Conceived in Toledo, Ohio with a home base in sister city Detroit, Silent Lions are sinister twosome armed with heavy-soul. Dean Tartaglia (formerly of The Sights) simultaneously plays affected octave bass, sampled synths, and manipulated atmospheric vocals, all while drummer Matt Klein grooves and thrashes beside him, often providing soulful singalong melodies and harmonies.
The duo’s live shows sound as thick and creamy as they do on record. Their music has been tagged “heavy soul,” “chill punk” and “Hall and Oates backed by Rage Against The Machine.”
Silent Lions’ sophomore six-song EP, The Compartments, is a deeper exploration into genre manipulation. From hip-hop to stoner rock, Silent Lions create moments of lo-fi chaos out of hi-fi clarity. With their unofficial third member Zach Shipps (Electric Six) producing, The Compartments takes enough risks to turn your head, but never strays from SiLi’s visceral, trademark, super sub bass and drum sound.
Ghettoblaster recently caught up with the Klein to discuss the EP, which was released in January via their Nah Collective label. This is what he told us.
When did you begin writing the material for the Compartments EP?
Between our tour dates Spring 2013. We only had the four songs from our first EP The Parliaments, our eight minute recent single release ‘ripe•people’, plus a PJ Harvey cover, so we were very ready to finish more. Things felt pretty scattered at the time, and the songs definitely were brought to the studio in a half-finished state. Which was fine, we liked the idea of ‘discovering’ their final form while in the studio. What we didn’t realize is that playing around with samples, synths and vocal effects can take more time than we budgeted ourselves. So it was a good learning experience. Then we able to assemble and rehearse the live versions of what we did in the studio, we always try to recreate 95 percent of the sounds.
What was the most difficult song to take from the initial writing stage through recording and mixing? Why was it so troublesome?
“Runnin’ Me Down” was definitely the trickiest, because it is the least ‘rock song’ of anything we’ve done. So getting the atmosphere and instrumentation just right was extremely important. We spent a lot of time experimenting with the main bassline that carries the verses, and ended up sampling a very clean bass performance directly into the board, which is then cutup note for note as a sample (Dean plays it live this way, before switching to the bass guitar for the choruses). The g-funk synth line was always the pivotal idea to bring the track to the right place, so the drums needed something extra to get to the same vibe. We ended pitching the drums down in tone, early 90’s hip hop style, and found the weight and personality of the track. It’s definitely one of our favorite tracks and got us in the mood to keep trying new approaches for future songs.
Which of the songs on the record is most different from your original concept for the song?
“Stolen In The Heat of the Moment” came into the studio as a bit more straightforward Motown-inspired track. It ended up covered in effects. There’s the fried digital delay on the intro drums, cavernous reverb on the lead vocals and a flanger swirl through the heavinesss of the outro. It was the approach that worked out at the time, and we recreate it to an extent live, but do view it now as having gone a bit overboard. The studio is a place to have fun and capture what you’re feeling…in the moment. Sorry.
Did you have any guest musicians play or sing on the record?
Zach Shipps our producer definitely counts. He’s helped us on synths and ‘plays’ some of the vocal effects live in the studio. He’s an expert on the knobs and faders! Also, our good friends The Yugos from Cincinnati make an appearance shouting during the noisy ending of “Runnin’ Me Down”.
Who engineered, produced, and/or mastered the record? What input did those people have that changed the face of the record?
We’ve worked with Zach on both of our EPs and will also on our first full-length that we’re starting this summer. He’s got a studio in Ferndale, MI and He is completely on the same page with us to get the most out of our bass and drum setup while always trying new ways to write and record. We’ll describe what we’re hearing in strange ways, sometimes with cinematic imagery, sometimes with bad language, and he helps us find what’s in our heads. Whether it’s making something burnt up and nasty or spacious and ethereal, Zach’s our dude.
Is there an overarching concept behind your new EP that ties the record together?
We knew going in that the six songs on The Compartments would all be shooting in opposite directions. They are all certainly ‘rock’ songs in a way, but part of the fun of Silent Lions is doing as much as we can with just two people. So having gotten a lot better at playing together since we had been touring so much, we were inspired to just go for it, and worry about recreating everything after the fact. We found a good running order so that each side of the EP has three songs that flow well, with a small break in the middle. Very similar to what we do live, often not stopping between songs and keeping the atmosphere steady and energy up.
Did you start Nah Collective for the sole purpose of putting out Silent Lions music?
Nah Collective did begin with the first Silent Lions release, but has since become something bigger. With local Toledo artists and regional compilations including: Rollergirl, San Cristobal, Mindfish, Chinese School, Tree No Leaves and Fluffer. And we’ve begun a printing side of the label, making limited edition screen prints for CD and poster art.
Have you begun playing these songs live and which songs have elicited the strongest reaction from your fans?
Every single show we’ve played since we released The Compartments has included “Stolen In The Heat Of The Moment”. It’s always the second song in our set. It’s energy is so relentless and highlights a little bit of everything we do in one song.
(Catch the band live here:
April 23, 2014 · Dayton, OH – Hole in the Wall
April 24, 2014 · Huntington, WV – V Club
April 25, 2014 · Morgantown, WV – 123 Pleasant St
April 28, 2014 · Asbury Park, NJ – Wonder Bar
May 2, 2014 · Columbus, OH – Woodlands Tavern
May 3, 2014 · Charleston, SC – Boulevard Tavern
Hear “Stolen In The Heat Of The Moment”: