Silverchair vocalist/guitarist Daniel Johns realizes the strings and
classical piano on the band's new album, Neon Ballroom, might be
catching fans off-guard as the band completes its U.S. tour.
But that wasn't his intention.
"We've always been a kind of traditional hard-rock band," 19-year-old
Johns said, speaking from a tour stop in Ohio as the band wraps up its
three-week stint in the States. "We wanted to take the best elements of
Silverchair but take it a lot further."
With Neon Ballroom, the Australia-based trio wanted to layer
their sound without compromising the power chords and turbo grooves
displayed on the album's predecessors -- 1995's Frogstomp and
1997's Freak Show. The tour was the band's chance to demonstrate
what may be its long-term musical future.
Silverchair's conscious movement toward a more textured, sophisticated
sound is clear from the album's get-go. The opening track,
(RealAudio excerpt), creates a symphonic feel by using strings and
classical piano, the latter played by David Helfgott, whose struggle to
overcome a debilitating nervous disorder was dramatized in the Oscar-winning
1996 film "Shine."
"I really wanted that song to be kind of a classical song with a rock
backbone, rather than the other way around," Johns said. "It was just
basically experimenting and getting the right combination."
Produced by Nick Launay (Semisonic, Midnight Oil and Silverchair's
Freak Show), Neon Ballroom -- which debuted on the
Billboard 200 albums chart at #50 this week -- was the first
post-high school album Silverchair has recorded.
The bandmembers say being able to put aside their academics made a big
difference in the studio.
"It was a lot better for us, a lot easier to focus, because we didn't
have to think about one or the other," bassist Chris Joannou said.
All the album's songs began with Silverchair playing live in the studio
as a three-piece band. Then they began adding different sounds and
textures to the basic foundation. As a result of that experimentation,
many of the songs on Neon Ballroom include strange electronic
noises intended to convey a "futuristic" sound.
On the more familiar front are the groove-laden "Spawn Again" (RealAudio
excerpt), "Dearest Helpless" and the album's first single, the stadium rocker
href="http://media.addict.com/atn-bin/get- music/Silverchair/Anthem_For_The_Year_2000.ram">"Anthem for the Year 2000"
music/Silverchair/Anthem_For_The_Year_2000.ram">"Anthem for the Year
"I thought it would be a good way to get royalty checks on New Year's
Eve," Johns said of that song, whose title he says is meant to be
sarcastic. "Anthem" is one of seven songs featuring keyboard
contributions from Jim Moginie of fellow Australian rockers Midnight
On the flip side of songs such as "Anthem" are ballads including
"Ana's Song (Open Fire)" and "Miss You Love" (RealAudio excerpt).
Johns said he adapted poetry he had previously written to create many
of the verses on Neon Ballroom. That's why, he explained, the
lyrics are deeper than those on previous Silverchair albums.
"It's a result of not intending them to be Silverchair lyrics," he said.
"They're just honest and very open -- I never put any restrictions on
myself, because I never thought anyone else would be hearing them."
Schoolmates Johns, Joannou and drummer Ben Gillies formed what would
become Silverchair in Newcastle, Australia, when they were just 12 years
old. After inspiring a bidding war among Australian labels, they signed
to the Sony subsidiary Murmur.
The bandmembers derived the name Silverchair from Nirvana's "Sliver" -- which was
accidentally misspelled as "Silver" -- and You Am I's "Berlin Chair."
Riding the successful single "Tomorrow" (RealAudio excerpt),
Frogstomp was released on Epic in 1995 and eventually went
double platinum (2 million sold); it was followed by Freak Show
Though Johns and Joannou agreed Neon Ballroom has been their most creatively
satisfying album so far, they don't think they've yet found a
"definitive" Silverchair sound.
"You can see the change within a couple of albums already is so dramatic
that, I don't know, it's kind of hard to say where we'll go next,"