And yet the further the calendar days spanned from the late-’80s era that most clearly exemplified the Silos, the more insignificant the modern-day version of the band seemed to have become. Which is why Heater is such a welcome return. Strangely, a decade-plus removed, the new disc most strongly recalls About Her Steps — not necessarily in sound so much as in feel, as something haunting and droney shrouds the 12-song collection. Replete with an eerie, down-the-hall vibe, Heater brims with enthusiasm, grace, mystery and fuzz, not unlike the creative breakthrough Joe Henry discovered on Trampoline a couple years back.
Old-school Silos fans should be able to latch on comfortably to the album’s heartrending folk (“The Cold Hands Of Fate”) and frisky Stones rock (“Mom Out Dancing”), as well as the picturesque, Rowell-driven instrumental (“Away”) and some inside-out jangle-rock (the gorgeous “Northern Lights”). But what really powers Heater is its link to the here and now. With its clunky drum loop and funkified chorus, the album-opening “Prison Song” serves notice that there’s a new Silos in town. “Thanks A Million” chills to the bone with its own junkyard percussion, while “Front Porch”, Salas-Humara’s favorite track on Heater, does the same with its own post-apocalyptic tones.
As is par for the course with a Salas-Humara effort, the music is only half the story. Filled with loss and soul-searching, lines such as “I’m gonna do some travelin’/Where I’ve never been/I hope I’m not reminded/Of who I am” and “There is no happy hour when you’re drinking alone” set the lyrical mood on Heater.
“I don’t know about your life, but I think most people have a pretty tough time,” Salas-Humara says. “Life and relationships, family, work, self-worth, etcetera — it’s all hard work. The lyrics are mostly about struggling and working to get through to some kind of peace with yourself. I find this a generally uplifting and hopeful theme.”
Earlier this year, Salas-Humara scored the Sony Pictures film Whatever. For that project, he was forced to learn how to record with all the bells and whistles of modern, computerized technology. He and Sunshine brought that experience to the several weeks dedicated to crafting Heater in various patchwork home studios “It really opened my eyes,” Salas-Humara says. “I was like, ‘Wow, this stuff’s really cool. I’ve just had my head in the sand for the last ten years.’”
That spark seems to have spilled over into the entirety of Salas-Humara’s professional life. In recent months, he has played drums on albums by Hazeldine and the Willard Grant Conspiracy, produced another by Wisconsin outfit the Wooldridge Brothers, and is currently working on a project with pal Dave Bassett (formerly of L.A. alt-pop band Three Day Wheely), which, for one smirk-inducing song at least, sounds like Pavement smushed together with the Beach Boys.
Salas-Humara has also taken to building studios, having helped Bassett with his, as well as two others. And then there’s the occasional house-painting gig. After all, an artist’s gotta eat.
And let’s not forget Cooler, currently taking shape in New York City, where he recently took an apartment. He’s hoping to remain bi-coastal, thinking that he might be able to parlay his work on Whatever into future film opportunities. A European tour for the Silos (lineup to be determined, although he’s thinking stripped-down, perhaps guitar, keys and drums only) begins in October, and an American tour is scheduled to follow.
Meanwhile, just a couple weeks ago he told Sunshine that he was ready to do it again. “He said, ‘Let’s start working on a Silos record,’” says Sunshine. “It’s like, ‘This record sounds pretty cool, let’s do another one now because it’s gonna be that much more interesting to do. It’s gonna be that much more fun again.’”
“I’m totally into it; I’m ready to make a techno record,” says Salas-Humara, with a big, goofy smile that suggests that he might not be joking. “Next record, all techno. All techno Silos.”
Consider yourself warned.
ND contributing editor Neal Weiss is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer. Once the frontman in a local band, the first two songs he ever wrote were ripoffs of Silos tunes.