Silencio - "And yet we hear a band."

By Margarita for Twin Peaks Freaks. 

­Silencio made a splash into the Lynchian fan community with their debut album, “Music Inspired by the Works of David Lynch and Angelo Badalamenti,” in 2012. Since then, they have been touring, performing and working on their second record, “She’s Bad,” which was released today.

Silencio is made up of Kirk Salopek (guitar), David Jamison (Drums), Matt Booth (Bass), Lee Hintenlang (Sax). Denny Karl (Keyboards) and Dessa Poljak (Vocals). In the following interview we talk to Kirk and Dessa about the band's formation, musical influences, creative process  and more.  

You originated in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Can you tell us a bit about how the band was formed?

<Kirk> The concept for Silencio was a long running idea between David Jamison and myself from our previous band Mandrake Project. Mandrake had already been creating large cinematic compositions for years when Dave and I decided to record some studio demos of material that ended up sounding a lot like, “something from a Lynch film.”

Our mutual admiration for David Lynch and Angelo Badalamenti’s perfect pairings of film and sound came to fruition just as Mandrake Project was ending. We originally wanted to call the project The Slow Club, but quickly settled on Silencio after finding out that name had been taken. The name Silencio is pretty popular too, but I think we’ve been able to establish ourselves in such a way that people who are looking for us will find us. 

Honestly, the band seemed to form itself effortlessly around the studio project. In a very short amount of time we were playing shows in prestigious venues to very attentive audiences. It was exciting from the start.

What were the Lynch works that got each of you “hooked”?

Everyone in the band is obviously a fan, but I can really only speak for myself on this one. I’d have to say that either Blue Velvet or Mulholland Drive. The latter really gave me the inspiration and vision to create our own original music, which attempts to grab the feel and atmosphere of a Lynch film.   

Dave (my writing partner in the band) has told me many times that Lost Highway was the one that really grabbed him, and I can definitely see that in a lot of his ideas.

When one thinks of the soundtracks to Lynch’s works, there are many different sounds that are all distinctly Lynchian: ambient, shoe gaze, noir-rock, jazz, rockabilly, et cetera. How did his existing soundscape factor into deciding what sort of musicians you needed?

<Kirk> As I’d stated earlier, the band literally fell together. I did not seek out particular musicians with a “style,” but rather those who were adaptable and capable to wear many hats. I knew that finding the right singer would truly be the clincher for a project like this, and by happenstance along came Dessa into the picture. She had attended Mandrake Project shows in the past and always reminded me that she sang. At one point before Silencio had formed, Dave was doing his own recording project and needed a female vocalist. I suggested Dessa do the session for him. After the session, he and I thought how perfect she would be for the “Lynch band idea.” Silencio would perform its first show just a few weeks later.

Aside from Lynch and Badalamenti, who are your other musical influences?

<Kirk> I’ve always listened to a LOT of music. It’s part of me. Every new project or band I involve myself in allows me to dig through things and immerse myself in material that helps me understand the foundations of a writing style. Silencio inspired me to revisit a lot of stuff that I grew up with, in particular, rockabilly and punk rock. The last few years have had me on a steady diet of stuff like: The Cramps, X, Link Wray, Nick Cave, The Gun Club, Eddie Cochran, Bo Diddley, Marc Ribot, T. Rex, Southern Culture on the Skids, Chris Isaak, The Sonics, John Barry, Les Baxter, Cal Tjader, et cetera.

There’s been some amazing newer stuff too like: JD McPherson, Nick Waterhouse, and The War on Drugs. It’s very inspiring to listen to artists so dedicated to their sound.

Your 2012 album, “Music Inspired by the Works of David Lynch & Angelo Badalamenti,” includes 17 tracks that immediately transport us into the works of Lynch. One minute you feel like you are watching Fred Madison’s frenzied saxophone performance in Lost Highway, the next minute Dessa’s voice transports us to an ethereal Julee Cruise piece à la Industrial Symphony. Do you compose each track according to the Lynchian moment you are inspired by?

<Kirk> Not really. In fact, on the first Silencio disc the songs were written without Lynch in mind.  It wasn’t until after they were being tracked that we made the connection and decided to run with it. All of Lynch’s soundtracks are so good, and those which have that quintessential Badalamenti sound should be respectfully left alone. For us, it’s a very tough line to walk when recording albums of original material that are directly and intentionally influenced by the films and their soundtracks. We want to grab the essence of the sound and atmosphere, without blatantly ripping it off. Silencio should always sound like Silencio, but make you think of (or feel) a “Lynchy moment.”

It is well known among Lynch fans that Rammstein ended up on the Lost Highway soundtrack by persistently sending copies of their CD to Lynch. The story goes that, inundated with CDs, he didn’t end up listening to theirs right away, but happened to place a copy in his car stereo while he was driving and scouting for shooting locations. If you had 10 minutes on Lynch’s car stereo, what would you want him to hear?  

<Kirk> I did not know that story about Rammstein…WOW, BOB, WOW!

That’s a difficult question because Silencio touches on so many styles within the same album. I have a feeling that David Lynch is progressively minded enough to not seek music that sounds just like the music he’s already used for past projects. In that case, I suppose I’d like him to hear something like, “Low Down Dirge” or “Only With You” from the new album. If we’re talking classic sounding Lynch soundtrack stuff, then probably, “Dream in Blue” or “Night Drive” from the first album and, “Take Me With You” or our version of the 1958 classic, “The Stroll” from the new album.

Dessa, the image of a woman on stage singing has been featured in Eraserhead, Blue Velvet, Wild at Heart, Twin Peaks/FWWM and Mulholland Drive. Your performances also conjure up elements of Audrey Horne and other female characters of Lynch’s through your mannerisms and aesthetic. Who is your favorite Lynchian lady and why?

<Dessa> It would have to be Patricia Arquette in Lost Highway as Renee Madison/Alice Wakefield. Her character(s) display traits of being both powerful and incredibly vulnerable. As a female performing artist, playing that dual role is something I can identify with and simultaneously fear.  The "escape" of the stage is as alluring as it is daunting.

Twin Peaks Freaks is a female-driven collective that was formed out of a need for a more inclusive online forum for fans of Lynch’s work. Many female fans, for example, have come out and spoken against online harassment within the community. Dessa, what struggles have you overcome as an artist who freely expresses your own femininity and sensuality?

<Dessa> I am very fortunate to be able to call Silencio my first real musical venture.  I joined the band alongside a talented and accomplished group of musicians with little prior experience.  It was largely intimidating for me. The immediate success of the band's live shows was quite unpredictable. The fourth show I'd ever performed was in front of a sold out and super attentive crowd at the esteemed Le Poisson Rouge in NYC. Needless to say, I was forced to grow as an artist very fast and in front of a discerning crowd!

You are releasing your second album this June entitled, “She’s Bad.” What can we expect from your latest offering?

<Kirk> Expect a collection of songs that touch on an extremely wide range of styles. Our original intention was to base the album loosely on the Lost Highway soundtrack. Trent Reznor and Barry Adamson’s input, mixed with the usual amazing work we all know and love from Angelo Badalamenti, made for a great listen.  We wanted to try to harness that, albeit from one band. I feel like we hit close to the mark. We recorded a lot of songs, and it was a difficult choice deciding which ones to leave off the record.   

In your live shows, you play Lynch and Badalamenti tunes as well as your own originals. I have watched some of these on YouTube, and even through the screen I was excited at seeing some of my favorite songs from their soundtracks performed live. Will you be touring more as the frenzy towards Showtime’s 2016 Twin Peaks series builds?

We just booked a short northeast U.S. tour for summer 2015. We would really like to hit the U.S. west coast and a few dates in Europe in 2016 to coincide with the Twin Peaks revival. As of now, we’re looking into ways to fund it. Although, we’ve had a less is more approach with this act. I think people will always be hungry for it unless it’s in their face too much. We had done this (with great acclaim) for almost three years before the Twin Peaks return announcement. Now that the real thing is coming back, I guess we’ll see if people still need us to remind them how great this stuff has sounded for the last 25 years. But… YES, we will be touring more.