SiLM: The landscape of symbolism

He found a job at a pizza shop, just in time to meet her on her last day of work there. They exchanged mixed tapes and the rest was music history. Photo by Peter Kuhnlein

by Lindsay Hilton

Meaning doesn’t come cheap for the group SiLM. The band, comprised of the dynamic duo Luuk Honey and Hannah Stephens, embeds layer upon layer of meaning into just about everything it does. From the name Honey and Stephens chose for their band (an antiquated word for the reflection of the moon on water), to the song titles and mixed media artwork they create and incorporate into their albums – nothing is ever just as it seems. Honey and Stephens are both artists and they draw a lot of symbolism from visual art and poetry, all in a constant drive to look deeper into the psyche and self.

In keeping with the symmetry of things, the band blossomed out of love, and the love blossomed out of mixed tapes. Honey had just moved to Anacortes six years ago from the Ozarks. He found a job at a pizza shop, just in time to meet Stephens on her last day of work there. They exchanged mixed tapes and the rest was music to their ears. Three years ago, while Honey was working as an intern at the Anacortes Unknown Recording Studio, they decided to make their own album (why not?). Thus, SiLM was born. Their first EP, Dreamwandrer, was recorded in just a few months, followed immediately by Behold in 2012.

Aside from some choir singing as a child, Stephens, who was born in California and grew up in Anacortes, had no other musical training. Everything she does now (vocals, electric bass, keys, and piano, to name just a few) is completely self-taught. “I’ve never seen someone play instruments so naturally,” Honey said of his partner. To his own credit, Honey also plays a long list of instruments (vocals, electric banjo, guitar, drums, and keys). Erik Wallace (formerly of the Bellingham group Fiction) has been performing with the group as well. The symphony of instruments gives the music an ethereal, otherworldly sound and one definitely feels transported to the faraway places summoned in the songs.

Both Honey and Stephens still maintain several day jobs between them. Honey also co-curates Show Chime, a monthly arts and music events calendar covering the Anacortes area, and Stephens is working on an illustrative story.

The romantic relationship between Honey and Stephens just adds yet another layer of complexity to the band—one they feel really gives their music an edge. “We’ve been playing together for so long that we are willing to explore new territory together,” Honey said.

The group’s latest album, LISTEN WITHIN, came out earlier this year and was inspired partly by their experiences while participating in Listhús, a two-month artist workshop in Ólafsfjörður, Iceland, followed by a month in Germany. They’d conceived the album before departing for their overseas trip, but many of their experiences while abroad really shaped the album. In fact, two of the tracks—“Hekkla” and “Katla”— are named for two sister volcanoes in Iceland. Natural landscapes feature heavily into the symbolism of SiLM’s music. There is beauty found in the tumultuous struggle of volcanoes forming.

“We form ourselves through the struggles and darkness that we all have to face,” Honey says. “We are not afraid to encompass the darkness.”

Their live performances vary wildly. During one performance, Honey and Stephens drew out three songs and played them for the entirety of the show. They have also dressed up in characters from a Tove Jansson animation. Another time they performed with an all-female choir.

As for future plans, SiLM has lofty ambitions. Aside from a new album in the works, the group hopes to establish more local connections and evolve as a band in other ways. “We can’t help but continue to look forward,” Honey said. “There is still a lot to accomplish.”

LIVE SHOW: SiLM will play Nov. 14 at the Make.Shift. For more information about the band, see secretsilm.blogspot.com.

Published in the November 2014 issue of What’s Up! Magazine