Inching my way through a packed East Village dive, I came upon a group of twenty-something Brooklynites surrounded on all sides by a post-gig cocktail composed of equal parts beer, equipment, and women.
Silverbird, the polished pensive-pop quartet led by lead singer/guitarist, Tim Barr, consists of soundsmith, Dan Whaley, on guitar and synth, master of smooth, Jacob Shaub, on the drums, and All-American heartthrob, Corey Davis, on the Bass. As we ditched the bar and walked aimlessly through the East Village, we chatted about the Webster Hall gig they’d played an hour earlier. “The sound was great,” said Barr. “It was put on by Road Recovery, which is an organization that does outreach in places that have some problems, like drugs and alcohol.” As straight-laced and well-organized as that may sound, the guys prefer the chaos and adrenaline of last-minute performance decisions. “I’m trying to do anti-professionalism in a professional way,” he said, explaining the odd duality in their live show. “We never know anything until four seconds before we play,” said Davis with a grin.
Often going without a setlist, they’ve come to rely on the energy of the audience to help them decide what to play. “I want to keep that spontaneity, because right at the cusp of that is where the chaos exists,” said Barr. “There is always a chance that things will go horribly wrong, and that is interesting for the audience. We all know if you go to a race car event, you want to see those fuckers crash.”
Silverbird in its current configuration took shape about two years ago. “Tim and I met in college,” said Whaley. “Tim and Corey were jamming on some of Tim’s songs. Tim asked me to come play guitar after he auditioned a hundred other people. Then magic struck and we were a band.” The Long Island natives soon made New York City their main focus. “We were playing in this basement in Huntington in the middle of nowhere, and something needed to change,” Whaley admits. “We didn’t even have a name. We reached out to a couple different drummers. Jacob wowed us and we incorporated him into the fold.”
With one EP under its belt, the band is anticipating the release of their recently completed debut album, Pureland. “We did the whole album live,” said Barr. “Every instrumental track was live, and it was super amazing and super nerve wracking.” “We set a great vibe though. Incense and lighting!” Davis clarified.
The inspiration for the album, however, didn’t come so easily. “I had been working this shit carpentry job in long island, and was with a girl,” Barr said. “I left the job, broke up with the girl and moved to this monastery. I was there for about a week and I just started shitting songs.” For Barr, the solitude of the monastery was the catalyst rather than the inspiration. “When that happens, just go with it and don’t try and think too much about it and fuck it up,” he said.
Despite Barr having produced earlier material on his own, the new album better represents the stylistic diversity of its members. “As a band, we decided we wanted to do one as a whole.” Davis explained. “Tim went to the monastery, came back, and had written these songs. He brings them to us, and we all kind of impart our souls onto them as much as we can.”
“It was absolutely collaborative,” agreed Barr. “Everyone adds their element which is very unique. There’s something about the synergy of the four of us that is extremely harmonious. Especially when you think about how much ego stuff comes with being in bands. The musical instinct is perfect by itself. It’s just about allowing that to happen, and waiting until that locks in. The second you start thinking that you own an idea or that you’re responsible for creating what’s happening, you’re going to create conflicts. There’s always an open area in being creative together. We’ll try something and if it’s not working, we’ll just say it’s not working. There’s no attachment like ‘well, that’s my idea.’”
“It’s pretty incredible with the amount of testosterone we have in one room,” added Whaley.
For these cohesive collaborators, the future is glistening, filled with lofty tunes, Halloween strip club gigs, and a yet-to-be released video featuring a melancholy Elvis impersonator lip-syncing in a seedy Atlantic City motel suite. “We’ve played some pretty cool gigs,” said Barr. “As far as touring goes, we are trying to build up this album and then get on a decent tour. But if that fails, we are gonna go out on our own.” The band agrees that traveling and playing live is of the utmost importance. “Someone said ‘one live show is worth 50 hours of practice.’ Something happens when you are playing live when you reach your highest level of awareness. Like you are stuck in the moment, you can’t change it. It’s experience.”
“It’s about something. Decide for yourself,” Barr chipped in, in reference to their new single, “Seventeen.” “We spent an exorbitant amount of time on that song. It’s the hardest to play live.” Both contemplative and revelatory, the clever arrangement behind “Seventeen” has got pop classic written all over it.
Stream the new single from their forthcoming album, Pureland, out September 18.