Interview: Silvertwin

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After playing their first official live show in 2020, drawing in a full crowd to a two-night residency at London’s PinUps venue by word-of-mouth, Silvertwin have not let the pandemic stop them from continuing to make their mark in the music industry.

The retro-vintage quintet consists of lead vocalist and song-writer Isaac Shalam, alongside band members Alicia Barisani, Dan Edery, Lauric Mackintosh and Antonio Naccache. Hugely inspired by sounds of the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s, their nostalgic aura invites comparison to the likes of Paul McCartney and Jeff Lynne. Reminiscent of The Beatles and Supertramp, but with their own unique flair and contemporary edge.

On March 24, the band dropped an edit of their debut track ‘Ploy’, originally released in January 2020. The band currently have three singles, ‘Ploy’ being the first. ‘Doubted’ and ‘Promises’ were quick to follow in February and March last year.

From coming together whilst in college to bring Shalam’s self-penned songs to life, to selling out London venues, the band quickly impressed audiences and the industry alike. They’ve continued to blossom despite this last year’s challenges. I spoke to frontman Isaac Shalam to find out more about their journey and what’s to come. 

THE INDIEPENDENT: Let’s start at the beginning shall we? When did Silvertwin come to fruition? How did you start making music and growing from there?

ISAAC: I always feel like it kind of happened back to front. I met Alicia, the rhythm guitarist in the group, years ago. Then I just slowly met each member over university… at that point there hadn’t been a musical goal in sight. It was only when I was half way through university that I started to feel I wanted to try and write a specific style of music and needed people to play. I was at Music University anyway, so I thought the best option was to get my friends involved.

It just went from there really, kind of a natural process. But I always found it funny, I feel like most bands are typically high school chums that cut their teeth together very early on. But it didn’t really happen like that for us, I was just writing these songs and felt I needed to put together a band in order to bring them to life. Up until that stage it had pretty much been just me writing songs and never really thinking about playing them live.

THE INDIEPENDENT: Would you say song writing has been an outlet for you from a young age? What do you enjoy writing about?

ISAAC: Yeah, I’ve been writing since I was like 13. Well, attempting to write songs since then anyway. It wasn’t until I was 16 or 17 that I became really into it and focused on trying to get better and how to improve. It was then that I started figuring out my strengths and weaknesses so to speak.

When it comes to writing, it really comes down to the song. I feel like often I’ve written songs that feel very in the moment, I sometimes seem to just pick them out of the sky and suddenly have this fully formed thing. In my case it hasn’t necessarily been that something happens in my life and then I think, right this has happened so now I’m going to write about it. That can and does happen, but often it’ll inject itself naturally.

THE INDIEPENDENT: How did the band get its initial recognition? Did you put your work out onto a platform for others to engage with?

ISAAC: It was funny really, for a birthday present years ago my parents bought me a couple of days in a recording studio near my parents’ house in East London. We went and recorded a few songs and I sat on them for a while. I didn’t know where to go with them or what to do, but I knew it was the first time I was genuinely excited about the music we’d been working on. I just started sending the recordings round to everyone and anyone, emails within the industry that I could find online. I heard back from one who is our manager now. That’s kind of how it first happened.

I didn’t really have an idea of what the end goal would be, I just thought I’d send it out to as many people as I could and see if anyone responds. Which for anything is often a treacherous job, you send a million emails and don’t hear back from anyone. But I got lucky, and it essentially built the start of the relationship between myself, the band and our manager now who has helped guide us through the last couple of years.

THE INDIEPENDENT: So you’ve released three singles in that time is that right? Did you record those at a similar time and just drop them at different points?

ISAAC: Yes we do. I mean, we recorded an album of songs a while ago. It took a while to figure out how to get it finished, it was kind of a long process in that sense of considering how we get from A to B. We had pretty much everything recorded it was just a case of thinking how to mix it and put it out. We went to LA to record it, a studio called Electro Vox. Foxygen’s Producer Jonathan Rado invited us out there. He’d done a bunch of records that I loved and still love within the last few years. It just felt like the natural choice, if anyone was going to understand what I wanted to achieve it was him.

We’re still unsigned, but our manager had used him for the Lemon Twigs album, so there was a mutual contact there. We went and recorded it and decided to put the three singles out in January, February and March… just before Coronavirus stopped everything in its tracks.

THE INDIEPENDENT: ‘Ploy’ was the first single to drop in January last year, but you’ve re-released the single on the 24 March, what was the reasoning behind that?

ISAAC: It’s just a different version, an edited version of the track. For us it was just an opportunity to really give this a shot now, now that things are looking up slowly but surely. This one’s kind of about the insecurity or paranoia that comes with a blooming relationship. It was a new style of song writing for me, up until then I’d mostly used guitar but I wanted to begin using piano as the anchor for the songs I was working on at the time. We’ve got a lot more songs coming.

THE INDIEPENDENT: Talk me through your process as a band, do you write it and then the other band members then come in?

ISAAC: Essentially yes. I write the songs on my own and figure out what everyone is doing… I’ll usually demo it to how I imagine the recorded version to sound. Then I’ll take it to the rest of the band and show them what to do and they’ll help make suggestions and we collaborate to improve it. I hope to strike the balance between the band having trust in the artistic decisions I’m making and letting them have their input.

I never want them to feel as if they have to just follow my lead, I want things to be the best they can be and I’m the first person to put my hands up and say I’m not always going to get it right. I have the final say but I always work with the openness to improvement. When writing I’ll think of the melody and the chords and then figure out what I want to say after. That’s always been my process. The music comes first and the words later.

THE INDIEPENDENT: What would you say your band brings to the music scene? What’s your aim as a band?

ISAAC: I suppose when writing this collection of songs, I really wanted it to feel very different. Particularly to the stuff I was hearing in the scene around London, it felt like everyone was a bit down and out. Sometimes with good reason. But I don’t know, I just wanted to write some songs that were uplifting and would create a fun environment to be in, particularly at a gig.

I think I’ve learnt from older bands that I used to be in as well, it’s hard to dance to songs that aren’t particularly happy sounding. Even if the song itself isn’t necessarily always about happy things, I wanted to just write an album that sound happy and a bit more light-hearted. I think it’s really underrated at the moment.

THE INDIEPENDENT: Who would you say your biggest influences are as a writer and a band? 60’s, 70’s and 80’s sounds come through in your tracks, are they eras that have influenced your music?

ISAAC: Absolutely, I grew up listening to music from the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s. I think, most of the things you’d read on influences I’m happy to wear on my sleeve and what I love most are from those eras. At its simplest I just love the classic songwriters. Whether it’s Paul McCartney, Carole King, Billy Joel or Benny and Björn from ABBA. Anyone who can write a great three minute song, I’m into it. Doesn’t really matter the decade or genre, that’s always been the excitement for me it’s just a good song or they’re a good writer. McCartney is a huge one for me.

THE INDIEPENDENT: How did you find the London Pin-up gigs pre-lockdown? They sold out, how was that experience?

ISAAC: It really surprised us. It was a great boost. It’s always nerve-racking the days and weeks leading up to a gig, you’re thinking I wonder if anyone will come. You know a few people, you might have friends or something, but there’s never a dead guarantee… even if people say they’re coming. It was super cool, I remember being there a couple of hours before doors opened and being told we’d sold out. It was great feeling, I think it makes the gig a very exciting environment for everyone when the room is full and there’s a bit of a buzz.

It’s certainly more fun as a band to really feel as if you’re getting something back. At this stage when there’s still not much of our music out it’s useful to see what people like and what works well. It’s instant feedback with a gig, if a crowd aren’t enjoying something they’re not afraid to let you know in that moment. But my favourite thing about live performance has to be playing songs for people that they may not know and getting that instant first response.

THE INDIEPENDENT: It must be reassuring to go out as a band and have that support on stage with you rather than going out alone?

ISAAC: Yeah absolutely. I think the nature of our songs help that support in coming together as well. I’m a huge fan of big arrangements, the style of music I often listened to is played by big bands and has lots of people playing at the same time. If I could have it my way the band would be like 20 of us. But yeah when it comes to working as a band, I couldn’t do it without them to be honest. We’re also best mates so it’s a good feeling, it’s reassuring to be able to look around when performing and remind myself that it’s just my mates and we’ll go to the pub after. It takes some of the pressure off a little bit.

I think an audience can definitely feel that as well, if a band doesn’t look like they have an unspoken chemistry it comes across. I’m super happy that I get to do what I love with my mates.

THE INDIEPENDENT: What are your ambitions and goals as a band? What does 2021 bring for Silvertwin?

ISAAC: We’ve recorded an album as I mentioned, I’m hoping that’s something we’re able to release this year. The singles we’ve released so far will be tracks on there. We’ll be getting some more music out. We have to keep realigning our goals with everything that’s been going on with the pandemic, but honestly at this rate being able to announce gigs will be a huge deal. Even socially distanced ones. I think for this year we just want to go out and play as much as possible, especially after not being able to and not having the choice we will be playing as much as we can. With regard to bigger dreams, I have some venues I’d love to say we’ve played at. The Troubadour in California being one of them.

THE INDIEPENDENT: Where can we catch you next? Have you got any hopeful gigs lined up that you can tell us about?

ISAAC: Yes, we’ve got four socially distanced shows over two nights at the Paper Dress Vintage in Hackney on the 19 May and 16 June. We’re doing two shows, an early and a late, 8pm and 9:30pm. Tickets are on sale on their website. It feels great to announce that we’re finally going to play soon. If I’d known during the last gig that it was going to be our last one for more than a year, I think we would’ve approached it differently. Having a lot of time to think and looking back, I would’ve savoured the moment a bit more and maybe pushed ourselves to take more risks. But it’s one of those things you don’t think about until someone takes it away.

After not being able to leave the house anything is going to feel like I’m big deal. I’m super ready.

Words by Danielle Saunders


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