I’ve never understood those “Support Local Music” bumper stickers. What if the music in your area sucks? And let’s face it, that is often the case. But every so often you find those artists that aren’t doing the whiney punk boy band thing, not trying to act like rock stars in front of an audience of 15 people, and not thinking they are the second-coming of the Pixies… no, some bands just get together and play good music. They have their own sound, get up on stage and put on a good show. The Actors & Actresses do just that. I’ve caught them a couple times at a local KC bar called The Brick and enjoyed it both times. And I don’t even generally like down-tempo, moody music (which they most certainly are).
They’ve just finished an EP and are about to be featured on some compilation CDs, so I thought I’d beat those CDs to the punch and provide you with a listen right here. Here’s Turn You Blue
And lest you think that the band is all despair and melancholy, here’s a copy of a very funny interview with them from Dandercroft (a local music rag). Enjoy…
Actors&Actresses – by Don Pymeus
There have been several bands through history that make their own unique sounds simply as a by-product from external pressures and stimuli. Tool used something they referred to as “crying therapy” which came from intense emotional release as a catalyst for clearing their minds of distractions. My Bloody Valentine used long sessions of sleep deprivation to disjoint the logical barricades that hindered sonic experimentation. Frank Black just ate a lot. But what if the external pressures were actually generated internally? Does it negate the impact of the means to arrive at an end?
One would like to think that Kansas City’s Actors&Actresses engage in their particular methods to arrive at their distinctive sound out of the passion to create sprawling soundscapes – but it seems more like the 3 members just don’t really like one another. So is their modus operandi simply an excuse to belittle one another into self-loathing submission until they step onstage to produce their formidable ambient assault? One could argue… And argue they DO.
Getting a straight answer for the typical “rock band interview” proved almost useless as David Sumner (drums/samples), Scott Bennett (bass/vox) and Andrew Schiller (guitar) seemed to just revel in their own cruelty aimed directly at the other members for no discernable reason. They just seemed to like it, or perhaps they just like making recently-graduated journalists uncomfortable. It should have been obvious when, even before the first round of questions had been put into play, Scott was threatening Andy with a roundhouse kick to the head for flinging his cat across their rehearsal space, resulting in some sort of injury to the animal. And we begin…
Don Pymeus: Describe the process you guys go through when writing new material. Is there one person who gets things going, or are there equal amounts of effort from all when songwriting?
Scott Bennett: I’ll typically bring some ideas to the table, hoping that something along the lines of a UN meeting doesn’t take place. What I mean to say is that debate and exchange of ideas is necessary for us to a point. Our challenge in a 3 piece is to make something unique, while not overplaying, and I think we do pretty well at that.
David Sumner: Not really…it’s more like Scott’s bass sound comes from a lack of understanding about how his instrument works. It sounds like an electric moonshine jug some days.
(Scott sighs and shakes his head in dismay)
DS: No, really. I just do what I can to cut through the hum and make the drums as prominent as they can be.
Andy Schiller: Prominent? Wake up – you can make the drums more prominent just by converting to “man-sized” drum sticks, instead of using soft mallets while wearing those puffy shirts and playing with your dolls, alright? Hit the damn things already. It’s like you make the mistake of thinking that when you repeat something boring over and over again, it signifies mood, tension, or something artistic. To me, it just means nap time.
SB: Are you starting in on this already? I can’t get into –
DS: No, I’ll tell you. I’m sorry if you are generally in too much of a drunken Robitussen haze at practice to recognize my sick beats that are just waiting for a guitar part that has a recognizable melody. You know, a guitar part that doesn’t sound like two nauseous lesbian whales trying to get it on. MEL-O-DEE. One note played for 8 measures isn’t melody.
AS: Who the hell can make melody with an electric moonshine jug solo and your incessant muted pounding –
SB: (Interrupts) What’s with the moonshine jug? It’s not even funny.
DS: Maybe you should wake up from your standing comas and turn off your effects pedals then. Play an actual chord progression. Remember those? We all sit there while you just strum a few unrelated notes and spend the rest of the song stomping pedals. Oooh..moody! Whatever…(Andy blows his smoke into Dave’s face)
DS: (Dave glares back at Andy) Try that again, bitch. I dare you.
DP: Maybe we should start somewhere else first until we get warmed up. Do you guys consciously emulate influences from other bands while you write? I hear bits and pieces of so many bands I like in your sound, like Low, Juno, Explosions In the Sky, Slint, U2…
AS: U2? Who?
SB: Come now. What was all the talk of you hoping to get that U2 signature edition iPod? Stop acting like you don’t know who they are, or that you’re a closet fan.
AS: Someone in the room is in the closet, but it isn’t me.
DP: Well who do you think you guys sound like, or who do you try to sound like?
SB: I think Andy has been itching to get out of this project and start that Tangerine Dream tribute band he’s been wishing for. Rhythm and meter are considerable problems for him, otherwise.
AS: Funny commentary from the only bass player who’s never been allowed into the Wyco Low Riders. Were their mid-tempo free jazz jams asking too much of you?
DS: I’d kill to play a mid-tempo song. It seems like I’m playing for Air Supply because I’m barely ever allowed to push the tempo above 2 beats per hour.
AS: No, it seems like you’re playing in Air Supply because you sleep with 50 year-old women after the show is over.
SB: Dave, seriously, you would have problems if we actually did more up-tempo things. I don’t know how many songs I’ve started out at around 100 bpm, but quickly devolve into these stupid, drool-inducing trances because you can’t hold a solid 4/4 to save your life.
DS: Lie. When are you going to come up with some decent lyric topics, instead of always singing about NASCAR and camel toe? Is that all there is to look forward to in your life?
AS: (To Scott) You sing about camel toe??
SB: Easy to just change the subject instead of come up with an answer, isn’t it?
DP: Uhmm…Do you guys have any plans for the future to record some things, or are you content to remain in the local live show realm?
SB: Well, we’re constantly booking local shows that we post on aaaband.com and we record our own practice stuff that we also post on the site. By the time this goes to print, we should have a finished EP engineered by Paul Malinowski (bass, Fire of 1666, ex-Shiner), but at this point we’re still shopping studios. We’ll be playing out of town until after the new year, if we can find the time off work.
AS: Out of town gigs? Are you serious? We can’t even book shows with a median age of 20 here, let alone generate interest in a new city. Apparently someone who shall remain nameless thinks it’s a good idea to play “gigs” that are nothing more than radio-sponsored candle shop openings and YMCA Singles dances because they think it will “broaden our appeal.”
SB: If you say quote-unquote one more time…
DS: (To Andy) How can we broaden our appeal and play shows out of town when you’re basically drinking our door money at every show? We’d never get home, and you’d still be drunk in a town where you have no friends. You’ve basically drank away the band fund anyway. Maybe you can apply for some sort of Hamm’s sponsorship, or something.
SB: If he would actually drink Hamm’s, we might have some of the band fund left. But he has to keep up that Emo street cred and drink microbrews all the time.
AS: So now we’re back to the Emo thing again, from you, a guy that writes poetry on an iMac?
SB: No really, go ahead and keep up the nightly drinking schedule – that white leather belt won’t fit forever, and I don’t think they make them in waist sizes larger than 40.
AS: You know I find it funny that you guys conveniently mistake “our” band fund with “my money.” But because I have some drinks at the shows to make the ride home with you guys tolerable, suddenly I need it for Emo-cred?
SB: I’m thinking that a change of subject would be fabulous. You can always continue this conversation on one of your precious forums with people who, God bless them, actually may care.
DP: Yes! A change of subject, thank you. If I may, you mentioned earlier…
DS: (at Andy) I’d actually like to go back to something you mentioned earlier that you seemed to have some real laughs with…
AS: Just drop it already, I’m getting tired of hearing you talk, it’s almost as boring as hearing you drum. (end)
Epilogue – Attn: Dandercroft editor – John, that’s all I have at this point. I don’t know if it’s because I could have conducted the interview better by leading the direction of topics, but things went beyond my control. I hope you can make use of what I’ve submitted. Enclosed you’ll find the receipt and warranty card for my new micro recorder. I’m hoping that you’ll reimburse me for my purchase. Maybe you can sell another half-page ad?
Fortunately, I could write this feature because the tape of the interview made it through the impact Dave gave it. I had thought at first that Dave was actually throwing the recorder in my direction, but he insists Andy had quickly moved behind me. Regardless, I’d love to write for Dandercroft again, but I was wondering if you had an opportunity to interview a solo artist, instead of a full band.
Thank you for your concern,