Most fans of progressive rock will argue that one of the best things about the genre is the heavy instrumentation that features on the tracks, the sheer weight and power of the effects-laden, often distorted guitars making the genre what it is. Sometimes though, an act can come by that turns this whole idea on its head by taking a very different approach.
Such is the case with Gold Coast band The Silencio, a four-piece prog/rock group who take a different approach, with both of their guitarists leaving the standard kit at home and packing acoustic guitars instead. Already, purists of the genre may be screaming out in opposition, but the group’s intriguing approach provides a refreshing take on the genre, and opens up a whole new range of sonic possibilities.
The band have just released their newest track ‘Been There All Along’ today, and with their debut album Anathema on the way later this year, we’ve chatted with The Silencio’s guitarist and lead vocalist Jan Nicholas Blom to find out exactly what inspires a prog band to champion the faithful acoustic guitar.
Bucking the trend
So, what gave Jan and his crew the idea to go against the grain and make such traditionally heavy music purely with acoustic guitars?
“Originally, the band was a solo project but because my acoustic songs relied heavily on rhythm, the idea was brought forward to include drums and bass,” he explains. “We then realized quickly we’d stumbled across something quite unique.”
“Everyone that now completes The Silencio lineup comes from heavy metal backgrounds,” he adds. “Personally, however, I have always enjoyed many varied styles of music, and early Silverchair and VAST were major influences on what I was writing in the beginning. From there the music has evolved into what you hear now.”
“We’ve all played in other bands along the way; with this band though, we’ve maintained the sound you hear today. When we first started we weren’t sure how to label our genre so we used the term ‘prog’, since some earlier tracks didn’t have standard song structure. We feel that implementing a more straightforward writing style to our songs has made our music more accessible.”
The setup is definitely unusual, and is more of a hybrid between an acoustic and amplified setup – no acoustic bass or bongos here.
“We run our acoustic guitars and keyboards through custom DI units that we had made,” Jan explains, “but bass and drums are as normal as any other band.”
Making it work
With music as experimental as this, it took the band a bit of trial and error to develop their sound into what it is today, but Jan maintains that the process really isn’t that different from any other band.
“We’ve always written our songs as though they’re being played on distorted guitars. We are, however, always careful to consider how drums, bass and keys will fill out the sound overall. Personally, I like that we don’t need to rely on big pedal board setups but we can still manage to make each song sound unique and its own, while essentially using the same guitar tones.”
“I wouldn’t say it was challenging as such, but we definitely tried a lot of different amp setups and guitars before we found the sound you hear now. Since working that element out, the only hurdle is now trying to explain to in-house sound engineers who have never heard us before what we need to sound like, as we don’t need to be mixed quite like usual bands.”
We turn up as loud as the venue will allow and rock out the same way any other band would
While acoustic guitars might conjure up images of a single player perched on a stool, The Silencio insist they pack as much of a punch on the live stage as their more-amplified brethren.
“We turn up as loud as the venue will allow and rock out the same way any other band would,” Jan tells us. “The biggest element to our live show was ensuring everyone in the band could sing the harmonies I recorded in a live setting, so as to not have to rely on backing tracks.”
As the vocals shift from soft to searing, the rest of the band adjust accordingly to ensure the acoustic elements never get drowned out.
“I believe that is a part of what makes the band unique – we tend to play harder when the vocals are more intense,” explains Jan. “The big thing with The Silencio is how we use our other instruments to keep the impact where it should be.”
What’s next for acoustic prog?
With a firm grip on their sound, The Silencio are focused on wrapping it around a series of personal stories, to bring a genuine emotional core to proceedings – and bring their unique brand of prog rock to a whole new set of ears.
“For the most part we try to work around the general story telling layout (orientation, complication, conclusion) in order to offer positive resolves,” Jan says. “The songs on this forthcoming debut album have been a general reflection of personal interactions with many different personalities and the conflicts and compromises that come as a result of these encounters.
“We really want to reach a large audience with a sound they might not be familiar with. On the back of the upcoming album release, touring and playing live will be the major focus for us for the remainder of the year.”
One thing’s for sure: The Silencio are carving out a very unique niche for themselves, and giving an entire genre of music a serious shake-up in the process.
‘Been There All Along’ is out today, and you can follow along with The Silencio’s album and touring plans for the year right here.