The indie rock band Silverteeth, made up of Bill Bartholomew (guitar and vocals) and Gabriela Rassi (bass and vocals), is known for their DIY ethos, melodic tunes, and entrancing lyrics. The two first met at the McKibbin Lofts in Bushwick, a warehouse with a reputation for housing some of the most influential local musicians in the past decade. While maintaining their individual projects, the couple - in life and in art - began performing together. After nearly 10 years on the NYC music circuit, they've played all types of venues, ranging from Brooklyn rooftops and DIY spaces to more reputable ones like Mercury Lounge. With 100+ shows and hundreds of hours of singing under their belts, the two show no signs of stopping. Look out for the release of their debut album and East Coast tour dates this summer!
How did Silverteeth come together?
We came together as an acoustic duo, performing our original songs and some old time folk songs together. Busking the trains, dive bars, and small clubs in the City and around New England. We found that teaming up was a lot of fun and it was worth the risk of starting a full band in which we each would contribute our own songs. We had always wanted a band that could get into our more eccentric, electric material, and we kinda built Silverteeth around that idea.
What does "Silverteeth" mean? How did you come up with the name?
I was drawing a monster and painted its teeth silver. Gabi shouted "Silverteeth!" and the name instantly seemed right. It also references two of our mutual favorite records, "Summerteeth" by Wilco, and the song "Sea of Teeth" by Sparklehorse.
How do you choose venues and other acts when putting a line-up together? Do you ever turn shows down?
We love playing live, so I'm usually open to most shows. There is a lot of garbage in NYC, and everywhere for that matter, so shows are disorganized and can often be a scam to the fans and the artists... but luckily, at this point, it's pretty easy to feel out if a show is gonna be worth it. DIY shows are magical. That's our whole song and dance, in many ways. We love Bowery Presents shows. And we love playing shows with friends, especially from different cities. That's the best vibe.
Do you prefer bigger shows then, or more intimate ones?
Big stages and situations are pretty awesome, in terms of the energy. We're a young band, but we've had a few of those larger crowd experiences, and it is certainly a great way to feel the music. It sounds and feels different when you have a large crowd on the other side. At the time, some of the best shows I've personally been a part of have had 25 - 75 people in a small room, and those moments will last beyond a lifetime.
How do you write music? Is it collaborative?
We are both singer/songwriters in our own right, so we each bring songs to the band that we feel make sense for the project... and then as a unit we dissect them, destroy 'em, etc., until we love 'em again. We're always talking about sounds, cool records, colors in the sky, whatever it takes to keep the constant conversation going about what the band is and where we are heading from a sonic standpoint.
You have a really distinct sound. How would you describe Silverteeth's music?
Always tough to say what we sound like. We both love the great singers - like Nina Simone and Mike Patton, for example. And unique artists with great songwriting, like The Pixies, Neil Young, and Wilco. We both love a really fuckin' meaningful, natural electric guitar sound. The kind that leaves you shivering. And harmonies. I don't know if we sound anything like any of those artists / ideas, but we certainly love 'em. Silverteeth definitely has a unique sound - that's something I'm really proud of and we always try to remind ourselves of when shaping tunes.
Do you like to tour and play festivals?
That's the whole idea - the entire reason for living this lifestyle is to be on stage. If it were only about writing and recording I think we'd both find other jobs and make records at night, and on the weekends. I personally feel at home on stage, in the van, etc., so that's what keeps the dream alive. Pushing to make records so we can stay in an environment that keeps us on our toes. One of our most tangible dreams is to play the big stage at Newport Folk Festival.
Who have been your influences, musically and artistically?
In addition to the above artists, we listen to all kinds of stuff. Punk, Folk, Country. Lots of Brazilian and Peruvian artists. Sunflower Bean, Honduras, and some of the things happening in NYC right now. The classics...Ray Charles, Screamin' Jay Hawkins, Elis Regina... Heaps of music from the 80s and 90s. Sonic Youth, Dino, Built to Spill, Hole, Blue Rodeo. Some of the 2000s bands... Karen O, Animal Collective, Neko Case, M. Ward. Big guns like Modest Mouse, Pumpkins, and MBV. Songwriters, poets, the usual suspects like Dylan, Beatles, The Band. Freakin' Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood. Chomsky lectures. I get a lot of inspiration from sports broadcasting in terms of being in the moment, ya know? Especially radio... so fuckin' real. And certainly the artists that have been around us in our communities, for me folks like Colleen Hennessy, Christopher Knott, Katie Ng, Erik Meier, Steve Nelson, Dave Passafiume, and Dave Klym. Look 'em up. Gabriela has a really keen sense of song and sound, and that has really shaped my palate, in terms of finding new music and pushing my own limits. She's a big inspiration in my writing for Silverteeth.
You began creating in Brooklyn during a particularly seminal time for indie music and DIY rock shows. What has your experience been with the creative community here?
Hard to describe Brooklyn during the heyday of the most recent arts movement, other than to say art was everywhere, and everybody lived art without hesitation. When I showed up in Bushwick / Williamsburg in 2006, it was everything you'd hope New York to be, and more. Community. Vibe. Breaking through to something. In it together. The early 2000's Indie Rock boom had kinda shifted to a more artsy sound, and bands like Animal Collective and White Rabbits and tons of others that no one ever heard of were making really evocative and interesting music. Then-candidate and now President Obama - along with Ron Paul - emerged and added a new element to the puzzle. Things were moving. I found a real audience for my art. Todd P was putting on great shows all over the neighborhood and that led others, including myself, to embrace a DIY ethos. It swept us off our feet and knocked us around quite a bit. Kind of messy, kind of wild, and altogether beautiful. Real love, ideas, and hope. Not everybody made it out alive. Interestingly, it was as close to syndicalism as I've personally experienced - a real give and take that sort of overrode currency. Lots of songs, meals, films, political and social ideas were being shared, and you really felt like you were a part of something much bigger than yourself or your own art and ideas. It was a balance of explainable and inexpiable magic. Gabi and I met in the McKibbin Lofts in 2010, in a period of post-recession creative explosions, but also the start of the incoming wave of new capital that ultimately usurped a variety of communities that called North Brooklyn home. The City has really moved toward a more corporate orientation in the past six years, particularly in real estate, and via a de facto trickle down, the entertainment value of DIY shows, or the value of a "crazy artist" living next door has been eradicated, replaced with electronic cigarette and high-end barber / cold brew coffee shops. I'm sure it will all shift again, too, and another wave of art will take over. But right now, New York seems to be a very difficult place to develop art, the total opposite of when I first arrived. I am still living my art in New York, as is Gabriela. It is just a different kind of life when community is divided and time is significantly limited by rising costs of living and production.