The Silos released their first album, About Her Steps, in 1986 and were promptly tagged as part of the then-nascent alt-country movement, but over the course of nine full-length releases and nearly two decades they’ve long since escaped any simple categorization. A Silos album is a well-played and passionately sung grab-bag of musical styles: the uncompromising sound of indie rock throughout feedback-drenched rockers and gorgeous lap-steel laced ballads, with a touch of Latin music there, a touch of Brit-pop here, a snippet of So. Cal styling there, and more. And the band’s new release, When the Telephone Rings (Dualtone), stands its ground with the Silos’ strongest albums.
It’s hard to believe that all this diversity issues from one man, but Walter Salas-Humara has been the songwriter, guitarist and lead vocalist of the band all along. Salas-Humara explains via telephone that the diversity of the Silos’ music isn’t a conscious choice or a marketing device: “It’s the songs,” he says. “They dictate the arrangements and instrumentation that we then put to them.” He serves the song rather than his own ego, in other words. Salas-Humara is an atypical leader of a band that’s achieved critical acclaim and a large cult following in its years together: He’s humble and grateful. “We’re so lucky to be able to do what we love for a living,” he says. “And the three of us get along fantastically well.” Along with Salas-Humara on guitar, bassist/lap steel player Drew Glackin and drummer Konrad Meissner form a seasoned trio where, according to Salas-Humara, “the three personalities come out strongly and mesh together remarkably well. There’s lots of room for stretching out and improvising.”
Through all that diversity, the Silos’ songs carry a message. Salas-Humara is the son of Cuban exiles, and his own politics are, he says, “Far to the left.” He’s especially emphatic about our effect on the natural world and is disheartened by the increasingly fragmented nature of American society: “We need unity in times of turmoil like the one we’re living through now.” And that need for unity is something Salas-Humara’s music communicates loud and clear.
The Silos play Sean Kelly’s on Thursday, Oct. 7, at 7 PM. It’s the band’s first Missoula appearance, and according to Salas-Humara, the 25-song set list will offer a rich blend of old and new material.