The Silos will perform at DeLuna Fest, set for Sept. 21-23 on Pensacola Beach. / Special to GoPensacola.com
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The Silos could have been contenders. In fact, they were. The seminal American roots band was voted Best New Artist by Rolling Stone magazine in 1987, landed a major label record deal at the same time, and seemed on the verge of stardom. But that was never the goal, said Silo honcho Walter Salas-Humara. It was always about the music. And the music— despite the fleeting and fickle tastes of record-buying America— remains a gift. From the band’s first release, the exquisite “About Her Steps” to the most recent album, “Florizona," the Silos continue to excel in intricate, personal lyrical quests and perfectly-crafted melodies that build on and contribute to the Great American Songbook. And the band’s 1987 tour-de-force “Cuba” remains one of the Americana roots movement’s high water marks.
We talked to Salas-Humara, 53, at his home in Flagstaff, Arizona about the contender status, his Pensacola memories, his take on “Cuba’’ and his new venture as a painter.
Q: The Silos performed in Chicago in July, but then have nothing until DeLuna Fest in September. How’d this performance come about.
A: I was contacted by Gus Brandt. (Brandt is DeLuna Fest’s booking agent, tour manager for the Foo Fighters and a longtime presence on Pensacola’s music scene.) I’ve known him since the ’80s. And we’ve played Pensacola so many times before. It’s such a beautiful geographical place, but it also has the history and industrial aspects. Plus, I’ve always loved Sluggo’s and the scene there. I love Terry (Johnson, Sluggo’s owner and founder). In all its incarnations, Sluggo’s has always been a cool spot.
Q: You definitley have memories of Pensacola.
A: The first time we played there, it was at Yank’s Bar. That was classic. We walked in the doors, it was loud and there was all this cigarette smoke and dudes with trucker hats. I thought, “What are we doing here?” But Gus and Nick (Flynn) and that crew had rented out the back room of the place and set up a P.A. for us. The gig was incredible.
Q: You grew up in South Florida, and now live in Arizona. So tell us about “Florizona.”
A: Obviously, the title comes from these two states, and, for me, it’s about the passage of time. That’s the theme of a lot of tunes on the record. It’s about looking back over your life and reevaluating things that meant something then, but might mean something different to you know.
Q: Back in 1987, Rolling Stone has pegged you as the next Jesus and it seemed like you guys had the music world in your grips. Were you guys buying into all the press? Were you thinking, “We’ll be making ‘Def Leppard money’ any day now?”
A: At that point in our development, we were pretty strident in what we were attempting to do. We were campaigning for music that was very natural and organic in sound. We truly believed that was what people needed to hear — and to continue hearing. We were about well-written songs and interesting songs that people could identifiy with on a personal level, as well as a poetic level.
Q: “Cuba’’ is such a great album, and for a lot of us at that time, it was the soundtrack of our lives. And “All Falls Away’’ is still my favorite Silos song. Do you get tired of people telling you how much they love “Cuba” when you’ve sone so much since?
A: It has the same effect on me. I don’t listen to my own albums too much, but when I go back to survey them, there really is something special about that album. It sounds very cool still. There’s something about the doggedness of our desire to make a great album while we were recording. It’s an album we made and remade. We worked so hard on that album. It’s not surprising that it might be the best album I’ve ever been a part of.”
Q: Growing up in South Florida, how did that music scene affect you? Did you ever get a chance to see Charlie Pickett back in the day?
A: I know Charlie well. John Galway (a member of Pickett’s band The Eggs) played on “Cuba,” of course. Charlie’s album (1982’s) “Live At the Button” is still one of the great rock ’n’ roll records.
Q: How about the Vulgar Boatmen? Are they still kicking? (Salas-Humara had been part of the Vulgar Boatmen before forming the Silos, and the two bands were often seen as comrades-in-musical arms.)
A: They’ve been fairly quiet the last few years. But there’s so much interest in that band still. People ask me as much about the Vulgar Boatmen as they do about the Silos.
The Silos could have been contenders. In fact, they were. The seminal American roots band was voted Best New Artist by Rolling Stone magazine in 1987, landed a major label record deal at the same
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