It’s pretty flattering to hear a hip band from Oxford, England, say Arizona inspires them. We didn’t expect A Silent Film to actually move to Cave Creek to record their album, but that is just what they did.
A catchy, upbeat band with a polished sound, Silent Film recorded Sand and Snow in Arizona, Texas and London, gathering inspiration from each location. They are no strangers to America, having toured with The Temper Trap, Civil Twilight, The Smashing Pumpkins and One Republic.
Singer and pianist Robert Stevenson chatted with College Times about living and recording in Arizona, which seems to be a bit rougher around the edges than Oxford.
College Times: Why did you decide to record in America?
Robert Stevenson: I was kind of blown away by the country’s culture. I grew up loving American cinema and music. As soon as we came out here we realized the scale of the country. It’s like 50 Englands rolled into one for us. It’s so colorful and you can go from massively snowy mountains right all the way down to dry deserts. It’s so much to take in and it really inspired us.
I would say it’s like nowhere else. Obviously the heat is a bit extreme and we didn’t quite expect it to be as hot as it was but it certainly kept us indoors and concentrating on the album, which is a good thing. We just had some mutual friends in Arizona. We happened to finish our tour around there and one thing lead to another and it seemed like a great place to stick around.
Where in Arizona did you record?
In a town called Cave Creek. The people of Cave Creek are unique to say the least and I say that as a compliment. They are very wonderful, special people and it really took everyone a while to warm up to us. British guys in skinny jeans don’t tend to hang around in Cave Creek. It’s a real sort of cowboy town. We’d go into the bars in the evenings and then days turned into weeks and weeks into months and sooner or later everyone is like, “What are you doing here?” We explained and made some really, really good friendships.
Was there anything that stood out while you were in Arizona that made you realize you weren’t home anymore?
Oh, Lord. The skyline? The dust storms? Those dust storms are, like, apocalyptic to us. Scorpions! Creatures that can kill you – that reminds you that you’re not at home. There’s pretty much nothing in England that’s going to harm you whatsoever everywhere you go. But every single day you put on your trousers you’re being threatened by scorpions. And rattlesnakes! There was a rattlesnake that was trying to get into Spencer’s, our drummer’s, bedroom one morning. Literally, its head was just tapping on the glass. That’s a killer animal, a killer animal trying to get into your bedroom. It reminds you when you wake up.
Really? There’s nothing dangerous in England?
No. There’s nothing. There is one snake in fact called an ada, which people talk about like it’s some kind of terrifying thing, but I think if it bit you maybe you’d have to take a day off or something that’s about it I reckon.
How did the environment affect the album?
I think one for the most important things was not being back in England [and] not being in our usual environment. That affected us in a way that we didn’t expect and pushed us further when recording the album.
What was your very first trip to the US like?
I wasn’t really prepared for how much I’d enjoy it. I was anxious that if it didn’t go well I’d regret it not going well. As soon as we got here I fell in love with the culture. We tend to drive into every city and drive out of every city and meet as many people as possible.
I suppose it’s not like touring in England.
Yeah, in England you tour the whole country in two weeks … There’s a wonderful sense of momentum you can build up that you can just keep working [and] keep chipping away like a Michelangelo masterpiece. England is lots of urban kids from South London making pop records. It’s very peculiar. There’s space for us to make music out here and there’s people willing to promote and enjoy what we’re making. That’s another reason we enjoy being out here so much.
A Silent Film w/Entende, Futurekind, Crescent Ballroom, June 15, 8:30 p.m., free