On their new album YRUYMI (pronounced “Why Are You, Why Am I”), The Silver State picks up where they left off with their 2014 album, Outside. Only this time, the three founding members of the band aren’t traveling all over the country to work together, and are back in the city where it all started, Las Vegas.
The Silver State’s sound, and the work of lyricist/vocalist/guitarist Caleb Lindskoog, have been compared to Wilco, early Radiohead, the Police and Neil Young. Even though the band originally formed and cut its debut EP in Las Vegas, Lindskoog has been based in Brooklyn, New York for the past 13 years. The other members, guitarist Taylor Milne and Australian drummer Alex Stopa, have stayed busy in Vegas, with Milne working as a touring band member of The Killers, and Stopa as a professional percussionist with the La Reve aquatic production show on the Las Vegas Strip. But distance hasn’t stopped them from continuing to record and perform together. They got together, for instance, in Indianapolis to record 2008’s Cut and Run, and have opened for acts like Camper Van Beethoven and The Shins.
With Lindskoog’s return, the band cut YRUYMI at The Killers’ Battle Born studios in Vegas, which has hosted acts like Elton John and Motley Crue. The album opens strong with the track “Red Tailed Hawk,” which was inspired by a hawk Lindskoog spotted while walking in NYC.
“I would always see this bird and think about how it was in the city, living in a way that it wasn’t meant to live,” he says. “I felt this sort of kinship with this bird of prey that should be in the wild, but instead is in the city scooping up rats.” Opening with three minutes of pulsing instrumentation ala Joshua Tree-era U2, “Red Tail Hawk” sets the tone for the rest of the album by this trio that sounds like they’ve never been apart.
“I write all the lyrics and sing everything,” Lindskoog says, explaining the band’s composition process. “The songs happen in a certain way most of the time, and we’ve got bunches of tunes in various stages of the process all the time, so the workflow is pretty constant. There are exceptions, like when a song just falls into my lap and it’s done in like five minutes, and from there it’s just all a matter of doing what the song needs from the instrumental accompaniment and production, etc. We usually start with some guitar parts, or sometimes piano or a bass line that Taylor and I conjure up, to which I’ll sing a melody.”
“We’ll get a vibe going,” he continues, “and Alex will demo some drums and/or maybe some marimba, vibes or steel drum – who knows. I’ll work on lyrics, and then the other compositional elements will inevitably evolve in turn. I’ll usually get a song like 80-90% there lyrically, or sometimes totally done, before we head into the studio. The thing I like about not having a fully formed idea beforehand is that we can all get back into the song together in the room, make tweaks and put the finishing touches on it.”
“Since I’ve been back in Vegas, we’ve gotten really good at recording ourselves. So some of the stuff we’ve gotten down more recently – even before YRUYMI was 100% finished – could very well end up being on the next album. Some of the steps in the aforementioned process can be streamlined or skipped altogether, because we’re more likely to be in the same room together when lots of these decisions, both big and small, are happening throughout the whole process of a song taking shape. We’re excited about the return to this way of doing things versus our years of bicoastal rigmarole. It’s nice to feel a natural, focused momentum as a band again, not just by virtue of our proximity, but also our process.”
The band has no video content yet for the songs from the new album yet because of Nevada’s stay-at-home order and the advent of social distancing, but Lindskoog says it’s not for lack of wanting. “We’ve been planning to get more video posts going, and that’s really exciting to me. It’ll probably be more performance-based stuff. As for music videos in a more conventional sense, I’m trying to come up with less expensive ideas. We’ll see.”