An Interview With
Ben “Smiley” Silverstein
of The Main Squeeze
Ragin’ Randy: I hear you guys recently moved your base from Chicago to California. How has this change affected your career? How has it affected your approach to songwriting and/or live performances?
Ben “Smiley” Silverstein: Since moving to LA, our creative juices have been collectively flowing like never before. We all live in extremely close proximity to each other and we have a space to write/rehearse in the comfort of our own home at all times of day/night. This has allowed us to write over 30 songs since moving to LA in January, and we’re almost finished with a brand new full length album that we recorded in February. This comfortable working environment has also tightened us up as a band, which has positively effected our live performances on tour.
RR: Life on the road can be one of the toughest parts of making music your profession. Do you have a specific strategy for handling the touring lifestyle? How does the touring lifestyle affect your inspiration and songwriting process?
Smiley: We try to stay as healthy and active as possible on the road in order to keep sane. It’s very hard to eat well and exercise on the road but we have been making a conscious effort to do so because we know how important that is for the long term. We also get along with each other very well, so we like to have fun on the road in between shows and on days off. That really helps the overall band morale.
The touring lifestyle definitely feeds into our songwriting process. It can either come from a random lyric/song idea that we come up with based on random stories from the road, or a soundcheck jam that we record, or just jamming on whatever we can find in the van. This usually is the spark of a new idea, which we flush out and turn into full songs once we get home from the road.
RR: Your success at the Macau, China Battle of the Bands is legendary in The Main Squeeze lore. Have you played anywhere else internationally? Where else would you particularly like to play outside the U.S.?
Smiley: Other than Macau and the US, we’ve only played in Canada (Montreal and Toronto). We are very much excited to take our music abroad in the near future though. Europe is definitely next on our list but we would love to make it to every country!
RR: I know that at least a couple of you began as classical musicians when you were young. Do you still listen to any classical music? What shows do you like to go to during your time off?
Smiley: We listen to some classical music on the road but its pretty rare. Max studied cello when he was younger and majored in music with a focus in Cello at the Jacobs School of Music at IU, so he has the strongest ties to classical music. When we have time off, we can be seen at all types of shows from Snarky Puppy to Anderson Paak, to Phish, to a local Jazz Fusion show.
RR: While I know that you have played with many, many great bands and musicians over the years, Umphrey’s McGee has got be a highlight. How does it feel to have a string of shows coming up with them this summer? What are you most looking forward to about your time with them?
Smiley: It’s pretty amazing to be sharing the stage with Umphrey’s many times this summer. They were one of the biggest bands in our scene when we were starting in Bloomington, Indiana so it’s definitely a treat to open for them, especially in the Midwest. I’m looking forward to getting to know them and learn from their experience on the road over the past 15 years.
RR: Of all of the beautiful venues in the world, it’s hard to argue that any are more stunning than Red Rocks. You guys are just coming off of a massive show at the historic venue. What can you tell us about your experience at Red Rocks?
Smiley: We just got back from our Red Rocks debut opening up for Umphrey’s and Joe Russo’s Almost Dead. It was one of the best days of my life no doubt. It was an extreme honor to play such a historic venue and to be joined by 2 great bands.
Catch The Main Squeeze live at Pier Six Pavilion opening up for the one and only Umphrey’s McGee THIS FRIDAY, July 15!