Interview: Igor Efimov & Garrett Russell of Silent Planet

I had the opportunity to chat with a couple of the Silent Planet guys after their set in Toronto on May 22nd, near the end of their tour with Kublai Khan and Texas in July in support of Gideon.

Igor Efimov and Garrett Russell joined me in conversation about song writing, the importance of relationships, and what’s up next for the band.

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Photos by David Carlascio
Photos by David Carlascio

First of all, Welcome to Canada. Garrett, is this tour your first time playing Canada?

G: Yeah, it’s Silent Planet’s first time. Igor, it’s probably his thousandth time playing in Canada.

Cool. So what are your thoughts on the tour now that it’s kind of wrapping up?

I: It’s been good man, it’s been really good. We went into this tour with having only Gideon being our really good friends and then everybody’s just really awesome. We’ve really bonded with everybody really well and we’ve played a lot of new markets that we haven’t played a lot before; so that’s been a good experience. Playing in Canada’s been great, obviously. It’s really cool playing in my hometown with a band that’s from another country and just seeing all the friends and all the familiar faces.

I knew you guys had the end your set with “Depths II.” Why did you decide to arrange the set list this way – you played almost the entire album, right?

G: It’s kind of arranged in the same flow as the album to give people a live interactive experience of The Night God Slept. I guess that’s kind of the goal. We actually just got off a headlining tour where we played the album from front to back. We really enjoyed that a lot. Obviously being one of four on this package we just kind of played the songs that we felt like people wanted to hear most.

It seems like in metalcore a lot of it is starting to sound the same. Do you guys make a point of doing something to try to be original or is this just how it comes out? What gives Silent Planet its sound?

I: I honestly think it’s relationships and being honest with our musical tastes and our beliefs and everything else. We don’t try to be somebody that we’re not or try to copy somebody. We have influences, obviously, musically and obviously Garrett, as a writer, he’s influenced by a lot of people. Dude, honestly I guess we’re just very intentional with things and we spend time crafting something versus just pushing something out really fast. Everything has its purpose, serves its purpose, and I don’t know, we don’t want to sound like we’re a cocky band by being like “original” or something else because I feel like a lot of what we play I hear in a lot of other bands’ music as well. I think the biggest thing for me is that we just try to be very relational with people and the kids that come to shows – we want to have a relationship with them. That’s the biggest priority of this band versus anything else.

I like that. Something that stands out to a lot of people about Silent Planet is the lyrics. How does the song writing process work for you – do you have a line or an idea that you take and carry on from that?

G: I think, especially in the songs on The Night God Slept, there’s a story that I’m trying to tell and it always starts with the story and the music. So any lyrics I write are written to the music that my band creates. They make these demos to each song and I usually sit with them and try to listen to them honestly, over five hundred times and really, really absorb them. Because I think that music sort of says something, at least to me. It may sound cheesy, but the honest thing is a lot of lyrics have been written by the music, and I felt like I was just writing what I was told by the music. I’m very thankful to be in a band with musicians who can write stuff that’s emotionally evoking enough that it kind of pulls things out of me that I didn’t know were there previously. It’s probably my favorite part of being alive, of being a human. I’m not even kidding. Doing that is probably my favorite thing about being alive.

That’s amazing. On both sides, musically and lyrically, you can tell that there is a passion at the heart of this band. Kind of a cheesy question, but which would you say is your favorite song from that album to perform live?

I: Honestly, I would have an answer to that a few months ago, but it’s kind of an experience as a whole, and it feels differently every single night. Even me and Mitch, as guitarists, and I think everybody as musicians play things a little bit differently sometimes. Like, the core stays the same but a lot of stuff changes just depending on where we’re at currently and the mood. So I just enjoy the whole experience from the beginning to the end and it kind of does something for me, and it’s very therapeutic for me as well, because I need to play this every night for me, currently, for my life to make sense. I like to think of it not as a performance, but more of an experience, that – kind of like what Garrett says, it’s beyond the words and what you’re saying, and it’s an actual unifying thing, a sonical thing where people are coming together. It’s really cool to see somebody connect with that as you’re going through that. It’s something I can’t explain with words. So I would say just playing the whole set is pretty incredible.

G: I think I’ll always very much enjoy doing “Native Blood.” People get very loud and I really enjoy feeling like I’m lost in the venue. There’s times, actually like tonight, where things are so loud all I can hear is other people and it’s really fun, feeling like people are an ocean and they’re kind of swallowing me alive. That’s a really fun experience, and it kind of happens on that song and “Depths II” a little bit. I do think it kind of varies depending on where we’re at.

What has the reaction been with some of the songs where your faith is more overt? How do people respond, compared to maybe some of the more political ones?

G: That’s an interesting question. I think for us the goal is to make that all one. For me, the politics are part of my faith. You know what I mean? That faith is part of the politics. I think the Gospel as I’ve encountered it is not the purely spiritual or religious phenomenon; that it’s something that changes the world as I know it. And its flipped everything upside down. It’s sort of how these songs address marginalized people and communities, and I guess that is part of my faith and that’s I guess the goal: that people would see them as one in the same, and that religious bands don’t just have to talk about these cosmic battles and forget about people next door to them. That was always a frustration with me, listening to pastors or musicians, just feeling like it was kind of just detached from the reality of people.

Yeah. A friend and I were just talking today about how in an interview John Piper was talking about how not every song has to be about the Gospel, but in-step with, or through the lens of the Gospel. Would you agree with that?

G: I would. I would say for me my encounter with Christ shaped my paradigm. It shaped it and re-educated me and broke me down a little bit.

Right on. Are you guys excited to tour with For Today this summer?

I: Yeah. Dude they are our great friends. That band has done a lot for us. And they really do what they preach and they’ve blessed us an absolute insane amount. I’m playing a guitar right now that Ryan from For Today started his career with and that means a lot to him and he just kind of gave it to me to use. It’s incredible, because I don’t have one and they’ve given us a bunch of things and they’ve been very nice with us on tour. We did a little run with them and it was just very enjoyable to be with people that have been doing this for a long time. So for them, they’re finally taking out bands that they really believe in. It’s really cool to be supported by someone like that.

G: It’s cool to see people that have a lot of power and influence, and they have an open hand with it. I mean, they don’t have a closed fist and keep everything in. I just see them help people a lot and it’s cool to be a part of that. To me, much more than preaching or not preaching, that is good faith. It’s really like how are you treating people. Like people who work at venues, the people that you would think don’t matter. Because I see them treating them with love and I think they’ve even grown a lot as a lot of them have families now, and it’s really cool. They’ve grown up in this way and really created a better genre for a lot of artists, I think, with their influence.

I know you’ve spoken on this before, but you refer to your fans as “lovers.” Do you want to explain that a bit real quickly?

I: I will give a pretty basic answer to that. I personally feel really weird calling someone a fan or calling somebody like, a dude that is stoked on the band a “fan” because I’m not cool enough, dude. And I mess up as much as every single one of these dudes do and I deal with a lot of problems and we want to be a loving group of people and we want to be a community of lovers, a community of people that love each other, that go out of their way to be intentional. We want to hear their stories and we listen to what they have to say and they listen to what we have to say. To me, I guess that’s what that means. It gets difficult sometimes on tour because you’re constantly tired and there’s a different agenda always and you have to be somewhere always. Sometimes some kids come out to shows, man, and they talk about – I’m really interested in hearing what they have to say a lot of times because a lot of those kids come from abusive homes and struggle with a lot of depression and suicide and a lot of very difficult situations, and being like, prosecuted by the government because of either the color of their skin or their sexual orientation or anything like that. I think these shows are an escape for kids like that. This is where they can come and be free and this is where they can feel loved. You know, man, I would literally feel like a piece of shit if I was like on stage and I was like “yo, these are my fans and are listening to my band” because I want to have a relationship with these people. They are as much a part of this as we are. And I mean that. I truly mean that.

G: Exactly. Like Igor said, the idea of fans is very “othering” you know, and very kind of consumer language. I think a lot of bands use that language and it’s language that they like to use and we would like to use relational language. I think “lovers” is the most concise way to sum it up: that we are as humans defined by whom we love, what we love. That’s really what makes us, us: our relationships. These are our lovers, these are our relationships. These are the people that feed us. If someone drives six hours to see us, I want to know them because apparently they want to know us. So that’s the hope. And I think that’s what this genre really started on, and should be. And honestly when I see bands where people have to pay to meet bands or to get their signatures, that is bullshit. And I will say that even knowing that this could probably get us in trouble. But its bullshit to think that, you know? I mean it’s cool if kids want to get a VIP pass to get in early or get some exclusive thing, but the idea that someone would have to pay to meet someone in this genre is Justin Bieber bullshit. And I don’t think it has a place in this genre and especially not for us, who follow us this Dude who got killed, and forgotten and spit on for serving the least of these.

I like that. I really admire the humility and honesty from you guys.

G: I’m sure it’ll get us in trouble! I have a way of getting us in trouble, but we’ll see. [laughs] But that’s how we feel right now. If you ever see that there’s people paying to meet us, slap us, or slap the person taking their money. Turn over the tables, call it a sin, because I think it is.

We’ll take it a bit to the lighter side. What does Silent Planet do in your off-time? You’re both super intelligent dudes but I can’t imagine you spend all your time debating theology or something. What do you guys do to just kick back?

I: I don’t even know. I don’t even remember the last time I got to relax. I struggle with pretty large anxiety, so I’m constantly spinning in my head like “what is next”. I’m learning to enjoy the moment, and enjoy the day because this will go by and then one day Silent Planet won’t be a thing anymore. I want to be able to enjoy what’s surrounding me right now, and the people. And I’ve been learning how to do that. For some people that’s sitting down and watching a movie on their laptop, for some people that’s laying, walking, whatever. I think we’re pretty good in this band for giving each other the space they need. Sometimes it means I need to have a conversation with like Mitch, or hangout, and sometimes Alex needs to sit down by himself and watch a whole series of whatever show, and you know, we just kind of learn each other’s down time and what de-stresses us. We do like sight-seeing. We’ve been getting better at that. And it’s kind of weird because we have two different crews: we have a night crew that drives and a morning crew that drives. We usually don’t see each other at all because when I wake up is just when Tom or Garrett for example, is going to bed. So it gets difficult exploring stuff, but it’s fun. When you’re like “this is family” so when we get to go and experience things together. Like when we were in Montreal the other, or Salt Lake City, or Washington D.C. or New York, it’s really awesome, man. It really brings it together.

G: I would say we don’t have the economic means to almost have off time, if that makes sense. That does actually give us a gift I think of real close relationality. It’s not just a word to call each other “family.” We actually are each other’s family. Igor saw his parents for the first time in three years, today, to give you an idea of how gone he’s been. Like talking to you right now, is “off time”, I don’t know if that makes sense. We’re not carrying heavy stuff right now so this is nice!

What’s the future plan, are you going to keep touring The Night God Slept for a while, ‘cause it is pretty new? Are you a band that is constantly writing?

I: There are things coming up. We have a very busy year. There is a lot of new stuff that is going to be announced very soon. There are future plans. Obviously this band is a touring band, and we make music, and there will be music from Silent Planet at one point. It’s something that we’ve been talking about so it’s not too, too far away. I think just wait maybe a few months and then we’ll be a little more open about it. We just don’t even know what that is right now. We do have some plans to do something a little bit different during the summer and hopefully we’ll be able to establish it. We’re trying to do a DIY, kind of little surprise thing for this record, and we’ll see if we can accomplish it. If we do, which I think we will, it’ll be really awesome.

G: we’re very inspired by artists in our genre and other genres, probably more so not in this genre, but more kind of weird, indie world, that just put out stuff, that are these creative springs and things are always coming forth and sometimes you don’t always expect it. It’s cool, because Beyonce did that. She just dropped an album. We would like to be a band that doesn’t put out an album and that’s all you really get and we tour really hard for a year and a half and then put out another one. I would like there to be in between stuff in all sorts: video media, picture media, obviously written stuff. I think in the future as we have the ability, and the reach and the support from our label, we’ll be able to put out new things, and try to bend what is a release date.

We’ll keep our eyes and ears open! Thank you for giving me so much of your time.

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Keep up with Silent Planet on Facebook, Twitter, and at SolidStateRecords.com

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