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A Silent Film


One has to wonder what’s in the water in Oxford, England, as far as musicians go. The town, which has given us such musical luminaries as Radiohead,  Supergrass, and Foals, has also spawned indie-rockers A Silent Film, who are finally getting more much-deserved attention after a half-dozen years as a band.

“We’re flattered that you count us amongst the talented musicians of Oxford,” A Silent Film’s singer/pianist Robert Stevenson chuckles. “Perhaps we feel the gaze of the city’s intellects? It certainly seems quite true that Oxford musicians have always tended to be very ambitious, and seem to completely disregard the notion of chasing success without integrity.”

Point taken. Flighty pop acts aren’t really something that hail from this smart city – but schoolmates that turn into bandmates seem to be something of a recurring Oxford theme (see: the aforementioned Radiohead and Supergrass, as well as Ride.)

“Spencer and myself met at school,” Stevenson says. “We were rival drummers in two different bands, but it turns out he was a much better drummer, so we joined forces.”

Spencer – that being drummer Spencer Walker – soon met bass player Ali Hussain at University, and the trio added guitarist Karl Bareham just before A Silent Film started touring in the U.S.

“It’s always been a very natural process, where the four of us gravitated together over a period of time,” Stevenson says.

Inspired by “anything that stirs a strong human emotion,” as Stevenson explains it, A Silent Film say that they work to not be imitators, preferring to chase away other musical influences. Nonetheless, their sound is very British and very indie (we’re hearing echoes of Snow Patrol, Atlas Genius, and The Killers), but is still quite individual to the band, due in large part to Stevenson’s distinctive vocals and the way they fuse their arrangements together. It’s all showcased on their brand new album, Sand and Snow, which they trekked back to the States to record.

Sand and Snow was recorded mostly in Cave Creek, Arizona,” Stevenson says. “We rented a house up in the mountains, and battled scorpions, tarantulas, and rattlesnakes while writing and recording the album.”

Battled? Right, that must have been quite a sight to see (we hear scorpions run away when pummeled with a drumstick.) In the end – with all rattlesnakes fended away – the band took around two months to track all of the songs, and then decamped (presumably with arachnid-free luggage in tow) to London to record string overdubs. The songs, as well as the album’s title, reflect the alien location they recorded in, both in an audio sense and directly.

“For us, the title reflects the sense of welcome displacement we felt in our desert mountain hideaway,” Stevenson explains. “We found ourselves in a place far removed from anything we were used to, a unique combination as unusual a meeting as sand is to snow.”

So is A Silent Film looking to move any time soon? Stevenson says that if they do, it would more likely be the mountains than seaside.

“I prefer snow to sand,” he ponders, “knitwear, jackets, and boots are so much  more my style than sunnies, shorts, and flip-flops.”

The band will likely have to pack up all of the above soon, though. Their tour schedule doesn’t show signs of slowing down, and A Silent Film have already been touring “pretty much non-stop” since March of this year.

“We love interacting with our audiences and visiting the cities,” Stevenson says, “those are the things we like best. What we like least are airport baggage handlers, sleeping upright, and people that graffiti our trailer – I’m getting sick and tired of spending my mornings in Home Depot car parks scrubbing off love notes and obscenities,” he laughs. “We don’t scrawl our opinions on your car doors, so don’t do it to ours!”

Find out more about A Silent Film at their official website.