Local Band Column: Silent Diner

This story was published April 28, 2005 in The Cavalier Daily, U.Va.’s student newspaper.

Hi. My name is Molly. I interview bands, but I’m about to stop because it’s summer. That’s right, sports fans — this is my last music column until September. So, in the spirit of goodbyes, I have prepared a humble musical offering of my own.

“Hush little reader/don’t you fret/you haven’t even read this issue yet/Hush little reader/don’t you cry/all my columns are online anyway.”

Feel better? I know I do.

This week I met with Silent Diner for a little chat ‘n’ snap (industry terms for interview and photo shoot. … Actually, I just made that up).

The band is: Anderson Gould on guitar, Matt Davis on bass, Tolga Sursal on keyboard and Chris Graffeo on drums. You’ve probably heard these guys before, because Silent Diner plays many of the Corner bars and every Thursday at Coupe deVille’s.

Silent Diner formed in 2002, when all four members began their first year at U.Va. While in their respective high schools (Sursal, Davis and Graffeo went to a different school than Gould), the boys heard about each other through mutual friends. These friends repeatedly told the guys that they needed to get in touch with Gould because “he is exactly what [the guys] needed.”

Gould, for his part, also had friends whispering names in his ear. But, in spite of all the talking, nothing ever happened. (You go try to whisper “Sursal, Davis and Graffeo” to someone and see how it goes.)

Go back to the first week of their first year, when Graffeo and Gould finally found each other.

“It was crazy because we met this kid randomly and he was really cool, but we didn’t know he was the one we were supposed to meet all along,” Graffeo said.

Immediately after forming, Silent Diner began to build their fan base. They usually practiced in the basement of Hancock, and after a few weeks of near-constant noise, their “fans” in the dorm began to be annoyed.

“There was a lot of protesting from the girls on the third floor,” Sursal laughed.

The band thrived, despite the constricting practice space. In fact, they began to play louder.

“It’s better that way,” Davis said. “If anything is worth playing, it’s worth playing loud.”

Silent Diner has some loud influences, including Pink Floyd, Jimi Hendrix, Radiohead, Led Zeppelin, the Beatles, Phish, Radiohead and Miles Davis, just to name nine or so.

Last Thursday I went to see the band play at Coupe’s. Walking in, I entered a haze of pink and green. I heard tittering laughter; everything smelled like Tommy Girl.

“Huh. I wonder why all of Silent Diner’s audience members are female?” I thought. As it turned out, a sorority was having a function at Coupe’s that night. It was only after the orange glow of sunless tanning lotion faded that Silent Diner took the stage. (At Coupe’s it’s more of a corner, really.)

The boys had a glow of their own — the glow of a jam band. Silent Diner’s set took almost three hours that night. At a birthday party earlier this year, they played for the better part of six hours.

“The most important thing is making sure it all flows together,” Gould said.

“We try to be tasteful with our covers,” Sursal agreed.

At Oluponya Fest last spring, Silent Diner did a 20-minute mixed-up cover of Grateful Dead’s “Fire on the Mountain” and Sublime’s “Scarlet Begonias.” The song was melded so expertly that I could only recognize the original melodies when Gould sung short sequences of the lyrics.

Silent Diner is perhaps the most ambitious band I’ve spoken with; after graduating in 2006, they’re going to move to Boston and “do the professional band thing.”

“It’s really nice to be dedicated to what you’re doing and working hard on it,” Graffeo said. “The band feels long-term and meaningful. We work really hard at it.”

Silent Diner recently finished putting the final touches on their first full-length CD. You can get your hands on the 8-track, 50-minute album from any of the band members.

If live music is how you roll, catch up with Silent Diner on their 2005 summer tour of the Southeast. They’re going to play venues in Virginia, the Carolinas and Georgia before jamming outside the Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Tennessee.

So, if you’re in the mood for some easy-to-swallow jam rock from U.Va.’s own, make sure you get to a Silent Diner concert.

This is Molly Seltzer, music columnist, signing off.

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