Action Boy - Sound In The Signals Interview

I recently had the chance to interview Action Boy where they talked in depth about their new album. Check out the full interview below!

First off, thanks for the interview.

Mike: Of course! Thanks for having us!

Austin: Thanks for interrogating us!

Cameron: You're welcome!!!

For those not familiar with your band can you tell me how you got together and formed Action Boy? What got you interested in music?

Mike: I’ve been playing in bands for years, pretty much throughout high school and since. I picked up guitar like everyone seems to and just kinda stuck with it. I think for me personally, my influences have always been so loud and intense, maybe not the best classically trained musicians, but they’re so powerful. Kurt Cobain, Vinnie from I Am The Avalanche, Conor Oberst of Bright Eyes, their lyrics and signing inspired me. the entire process seemed so cathartic; to yell into a microphone, to sing and yell and scream about whats been bothering you, just seemed to be the best way to go about trying to release emotion for me. As for Action Boy, I’ve seen Cameron’s previous work, his bands in high school and after, I always wanted to work with him. He invited me to jam with him and Austin and i think we just clicked. I’ve been in bands, I’ve done solo stuff, but i was never able to work with people that i genuinely liked and clicked with musically until now. I have immense respect for Austin and Cameron and i love them like brothers, and we can write together and feel comfortable. And they let me write messed up lyrics and shout them at the top of my lungs!

Austin: Cameron has been constantly asking me to start some sort of band with him and after forming one that kinda fell apart he mentioned “this guy Mike who can sing and play guitar” so after some Facebook chats we decided to get together and see how it went and here we are today! I had always been interested in music from an early age and taught myself how to play multiple instruments but it seemed like i got stuck with drums because apparently drummers are very scarce around the northern Illinois area and everyone needs a drummer. 

Cameron: Well Mike and Austin are like the only people I knew of in like northern IL/southern Wisconsin that were interested in the same kind of punk music as me, which worked out because I happen to like Mike and Austin. We all started jamming and it just went together so easily. I was in a math rock inspired band called Deer Legs for a while which i loved but after that feel apart, i felt like it was time to take on a project that scratched the itch i always had to be in a punk band. 

Your album 'Aging Like Milk' came out recently. What went into the writing and recording process for the album? How long did you work on it and where did you record it?

Mike: This was the first time we all wrote an album together. We all had different ideas and directions on where to go with it but we decided to just write the songs and see where it got us. Some of them were already being written while the first EP was being recored, some were written later. A few, i wrote guitar and lyrics and brought them to the guys. Powerball was a long running joke i had with my friends, that if i ever won id die within a few weeks. Strange Case was a personal one for me, about mistakes I’ve made and the way i see myself when I’m not at my best. So for me a lot of it was introspective, looking at my life and problems and releasing them in the best way i could find. Sometimes you just have to let things go, and for me, thats made easier when i write a song about it. In my mind after its been released its over. It happened, now it’s time to move on. The whole thing probably lasted since we started the band in late 2014, there were parts of songs we had written even then, that just weren’t ready by the time we recorded Up Up and Disarray. After working with Jarrett Pryzgoda on the EP, he was an obvious choice for an engineer on the new record. He has an amazing studio in his basement, you should check out the pictures on his instagram! He’s incredibly talented and works with us really well, he really makes us feel like he cares about the songs as much as we do.

Austin: Aging Like Milk was the first album where we wrote everything as a collective. Our first EP had one song we wrote all together and 3 reworked from old songs Mike had in other projects (which was fine hence why we used them!) i believe we spent most of the fall of 2015 and winter beginning of 2016 freezing our asses off in my garage working on songs bouncing riffs, lyrics, and what not off of each other. As far as recording we went through our friend Jarrett who helped us record the first EP Up Up and Disarray! I think more time was spent making terrible jokes, and farting, but we buckled down and put out a killer album in my opinion!

Cameron: We recorded with the world's best dude Jarret Pryzgoda! And actually some of the songs/riffs on ALM we wrote while we were hanging in Jarret’s studio while recording our first release. A lot of our writing process was like "Yo that's cool let's make that a song!” and we often discussed lyrics Mike or I had written during practice. So even if Mike wrote the lyrics or I wrote the lyrics, we all got input on what was going into the final. So in a sense we all wrote the lyrics, we all wrote the drums, we all wrote the guitar parts, we all wrote bass. Austin even wrote the intro and main riff to the title song and last song on the album ‘Aging Like Milk.’

Aging Like Milk
I really like the song "Coffee Spoons" from the album. Can you tell me a little about writing that song both musically and lyrically?

Austin: Thank you! We’re hoping that the bigwigs in the music industry feel the same and that we get invited to perform it at this years MTV music awards! (Joking).  As far as musically if memory serves me right, that song started with the intro riff and just came together from there. Most of our songs start with someone playing a riff and we just make up our own parted over said riff until some kind of song forms. I do remember Coffee Spoons being one that came together very quickly and just felt right from the get go.

Cameron: Mike wrote all of Coffee Spoons, but Action Boy is the first band I've been in where I sing like at all, and Coffee Spoons is my first ever attempt at writing vocal harmonies, which again kinda went like "does this sound cool? Yea? Ok great".

Mike: I wrote this as the first song that ended up starting a huge theme in the album (hating our jobs, capitalism is BS, hating the monotony of everyday life.) It’s inspired by two totally different things, The Smashing Pumpkins and T.S. Eliot’s poetry. I always approach songwriting musically from a place that doesn’t want to ignore pop sensibility, like i want it to sound catchy, i want people to feel good and sing along, but i also want to get the aggression across or the point of the song across. Usually that has been your typical four power chord pop/punk song structure which this isn’t too different from, but i played with the intro riff a little more than i usually do. I was actually inspired by that Smashing Pumpkins song (intro) Zero hahaha. Theres this slide/mute/picking thing he does in the main riff and intro that i always wanted to use. I figured this was a way to mess around with that idea while still incorporating our own aspects. So once i had that main riff it was easy to write the rest of the music around it, and once we had that, i sat down and thought about lyrics. I was having an especially hard time at work. I felt unappreciated and over worked. It kind of poured out of me. And when i got to the chorus I remembered this line i had read in the poem ‘The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock’ by T.S. Eliot that totally fit how i felt.  “For I have known them all already, known them all: Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons, I have measured out my life with coffee spoons.”  And then the song really came together! That line just really spoke to me and became a theme throughout the album. Measuring your life in a way you never wanted to measure it. And the feeling that everyone is judging you and measuring you that way as well.

I really like the production and mixing on the album and how it captures the energy of a lot of these songs. Did you go into this album knowing how you wanted it to sound or did you work with your team to kind of shape the sound of this album?

Cameron: We really didn't have any plans for the recording quality, we just knew we had to go with Jarrett, and he worked his magic like he does and we love it.

Austin: As far as the actual songs themselves we just wanted to show that these 10 songs were written as a group and that it represents what we consider the “Action Boy Sound.” But with the actual recording and mixing we often put our trust in Jarrett to make us sound good. He usually has great suggestions on everything and lets us give our input.

Mike: I’ve always been a huge stickler about quality sounding recordings and i feel like the guys have become that way as well. I know listeners and fans can be turned off by one bad recording, and it can ruin an otherwise amazing song. Now i feel like i can look past those things personally and listen to all kinds of music at any quality, but I’ve showed people my music in the past, and if something was wrong they pointed it out. Like “why are the vocals so low, why are the drums so loud, that guitar solo just sounds like straight distortion, there is no bass in this.” I’ve heard that feedback and i didn’t understand at the time. I wanted them to judge the song, not the quality. So my solution to that was to find the best we could afford. Jarrett Pryzgoda is our go to and really a go to for a lot of people in the scene around us. He is an amazing friend, an amazing dude, and the most talented producer, engineer, and musician I’ve had the pleasure to work with. As for the overall energy and tone, we always approach Jarrett with not just songs but with a theme or idea. We told him what each song was about and what we wanted the whole thing to get across. It’s an aggressive album with heavy lyrical content but we tried our best not to ignore melody. He just gets the genre and gets our band and made it happen. So its a little of both. We had an overall basic idea of what we wanted it to sound like, even on an individual song to song basis, and Jarrett made that happen for us by taking all of those different tones and structures we had for the songs individually, and mixing it in such a way where it sounds like a complete piece of music. He had some ideas himself about the shape of everything that we incorporated and worked well. This was our first time doing real vocal layers and Cameron singing at all and doing harmonies and Jarrett was with us every step of the way. In short, we knew what we wanted, and Jarrett helped us achieve better than what we expected! We’re very proud of this one. 

Where was your head at on "M.A.G.A." lyrically  and why did you think it was important to put a song with a big message like that on the album?

Austin: Mike wrote the lyrics but we originally had the instrumental part and no lyrics. We always felt it sounded dark and angry so when Cameron and I were presented with these angry, politically charged lyrics we felt like it fit.

Cameron: I had some reservations about putting out a political song but i feel good about it now. I agree with the message as a whole but when it was originally presented to me at practice i really stressed my doubts and how it could possibly alienate people who think differently. Overall i think we decided, this is who we are, take it or leave it!

Mike: As Austin said, this was originally an instrumental that i had to take some time on to write lyrics for that fit. There were times i almost dropped it altogether because i felt it stood out too far from our other stuff and might be better suited for another project. I think the demo we recorded before going into the studio was literally called “Dark and Angry song” haha. But after i sat on this for a while, Trump was announce to be leading over the other republican nominees and he was saying some things that i found to be heinous and offensive, Bernie Sanders was loosing steam and i didn’t trust Hillary Clinton (although in the end i saw her as the better choice for POTUS). I was mad about the election, as were many people, and i just let it out, and the music for this fit perfectly. I felt it was important for people to know where Action Boy stood on these issues so our fans know who they’re supporting when they buy a shirt or CD. And i felt i heard so much heartache, rage, and frustration from friends about everything thats been going on in the United States lately, but i hadn’t heard a song i liked about the situation. So i just thought about what id want to hear from one of my favorite bands. As a whole the lyrical content of the album is somewhat introspective and self-centered and i figured this was a chance to get outside ourselves and comment on something bigger than us.

I guess that wraps it up. Thanks for taking the time to answer the questions. Do you have anything else you would like to add?

Austin: Thanks to anyone who is reading this And is checking us out! We hope you keep an eye on us cause we have some exciting things in the works! Thanks Sound In The Signals and thanks Truman!

Mike: Thanks for reaching out to us! You can find us on iTunes, Google Play, Apple Music, Spotify, Bandcamp and many other places around the internet. You can also find merch on Storenvy. Links are below. A tour and physical copies of the record are coming soon!  Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ActionBoyChicago/  Bandcamp: https://actionboy.bandcamp.com  Storenvy: https://www.storenvy.com/stores/797169-action-boy iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/aging-like-milkid1173631892 Spotify: https://play.spotify.com/album/2u370CkYanwkaCD2OtKQ4M?play=true&utm_source=open.spotify.com&utm_medium=open

Cameron: Thanks for interviewing us!! It's super exciting that you'd ask and we're really flattered and happy that you thought of us and even took time out of your life at all to listen to our music.

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