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SXSW 2011 PREVIEW: A SILENT FILM

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Like Radiohead, which also hails from Oxford, England, A Silent Film strives for a big-picture sound. Led by singer/pianist Robert Stevenson, ASF has racked up a reported 150,000 iTunes downloads of its single "You Will Leave a Mark," which can be found on the band's debut album, The City That Sleeps (Bieler Bros. Records). This week, A Silent Film will deviate from its North American tour with Civil Twilight to play Austin, Texas.

Medleyville.us: "You Will Leave a Mark" has done very well on iTunes. Speaking of marks, which members of the band have the most banged-up looking instruments? And who is the most obsessed with polishing up their gear?
Robert Stevenson: "Good question — my piano is totally knackered. It's a fully weighted stage piano in a homemade case. Those airport staffers just love tearing it open and having a peek. I'm writing a book on the abuse of inanimate objects in the air industry. It's called Domestic Flight Case Violence.

"[Guitarist] Karl [Bareham] and [drummer] Spencer [Walker], on the other hand, polish to an Olympic standard. You won't find a smudge on those cymbals; Karl's equipment is practically a museum piece."

Your band is from Oxford, England — the same hometown as Radiohead. Do people in Oxford lose their minds when Radiohead releases a new album, or is everyone more interested in the newer bands from the area?
Stevenson: "People in Oxford like to play it cool about our musical bastions. I'm pretty sure everyone is a fan, but no, there's not a citywide holiday when they release a new album. There's definitely a lot of newer bands and wealth of hardworking musicians keeping the city's music alive."

There's a video on A Silent Film's MySpace page from the band's visit to Alcatraz prison. What were your impressions of the place?
Stevenson: "It's pretty chilling; I love that kind of thing, though. I'm a prison break/war story movie buff. The audio tour is outstanding, but the Birdman of Alcatraz wasn't allowed to keep his birds on Alcatraz — that was a different, less impressive-sounding prison."

What were some of the highlights of the band's first U.S. tour?
Stevenson: "On our first trip we heard 'You Will Leave a Mark' come on the radio as we drove out of the Lincoln Tunnel into New York. We all kept quiet and didn't quite know what to say; it was a bit overwhelming.

"On the second trip we stopped off in Las Vegas for a cheap hotel between shows and promptly lost all our money in a naive attempt to 'win big,' as Spencer put it."

In honor of your band's cinematic name, what movies were your favorites of 2010?
Stevenson: "Loads of good movies came out last year; favorites that come to mind would be Cemetery Junction and Scott Pilgrim vs. The World."

Finish this sentence: While in Austin for this year's SXSW, I will ...
Stevenson: "... not leave the hotel without my SPF 45 sun cream."

— Introduction and interview by Chris M. Junior

A Silent Film at SXSW 2011 (schedule subject to change):

* March 18: Red Eyed Fly

* 8 p.m. March 19: Rusty Spurs, 405 E. 7th St. (official SXSW showcase)

A Silent Film on tour (schedule subject to change):

* March 22: Water Street Music Hall — Rochester, N.Y.

* March 23: Westcott Theatre — Syracuse, N.Y.

* March 24: Putnam Den — Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

* March 25: Brighton Music Hall — Boston

* March 28: Chameleon Club — Lancaster, Pa.

* March 30: Highline Ballroom — New York

* March 31: Maxwell's — Hoboken, N.J.

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