Kevin Franks of Silvertide
Drummer Kevin Frank, singer Walt Lafty, bassist Brian Weaver, and guitarists Nick Perri and Mark Melchiorre of Silvertide created quite a buzz in their hometown of Philadelphia. In fact, the band was so hot, it led to an all-out label bidding war that veteran music mogul Clive Davis won. That’s hot.
by Billy Amendola
Silvertide’s debut EP, American Express, was released on J Records in 2002. Their full-length debut, Show & Tell, was released this past September. The band is a mix of bluesy, raunchy, ass-kicking ’70s-influenced rock grooves that breathe fresh air into the new resurgence of rock ‘n’ roll. MD caught up with this slammin’ young rocker just as the band returned home from Japan.
MD: How did you develop your style of playing left-handed on a right-handed setup?
Kevin: It’ kind of weird – I write with my right hand, but when I was younger and I played hockey, more often I played completely left-handed. When I played tennis or baseball I did it right-handed. I’m definitely not ambidextrous, because I can’t do everything equally well both ways, but for some reason anything musical I do left-handed. I play guitar left-handed, for instance. Then on the drums, I play right-footed, with the kit set up right-handed. But I have my ride on the left, so I’m playing that left-handed. I just taught myself how to play that way. It seemed logical, with the hi-hat on the left, to play a simple 4/4 hi-hat/kick/snare beat with my left hand.
MD: At what age did you start playing?
Kevin: I started when I was eleven. I just turned twenty.
MD: Did you ever take any formal lessons?
Kevin: I’m mainly self-taught, though in high school I was in the school band and I learned how to read music. But I never took any private drum lessons.
MD: Who was the first drummer you noticed?
Kevin: Actually, when I was around eleven, I was into the band Live.
MD: Chad Gracey.
Kevin: Yeah. I remember watching Live on MTV Unplugged, and he was one of the first dudes that I guess you could say I idolized. I saw him playing drums and I said, “I want to do that.” He’s a good drummer, though he’s not one of my main influences.
MD: Who are your biggest influences?
Kevin: Keith Moon and John Bonham. And Buddy Miles is also a huge influence, because I like a lot of groove and funk music. Buddy was so back in the pocket it’s unbelievable. He couldn’t push it any further back. And he’d be playing the same groove over and over, and it never got boring. That Band Of Gypsys DVD is so unbelievable. It still inspires me. To watch those three guys onstage with all that soul, it’s great.
MD: Talking about DVDs – are you familiar with any of the drum DVDs that are out?
Kevin: I wish I could tell you yes because it would probably be more interesting for an interview. [laughs] But I’m actually not familiar. I have seen one – I can’t recall his name – the gentleman from Deep Purple.
MD: Ian Paice.
Kevin: Yeah! He’s an awesome drummer.
MD: You should listen to the Deep Purple album Burn. Besides the title track, there’s another track with killer drums called “Lay Down, Stay Down.”
Kevin: I will, thanks. I did hear a live record that was great.
MD: Live In Japan?
Kevin: Yeah. The drums on that are ridiculous.
MD: When you were growing up, what kind of music did your parents listen to?
Kevin: My parents weren’t really the music-listening kind. They like music, and now that I’m in a rock ‘n’ roll band they listen to more music. But I’m the youngest of five; I have an older brother and three older sisters. My parents are in their mid to late fifties, so they listened to music from the ’50s and ’60s that they grew up with. I don’t think any of that directly influenced me.
MD: How did Sivertide get so influenced by the ’70s rock sound?
Kevin: There’s no real explanation. When we got together some of the other guys’ parents listened to The Rolling Stones and The Beatles, and that’s what they grew up on. When we got together there were like a thousand different band influences within the five guys in our band that we just started playing whatever we could play. We never said we wanted to be like this band or try to sound like anyone. I was influenced by whatever was going on when I was young and first started playing.
Kevin: Whatever was on the radio and whatever was going on at the time – Nirvana, Soundgarden, Green Day – bands like that. My taste developed more after I met the other guys in the band, and I just started listening to more of the music that they listened to. They showed me the world that I’m into now.
It’s weird, I still don’t think we’re like Jet, but we get compared to them all the time because “rock ‘n’ roll” is more popular than it was. There are just so many more bands that have come out like, “Hey, we’re a rock ‘n’ roll band,” you know? We’re definitely not trying to do that at all. If anyone would ask, “Do you guys want to be the next biggest rock ‘n’ roll band?” we always say, “No.” We just want to be a really big band. That would be cool.
MD: Your first single, “Ain’t Coming Home,” has been getting substantial radio play.
Kevin: It’s been top-10 on active rock, and on heritage rock radio. The video is just out.
MD: What did you practice growing up? Did you play along to records?
Kevin: I did, actually. But when I first started out, it didn’t work too well considering that it all sounded like grenades and explosions going off for the first six months or so. [laughs] I had no concept of tempo when playing along to a song. But eventually that is pretty much how I did it. My brother played a little bit of guitar and attempted to sing, so we always played together. That was a big influence on me. I would go home and play whatever was in my mind. It was probably influenced by what I would hear on the radio and some records I had back then – Stone Temple Pilots. I’d play by ear. The whole band did it that way.
MD: The band has a good live feel. Were the tracks recorded that way?
Kevin: Yes. There were some overdubs, but the general feel of the album is definitely live, which I think is different from the way a lot of records are made today, in terms of computers and overproduction. My drum takes aren’t pasted together. I just played a couple times until I got the right take. I know I can play it perfectly one out of a few times, so that’s the approach we took.
MD: Did you record the drums out in an open room?
Kevin: Yes, in a big wood room, about 200 feet long by 75 feet wide, and about 35 feet high. It was a studio in Burbank, California called Ocean Studios.
MD: How was it working with producer Oliver Leiber?
Kevin: Oliver is a great guy. At first we had total resistance to his methods because we were younger then and inexperienced at recording an album. We learned a lot from him in terms of his production skills and having him look over our shoulder and suggest certain things. He didn’t suggest too much, but it took us a couple days to adjust to it. Then we realized that all his suggestions were amazing. He was coming from the same background as we were. He’s also an amazing drummer. He took lessons from Bernard Purdie at one point, and he taught me some of the feels that Bernard would do.
MD: Are you familiar with Purdie’s playing?
Kevin: Not really – I’m trying to think – what is the song with the same feel as the Zeppelin song?
Kevin: Yeah, with the hi-hat shuffle.
MD: That’s Jeff Porcaro with Toto. Jeff once said he played a cross between the Purdie shuffle and Bonham’s “Fool In The Rain,” and that’s how he came up with “Roseanna.”
Kevin: Yeah. That’s it!
MD: How did you hook up with GMS drums?
Kevin: Originally through Dennis Ricci at the Long Island Drum Center. I was hooked up with the LIDC through a guitar tech of ours who knew another guy who told me to give Rob a call. At that point I hadn’t played GMS drums. But when I played their drums, it was exactly what I was looking for – with the drum tones that I’m into, the more vintage-sounding drums. I’ve collected vintage drums over the years, but I needed a kit that would hold up on the road. And they made me a custom 16×26 kick that sounds so big, I love it.
MD: Is that the kit you used on the record?
Kevin: No it isn’t, because I got hooked up with them after the record was already recorded. I picked out sizes, a color, and a finish, and they had the drums at my house the day we had to leave for the Van Halen tour. They were all in pieces and didn’t have heads or anything on them. I put them in a big box and threw them on a trailer and got to the first gig and put them all together. And I was blown away.
MD: Any favorite songs to play live?
Kevin: One is a song called “Show & Tell,” which actually isn’t on the record, even though the record is titled Show & Tell. The song didn’t come out quite the way we wanted it to. It didn’t have a live enough feel, and we just couldn’t capture the vibe and energy on tape. We knew if we waited, we’d be able to play the song ten times better. So we play it live now and it kicks.
MD: How long has the band been together?
Kevin: This January it will be four years.
MD: How did you meet?
Kevin: Nick, our lead guitar player, and I went to the same high school. The band started in our junior year, when we were sixteen. The other three guys went to a high school five minutes away. Mark and Walt were playing together at coffee shops and doing more acoustic gigs, and Nick and I were doing sort of an open-mic’ deal, and we crossed paths. From the first rehearsal we had three new songs. Then we got our bass player, Brian, who is Mark’s neighbor.
MD: I noticed you’re all involved with the songwriting.
Kevin: We all play guitar, and we all have ideas in our heads. Walt writes ninety percent of the lyrics.
MD: How long have you been playing guitar?
Kevin: About seven years. But I haven’t really been playing guitar much lately. I’ve been focusing on the drums and percussion much more. I used to write more for the band, and play more too. “Mary Jane,” “Show & Tell,” “See Where I Hide,” and “You Want It All” are riffs that I came up with.
MD: Playing guitar gives you more of an understanding of melody.
Kevin: Definitely. And when I’m trying to show the band an idea, I can just lay down a quick guitar part and say, I want it to be something like this.
MD: You’re playing live so much now, which is the greatest practice in the world. Do you sit down and practice as well?
Kevin: I warm up right before every show, with doubles and stuff like that, just to get my hands loose. Like you said, we play every day on tour, and that’s definitely enough for me. And we’re based around improvisation. Every night is a little bit different, so I can try different stuff every night and experiment.
MD: We talked about some of the drummers influencing you growing up, are there any drummers that you’re into now?
Kevin: Let me think – I’m really bad at names, but that first King Crimson record, In The Court Of The Crimson King – the drummer [Michael Giles] is definitely awesome. It’s so precise. If you haven’t listened to that record, check it out. It’s definitely out there – very time signature – oriented and progressive. And it’s really unique the way the other band members go along with what he plays. It’s very complex, but cool. Another band is Bad Company. Who is that drummer?
MD: Simon Kirke.
Kevin: Another good drummer. And who’s the drummer of the Jeff Beck group?
MD: Which version?
Kevin: The one with “Ice Cream Cakes”
MD: Cozy Powell.
Kevin: How about Humble Pie?
MD: Jerry Shirley.
Kevin: Great! I just started listening to them, I never even heard of them until people started saying that we sounded a little like them. That’s the reason I just started listening to The Black Crowes, because people say we remind them of them.
MD: How was it opening for Aerosmith in your hometown of Philly?
Kevin: That was great! That was one of the first things that started the bidding war. That was right before my senior year in high school – the summer before I went back to school. That one show started this huge buzz in Philadelphia, and from then on, all the pubs started being packed and teachers in school were letting us slide a little more. [laughs] But I was always a straight-A student until I graduated.
MD: Were you guys into Aerosmith?
Kevin: Oh yeah, definitely – older Aerosmith, not the Pro Tools stuff. But Toys In The Attic is a good record. Joey Kramer on that record is amazing. That’s a classic.
MD: Where would you like to see yourself musically in five years?
Kevin: Well, since we’re big in Japan right now, how about we headline the Tokyo Dome. [laughs] This band’s long-time goal is, it doesn’t matter how many records we sell, it’s more important to us that we’re still a band and we’re not just writing a record to have hit singles. We want to be friends and be playing together for life, because we enjoy our musical talent when we put it together. We do hope that success comes. But if you don’t place unrealistic goals on yourself, but instead say, I just want to do the best I can and always try to do better, then you’ll never be let down.