Few music careers begin as dramatically as that of Philadelphia’s bluesy hard rockers Silvertide. By the end of the band’s first gig in February 2001, police had raided the club where they were playing and arrested dozens of crowd members for underage drinking and drug possession. Frontman Walt Lafty was almost hauled off as well.
“I had given a bunch of equipment to my friends so they could sneak out the back and say they were carrying gear,” he explained. “Then I noticed all the gear was gone and I wasn’t out yet. So when I tried leaving, this black female cop goes, ‘Why should I let you out of here? You look like you’re 12 years old.’ I was drunk out of my mind, and I had to sing an Al Green song to her to prove I was in the band.”
The event set the tone for the gritty, good-time outfit, whose music blends the swagger of the Black Crowes, the stomp of Led Zeppelin and the trashy flash of Aerosmith. Other contemporary bands may sing about bruising relationships and other ego-shattering trauma, but Silvertide prefer the get-your-rocks-off and party-till-you puke ethos of bands like MÃ¶tley CrÃ¼e.
“We’re not interested in singing about being depressed and taking on the anger of the world,” Lafty said. “People deal with that stuff enough in their lives. We want them to forget about their problems, drink a few beers and just rock out.”
Silvertide’s debut album, Show and Tell, is an overflowing keg of high-testosterone vocals, heavy-groove guitars and flailing beats that recalls the height of ’80s rock debauchery. Such a sound is common for musicians in their 30s and 40s who grew up with Zeppelin and Guns N’ Roses, but it’s odd coming from a bunch of kids in their early 20s. “We’re don’t really relate to a lot of the stuff on the radio,” Lafty said. “We prefer the great music from the past, but not the Black Crowes. A lot of people compare us to them because my voice sounds a lot like Chris Robinson’s, but none of us even owned a Black Crowes record growing up.”
Despite their non-conformity with the marketplace, Silvertide are connecting strongly with rock fans. Audiences greeted them warmly on tours with Aerosmith, Van Halen and Shinedown, and their boisterous debut single, “Ain’t Comin’ Home,” has been near the top of radio charts for weeks. The track addresses the Spinal Tap edict: “Have a good time all the time.”
“It’s about realizing that God gave us the bone and the body to be able to have fun,” Lafty elaborated. “You can live through a lot, and your body can take a lot of abuse. So, instead of whining and bitching about going to work and trying to always work towards going to college, kick back once in a while and let loose.”
While “Ain’t Comin’ Home” has clearly kick-started Silvertide’s career, the song originally wasn’t slated for Show & Tell.
The band wrote it three years ago and considered it dated. However, since the group liked playing it live, it decided to throw it on the disc. “We realized there was no reason to be ashamed of it just because it’s something we wrote early on,” Lafty said. “So we added it at the last minute, and weirdly, it’s the one everyone latched on to.”
Lafty started writing songs for Show & Tell when he was in high school, and finished many of them during his long shifts working as the janitor for a chain of health clubs. After Silvertide were signed in 2002, they finished the songs at a band house they rented in Los Angeles, then recorded the album with Oliver Leiber at various studios in L.A., New York and Philadelphia. Then the group hit the road hard. While Show & Tell was in the can well over a year before its June release, Lafty said the long wait was actually beneficial.
“It gave us a chance to really fine-tune the songs on the road,” Lafty said. “We have played with a lot of bands that have new records that have just come out, and they haven’t been on the road at all. I’m not gonna mention names, but they suck because they haven’t had the experience.”
Silvertide will remain on the road through December 18 with Shinedown before going out with Saliva. Much of next year will also be spent living out of suitcases – which doesn’t mean there won’t be new material. Before they headed out with Shinedown, Silvertide spent a week in the studio working on new songs, and Lafty said they will continue writing on their bus.
“Having a ton of material is the key to making a great record,” he explained. “A lot of new bands just write two good songs and then put them out with eight other songs they’ve just thrown together. We’ve learned from a lot of the great older bands that would tour their asses off and write constantly. Then when it came time to do the record, they had a wide array of things to chose from, so they could narrow it down and pick the best.”