Instrumental post-rock fans are an underserved niche here in the Bay Area. So it’s with an incredibly heavy heart that we prepare ourselves to bid farewell to one of the Bay Area’s best bands—not just one of the best instrumental post-rock bands, but one of our best bands period—the Oakland duo known as Silian Rail.
Robin Landy’s guitar work was like nothing you’d see here on the local scene or anywhere else. Big, lush open chords cascaded from her guitar like a sunny stream pouring over a waterfall. Eric Kuhn’s drums did the rest – always exactly right, whether they needed to be minimal and tasty or propulsive and epic, combining the precision of a session drummer with the power to drop that rock loud enough that folks heard it three blocks away. The compositions were always so tuneful yet meandering, powerful without hitting you over the head with anything. Thoughtful music, yes, but moving too.
The band recommends you start with their most recent album, last year’s each/other, if you’re new to their music. So here you go:
Whether you’re an old fan or new, if you need a few reasons not to get too bummed that Silian Rail is leaving us after listening to each/other, then you should listen to every/one, the companion EP the band put out last year as well. For each song, Silian Rail brought a different collaborator into the studio. Maybe you’ll discover your new favorite local musician here:
Silian Rail’s farewell show is this Saturday at The Night Light in Oakland. Tartufi and By Sunlight, two bands that have been there for a good chunk of Silian Rail’s musical journey, also play. Be there or be really, really sorry.
I recently had the chance to chat with Robin and Eric about their past, present, and future, but mainly to ask, “Whyyyyyyyyyy?!?!”
The Bay Bridged: First question is, obviously, “Whyyyyyyyyyy?!?!”
Robin Landy: I’m moving to Asheville, which is in our home state of North Carolina. I love Oakland, but desperately miss having space, privacy, quiet, a garden, and all those things that can be so difficult to have in a city. NC made a lot of sense because I have family and a support system there. My West Coast friends and my band are very dear to me, so it was not an easy decision, but I’m ultimately excited about the change.
Eric Kuhn: Our writing really thrives on playing together in the moment, improvising, etc., so it’s hard to imagine continuing to play together with us across the country from each other. It’s not impossible that we will play together again someday, for a show here or there, or if we end up in the same place again, but it seemed to make sense to put this chapter of the band to rest.
TBB: What’s planned for your farewell show?
EK: We are very happy to be playing with two bands who have been integral to the life of the band—Tartufi, and By Sunlight. Silian Rail probably wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for the support and inspiration Tartufi has given to us over the years, and likewise with By Sunlight. Our set will be on the longer side (especially for us), because we couldn’t narrow down our list of favorite songs to play to a tasteful length. Our friend and longtime collaborator Luke Judd will be projecting some visuals as well. Other than that, it’s going to be pretty straight forward. We wanted to end things on the same note they started on—two friends enjoying a unique musical connection. Simple.
TBB: What do you both plan to do next?
EK: I’ve been doing a ton with eric + erica, which is a new project that I play keyboard and sing in. Also wrapping up a record I played on and produced for Michael Musika, and continuing to play the multi-instrumentalist/accompanist role for Sean Hayes and various other folks, and I’m working on a couple film scores. I also have plans to do another set of solo recordings, and have been collaborating with some dancers recently on a performance piece.
RL: I think I’ll always play music in some capacity, but with everything involved with such a big move, I don’t have immediate plans to start another band. I’d love to make some home recordings of some solo stuff at some point. I haven’t done much of that, and it’d be fun to see what comes of such a different approach to writing and recording.
TBB: I understand you have a parting gift for us? Unreleased music?
EK: We’ll be recording one last song with our friend and engineer/producer Robert Cheek. Not sure yet of exactly how we’ll release it, but we’ll be making that available over the summer. Quite accidentally, it turns out to be a nice little summation of all the different things Silian Rail does. There’s a possible goofy b-side to it too, but we’ll have to see how ridiculous we’re feeling in the studio.
TBB: So for anyone who is not aware of the Silian Rail legacy up til now, where should they jump in? Any record or song particularly jump out at y’all, when you look back, that you consider your best work?
EK: To me, our last record, each/other, is the fullest representation of all that we do, the most dynamic record, and also the one where we made the best use of the recording process (thanks to Robert Cheek). The lo-fi EP we did alongside that, every/one, is also near and dear to me for kind of opposite reasons—each song has a different collaborator, and so it brings out a lot of unusual aspects of our musical interests. It’s also a wonderful showcase of some very talented friends.
RL: Agreed, each/other is us at our most cohesive and evolved, and I feel very proud of every song on that record. Of the older songs that come to mind—”Or, the Northern Lights” and “‘i’ is Somebody Else” from And I You to Pieces, and “Moth and Rust” from Parhelion, are some of my personal favorites.
TBB: What is your single best memory of Silian Rail? Best show, fan interaction, what have you?
EK: Well, that feels impossible! I will never forget one of our first shows ever at a house in Santa Cruz, where people danced furiously like drunken lizards, and were standing on furniture, and squashed in right next to us, and danced so much the whole house was shaking. There is also someone in San Diego with one of our songs titles tattooed on him, which is incredible to me.
RL: After nearly eight years, there have been so many fun and memorable experiences that it’s really impossible to pick one or ten. I’ll not really answering your question by just thanking our much loved friends in Portland, Seattle, Chico, LA and San Diego (you know who you are) as well as here in the Bay. You’ve given us more good memories than I can count.
EK: Yep. That.
TBB: We’ll miss y’all. That’s not a question. Just saying: Thanks for all the great music.
EK: Thanks so much! Thank you for all your support over the years.
RL: That means a lot. Thanks for everything.
Silian Rail, By Sunlight, Tartufi
The Night Light
June 8, 2013