Sometimes you hear something that seems to hover above the timeline of music and the zeitgeist of an era. We say sometimes because too often you can almost hear the date stamp on a piece of music. Not that that’s a bad thing by any means – it just takes a certain craft, a certain skill to spread across a single moment in sound.

Enter Erik Walters, artistically known as Silver Torches. Nowhere is his ability to span across multiple decades and create a timeless sound more apparent than on his latest LP Let It Be A Dream. It’s an album that is a slow burn with moments that seem like the candle is losing oxygen before a burst of illumination rushes forth.

It’s the kind of release that you dive into. And while you’re there, you soak in what’s going on around you. And when it ends, you wait in silence for a little bit and then go back for another round.

Walters was kind enough to spend some time with us recently. We learned about his past, his work collaborating with other artists while crafting his own sound, and Let It Be A Dream.

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“I’m inspired by everyone I play with and everything I hear, because there’s always something new to learn and a new perspective to take.”

Just to start at the beginning. Did you grow up in Seattle? If so, what was it like growing up in a place that seems to really value the arts? If not, what drew you to Seattle?

I was born in the Seattle area, but grew up on the eastern side of the state in Spokane. That city gets a bad rap, but it’s actually a really great place to live. There’s something truly special about Washington, to me, that just fosters creativity. It has a personality that tends to lure a certain type of person toward it. It’s mysterious, and it’s grey all the time, which might make people look inward a bit more. I knew I always wanted to live here since I was a kid.

Of course Seattle is also known for its vibrant tech and take on corporate culture. Has there been a shift in the way art is approached there due to this? How does the city work to a find a balance between the two?

Unfortunately the tech boom is making it pretty much unaffordable to live in the city unless you’re working in tech. It’s making it hard for artists to sustain themselves here, which means they will make less art, be unhappy, move away, and then no one will be making the art.

They’ll be making it in Tacoma or Portland or Spokane. It’s been rough with all of the changes, but I feel like people are making more art than ever. We have a great community of musicians and artists that are making some really incredible stuff. So I’m not too worried.

So leading us down your path, what drew you to music? Was there a certain point where you realized this was what your pursuit was? What’s your journey look like prior to playing with David Bazan and Perfume Genius?

Music has always been a part of my life. I knew I wanted to do it for real when I was 14 or 15. I just had this compulsion toward it. I had a group that formed in high school called The Globes that went on to put out a record on Barsuk and tour with some amazing bands. We did that until 2012.

Shortly after it ended, I started Silver Torches, and I felt like I was starting over. It took me about a year to break out of my shell and get used to doing things without a full time band. I learned a lot about who I was and how to be. It was a great experience.

Your work with David Bazan – how did you start working with him, what was your connection?

I met Dave when The Globes opened for him at a spot called The Empyrean in Spokane. I think it may have been his first solo tour after he stopped playing as Pedro The Lion. I love those records, so working with him now has been a little surreal. Sean Lane, who plays drums in Silver Torches, plays with Dave.

Sean recommended me to him and then it went from there. We just got back from a two week run with City And Colour and are hitting the east coast in November. It’s been a total pleasure. I feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to play his songs. He’s an incredible writer, a great guy and a great hang. He works harder than anyone and never turns it off.

And how did you get connected Mike Hadreas for Perfume Genius? What was the process like working with him, and Bazan as well, to create something as a larger entity rather than for yourself?

Sean was the connection here, as well. He played drums with them when they were out with Sigur Ros a few years ago. They’re main band is based in Europe, but they were looking for Seattle guys to do a few one off shows at the tail end of their cycle for Too Bright. They asked Sean to do it and he recommended me, and it fell in my lap. I was very thankful to have had the opportunity to play with them. Their music is on another level, and is so inspiring. The new record, No Shape, is just incredible. I’m a big fan.

“…it was cathartic to make the record. Music keeps me moving forward.”

How did working with these artists influence your own work? Were there certain elements of the music that you were drawn to or certain sounds you picked up or really anything about the process that led to you heading towards writing your upcoming LP?

I’m inspired by everyone I play with and everything I hear, because there’s always something new to learn and a new perspective to take. Working with Perfume Genius really made me appreciate dynamics in a way that I hadn’t for a while, so that may have had an impact on some of what we did on Let It Be A Dream. I’ve only started working with Dave recently, but I’m already certain that playing with him will inspire some new ideas in both my style of playing and my approach to songwriting.

Looking at Let It Be A Dream, we love it. It seems to exist above this timeline of music that connects various sounds and influences in a way that not many have recently – the War on Drugs, Kurt Vile, Kevin Morby to name a few. So what’s your process and approach to writing, especially for this? Did it stem organically, or was it more direct and nuanced than that?

This record was very organic. We’d usually cut it song by song, usually two songs per session. I would write a handful of tunes and a week later we’d track them. I think we recorded around 15 songs. Toward the end I had a clear idea of what I wanted the record to be and found the sequence. For a while we weren’t sure we even had a record, but the pieces eventually fit, and we couldn’t be happier.

A lot of songs seem very observational and personal. Do your words come from certain experiences, or are they more influenced by narrations you pick up along the way from various influences?

It’s a bit of both. Sometimes I just make it up, sometimes it’s from real life.


There is a good bit of looking outward it seems. Given the current state of affairs we’re living in, how did the album help you to connect or find a constant? I feel like “At The Lantern” really takes this on and chooses to focus on positive moving forward while still fighting for something.

I wrote the majority of the songs between October and December of last year. I was in the midst of several life changes, was carrying a lot of doubt, and then the election happened… it was cathartic to make the record. Music keeps me moving forward.

On “Nothing to Show,” who are you collaborating with on vocals? It’s really a stunning a song. What’s the story behind that one?

Thank you! That’s Courtney Marie Andrews singing with me. I wrote the song during a session with an instrumental band from L.A. who wanted to add vocals to an EP they were writing. “Keep The Car Running” was also written at that same time.

The project didn’t work out, but I kept the lyrics and melody and wrote new music beneath it. We tracked the guitar and vocal live, late at night, and pieced the rest together over a few more sessions. Greg Leisz (pedal steel) and Courtney really made the song come to life.

“It’s mysterious, and it’s grey all the time, which might make people look inward a bit more.”

The album ends with the sounds of the outside world. Is this symbolic in any way? It feels almost like a cliffhanger.

We tracked the last song, “Bartender,” live in Andy’s living room a few days before mixing started. I think we kept the third take. The sirens were an accident, but they came in at the perfect moment, right during the line about driving home, but being worried about DUI patrols on the highway. To me it’s the perfect resolution, because it implies an ending without having to say anything.

Looking ahead – what’s next for you? There’s the tour, then will you write some more, collaborate some more, etc.?

I’ll be playing in Pedro The Lion next year, which will keep me busy. I want to do more co-writing, more collaborations. Ultimately my goal is to experience more, see more, and to grow, not only as a songwriter, but as a person. I want to keep making music as long as I possibly can.

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Silver Torches is currently on tour with Noah Gundersen. You can view all dates here.

All photos in the story by Chona Kasinger