Musicians make unimaginable sacrifices for their art, and Nashville’s alternative rock duo, CITY SILOS, is no stranger to it. Chris and Kristen Butler, husband-and-wife, worked tirelessly for the last four years, wandering through day jobs and late-night songwriting sessions, sleeping in a van and living on the road, to emerge with a statement-making debut record. Happy Thoughts -- recorded at Nashville’s The Hilson Studio and produced by Sean Power (Michelle Wright, and Josh Hampson) -- is a mighty demonstration of pain and resilience. Their words are laced with vulnerable, yet dangerously evocative, confessions about many of life’s darkest and most brutal cycles.
The first single from CITY SILOS debut album, “Give It to Me Straight”, possesses a ceiling-climbing swing with gritty instruments and synth, and a crushing vocal performance from Kristen. Such firework moments like the venom-spitting “Just Like Her”, “Let You Go”, and title track “Happy Thoughts”, combine melodic rock guitars and synth bass, with a dance groove akin to 80’s pop. They wind their way savagely through blues pop-inflected guitar riffs that stick on the brain and jolt the system alive, guitars crashing into one another and the drum kit setting the whole show on fire.
Over 10 songs, CITY SILOS -- a name sparked from long nights, high mileage, and a caffeine drip – addresses human emotions with terrifying clarity. “Each song is about an internal struggle, or conflict of ideas and feelings, that we all go through or have to deal with at some point in our lives,” states Kristen. Chris adds, “We draw influences from a lot of places and that molds us into who we are and makes our music unique.”
Originally from different corners of the south, Kristen and Chris meld their upbringings, musical backgrounds and styles with ease. Kristen, who grew up in Mississippi, allows her pen to flow with often stark poetry, owed in large part to her early roots exploring lyrics. “I have to thank my parents and brother for keeping great music in the house. I used to run my fingers over my parent’s vinyl albums, specifically KC and the Sunshine Band, AC/DC, and Boston, and I use to snag my brothers CD’s when he was out of the house,” says Kristen. As many kids often do, she also took up piano in third grade, which led her on a long pathway to learning guitar. Upon reading Jimmy Webb’s 1998 book, Tunesmith: Inside the Art of Songwriting, she dove headfirst into strengthening her innate songwriting gifts. It was then during her college studies that she began playing out around town at writers’ rounds and open mic nights.
Out of North Eastern Kentucky, along the Ohio River, Chris took a great interest in guitar work and playing when he was six years old. “I started learning chords from a chord book on my dad’s acoustic, and then I bought an electric guitar, amp, and a few pedals, and I never looked back,” remembers Chris. Picking through old Eric Clapton songs, Chris used them as his guiding light as he continued playing throughout high school and college cutting his teeth at dirty dive bars across the US. His first riffs he ever learned were “Layla” and “Sunshine of Your Love”, as well as Ozzy Osbourne’s “Crazy Train”.
Both moved to Nashville in 2013 and one night at the now-closed 21st Ave bar called Sam’s would meet for the first time. “I had just gotten out of a rehearsal, and she had come from watching a show at the Ryman. We just talked about music all night,” says Chris. “We both had our own separate careers at that point as writers and musicians. I started playing guitar for Kristen in a project she was doing at the time, so it naturally evolved when we started writing music together and decided to officially create a band.”
CITY SILOS’ combined influences run from Paramore, Aretha Franklin, and Sara Bareilles to Jimi Hendrix and ZZ Top. Each mine the work of such greats to further enrich their own songcraft, delicately walking the balance between the past and the present, and pushing the envelope further. In past projects, Kristen and Chris uncovered the fuzzy-headed guitars and musically volatility to hit the sweet spot of their ingrained desires. “Once we started playing this stuff out it clicked,” Kristen notes. “We got back to why we love music and what’s important to us.”
Happy Thoughts rises as an impressive debut from two of Nashville’s emerging writers and musicians. It’s hard to imagine such sweltering guitar layers, melodic timelessness and vocal prowess coming from anyone but a veteran act, and that’s the sheer allure and talent of Kristen and Chris Butler of CITY SILOS.