne Heights support tour and just yourself coming down under as River Oaks.

Yeah, it’s just going to just be me and an acoustic guitar! I play alone with River Oaks, for those who don’t know. People can expect a mix of acoustic renditions of Silverstein songs, a couple River Oaks tracks, as well as a cover or two. I really enjoy it. It’s a much different vibe from Silverstein when I’m running around with a mic. In the past, I’ve done acoustic versions of Silverstein songs and a lot of people have told me if I would ever record these acoustic renditions. So for those people, I think they’ll really enjoy this tour.

Right on! Do you find certain songs Silverstein work better acoustically? I mean, obviously, ‘My Heroine’ is an easy song to cover acoustically as opposed to say, ‘Vices’ or ‘Born Dead’.

That’s right, certain songs just do not work, like who I am kidding. Some of our [Silverstein] songs are really heavy, they have a lot of screaming, a lot of heavy guitars. But most work and they work well. When I play them acoustic they often take on a whole new life. A lot of Silverstein songs are written on acoustic guitar, to begin with, then they are adapted to be full band electric songs and many people don’t hear the original acoustic version. Of course, the exception to that is our song, ‘Replace You’, where we recorded both versions, one of the ‘Rescue’ album and one later on. I actually prefer the acoustic version of that track, as that’s the way the song was originally intended.

Did not know that – cool! Now, you mentioned covers before. Are there are certain songs that are your go-to covers for River Oaks or is there a whole repertoire of songs you pick from? 

Oh, I’m all over the map, map. I was playing in Philadelphia, for a solo River Oaks show, and the venue’s sound guy was playing Brand New. And I hadn’t heard them in a while and I thought “You know what? I really like this song. This is the cover I’m going to play tonight”. So I played ‘Me vs Maradona vs Elvis’. I didn’t practice it – I just remembered it all from memory. Another time, I was in Chicago and I played an Alkaline Trio song as that’s where they’re from. On the last tour, in San Diego, I played a five-minute Metallica medley. I didn’t mean for it, someone just yelled out a Metallica reference at me and I said, “I can do that”. That’s part of what I really enjoy about River Oaks, is that I can improvise it and have a different kind of fun with it.

That’s so awesome to hear, that there’s this great versatility to River Oaks. Also, as a massive Alkaline Trio fan myself, which song of theirs did you cover?

Oh, I covered ‘Mr. Chainsaw’.

Dude, fuck yeah! That’s probably the best song off ‘From Here To Infirmary’ as well. Good pick!

‘From Here To Infirmary’ is my favorite record from them! That was the first Alkaline Trio album I ever heard and I’m a big fan of them too. For me, whatever record I first hear from a band, it’ll probably be my favorite. With that cover, when songs are played in a different way, it can bring out a new magic from the songs. Kinda like what Ryan Adams did with Taylor Swift’s ‘1989’, where he covered that album in his own style. Back in the early 90’s, earlier punk rock bands were covering old songs and when you’re hearing it in a raw punk rock format, it can be very cool. Which is the same kind of vibe I want to do with River Oaks. 

I think you can also find in doing a cover, what the core of the original song was and made it really great to begin with. Whether it be the lyrics or the melody.

Right, when someone covers it and that magic is maybe missing, very true!

You and Silverstein recently did the Vans Warped Tour in the States, is it a shock to the system when you’re suddenly touring Australia as a solo act?

Yeah, these tours couldn’t be more different, dude. One is a summer seven week, outside, full band festival tour and the other is a winter, week long, indoor, club tour. To be frank, I am stoked on that. No offense to Warped Tour or summer or anything, but I am pretty burned out. I am very happy to… not be there anymore. So I’m really looking forward to this tour as I feel like I really need it!

I hope it goes well, Shane. I did hear your Jamey Jasta episode for Lead Singer Syndrome, and you also mentioned how tired of it you were. 

Yeah, well, I’m not a very private person and I’ll always speak my mind. About a week before it ended, I was thinking “Fuck, I am gonna make it?”. [Laughs]. I was seriously done with it. Thankfully, the last few shows were in California and they were big shows, which really kept us going. The very last show was the best one, making it all worth it. Regardless, this Aussie tour will be great, especially as I am so tight with my friends in Hawthorne and Mark Rose.

Of course, especially with your and Hawthorne Heights having a lot of history, both coming up in the scene and being Victory Records alumni, and in JT coming on Lead Singer Syndrome once too. Now, in terms of your emotional and mental state for this tour, I can imagine that River Oaks tours can get kinda lonely?

Yeah, I totally feel that. I’ve only done two other River Oaks tours before and I brought another guy with me, a close friend of mine, so we were driving and flying together. That was great. Now, going over there by myself, I’ll be on a flight for 24 hours to get to Perth, which is gonna be weird. Yes, I will be traveling with Hawthorne at times, but they’ll most likely be some loneliness. But I do think that that’s good for the soul. For the past seven weeks, I haven’t really had a minute to myself. Even when I was in my bunk on the tour bus, there was someone above me, below me, and someone across from me. So maybe some solitude will be good.

Maybe! Glad to hear you’re prepared, either way. And man, that flight over here will be rough!

Yeah! [Laughs]. It always makes me laugh when people complain over a four flight, like, come on – that’s nothing! I don’t even need to book for that. I am used to long flights to Australia and Europe that I know how to handle it.

You’re a veteran flyer, for sure. Also, while you’re here you should definitely try and get a few Aussie singers on your podcast too.

You’re not wrong, maybe I will! I’ve had a couple Australians on the podcast but that was when they’re touring over here, and the reason I haven’t had that many is that the time difference is a real bitch. There are only a couple times in the day it can be done. I had Joel from The Amity Affliction, Trenton from Hands Like Houses, and Jenna from Tonight Alive, and I’d love to do more!

Rad. Also, in terms of doing the LSS podcast, has you stepping over the line from being asked the questions to now asking the questions changed how you answer interview questions now?

That’s a good question! I think I understand how annoying it is when people give you the phoned in answers, like a sports team member or a professional athlete, and when I hear that I roll my eyes – physically or in my head if I’m sitting down with them. I think what has made Lead Singer Syndrome successful is that people know they cannot bullshit me so I tend to get more honest answers from people because they know or know that I’m also a singer. On Warped Tour, you get all of these media outlets interviewing bands all day and I wanted to be the best or the most interesting interview that that person would have that day. The other thing too, is, as a “journalist”, there are ways to ask the really generic questions in a better way to get a better answer.

You’re so right, and that’s something I try to aim for as well.

Yeah! And for me, I do enjoy it all. I like talking about myself to press and I enjoy listening to others talk about themselves for my podcast. The more honest you can be as an interviewer and interviewee is the better; asking people the tough questions. I mean, if you’re an interviewer and no one’s ever hung up on you, maybe you’re asking the wrong questions? I know that everyone wants to make friends, but isn’t it better to get the best interview? That’s for the writer to decide.

Well, I’ve done that already – getting the right answers from the generic questions without straight up asking them. I get what you’re saying but if they hang up then you’ve basically wasted both yours and theirs time, and maybe won’t have a full interview to work with to either. Plus, some bands, like your Megadeth’s and your Descendants’, have been around forever and have been asked everything under the sun. Though, there are still opportunities for something good there…

Yeah, there are ways to ask people like that, who are in a unique situation, a very unique question. I think you can say you’ve seen it all even though you haven’t really. The world can change so quickly…

Back on to the podcast, you’re getting closer and closer to the 100-episode mark now. Do you have a favorite episode so far? My personal favorite would probably have to be the Anthony Raneri (Bayside) episode from last year. 

That’s a tough one, man. I walk into a podcast episode and I never know what to expect. Sure, I do research, I know their music, and sometimes I even know them personally, but I’m never sure what will come out. Some have really surprised me. One of my faves is Scott from Unwritten Law, and he was telling me some wild stories. The one you mentioned before, the latest one with Jamey from Hatebreed, that was super informative and funny. Fat Mike from NOFX is a special one to me. I can’t really pick a favorite. I’ve done 89 episodes so far and there’s only been four or five that I’ve been editing afterward, and thought “Eh, nothing that special here”.

Well, that Jasta one is great as he brought his usual flair from his own podcast, The Jasta Show. As a lot of other shows and podcasts don’t really bring up the industry and business side of it like you two did recently.

I think it all just comes naturally to people like us. To be honest, when you get two singers, you do get the numbers, the profits, the margins, the logistics – all of that stuff. It rarely ever comes up in other interviews and that’s what I love to do on my show and pull back the curtain and tear down the stage wall. Some people may think that that industry stuff is dry or boring, and maybe it is, but it’s also real. Just like how singers talking about their voices the day of a show, no one really talks about that in the media.

Since listening to Lead Singer Syndrome since you started, I’ll admit that I try to take some of the cues that you yourself do, as I want my interviews to be better or more interesting than the other phone calls that person takes that day.

Oh, thank you man! I do think that I can get away with it better than others, as I’m in the industry so deep. As when others might ask about the band’s management commission, it seems like they’re digging for info they’re not privy too. It’s weird, really. So in my position, I can call bullshit on anyone as I know what’s the real deal. Just like Jamey, and that’s what makes his show great too.

Exactly, that insider knowledge really helps you out! And I think on that note, that creates a good bookend for this chat. Shane, thank you so much for letting me call you on your Friday night during my cold Saturday morning – it’s been fun.

Awesome, no problem at all Alex, you enjoy your day man!

Catch Shane Told playing River Oaks tunes, acoustic versions of Silverstein songs and a sneaky cover or two on tour this week with Hawthorne Heights, Mark Rose, and Sienna Skies. All tour and ticket info here!

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