The Action Blast made their live debut in December 2009. In their year and a half together, they have opened for major artists, toured with RED, recorded a demo with noted producer Tadpole, had a song, “Let This Go,” featured on ESPN, and recently released an EP, Find Resolution, produced by Mateo Camargo of Madina Lake.
The band consists of Anthony Lira – vocals, Kevin Singleton – guitar, Paul Holloway – keyboards/vocals, Eric Holada – guitar, Joel Romero – bass, and Dan Scofield – drums. They describe themselves as “a rock band from Chicago,” but clearly they are so much more. In this interview, Kevin Singleton and Anthony Lira discuss how the group came together, their musical goals, and their responsibilities to share a positive message with their songs and use their talents to help those in need.
Prior to The Action Blast, the two of you were in another band for seven years. Why the decision to break away from that group?
Singleton: Honestly, that group was so important to us for so long, but for me, the music wasn’t as important as the friendships and the bonds that were formed with the band. I enjoyed playing the shows and playing the music, but the most important things to me were the fans and the members. We were constantly losing members and it was really depressing me; you grow so fond of these people, then out of nowhere, they leave. It was hard on me emotionally, so I wanted to start something new and fresh. The music wasn’t always where my heart was, so it was easy for me to break away once I realized I’d still be best friends with my current former band members. I wanted our old band to take a heavier direction because we started out that way, but not everyone was feeling that idea. We played a show in Las Vegas at the House of Blues, I was onstage working on a new song and the rest of the guys weren’t feeling it, but I loved it so much. Our drummer, Dan, was on tour with us at that moment and he was digging it too. That was when I knew I would be doing something new, musically, really soon.
Lira: I initially had no intentions of breaking away from the group, as I more so wanted to break away from the songs. We started as a young group of kids and ended up becoming men, so a lot of what we were doing was just not as satisfying to us anymore. And with bandmates dropping off like flies, due to hard work ethic, we decided to change up some things, such as the music. Once the word “change” came into the equation, people shifted. We decided it’s best to just change everything for the better and become The Action Blast.
Had you already discussed starting another project together, or were you each considering going your own way?
Singleton: Before this band’s inception, I was considering starting something brand new with Dan, but at first I couldn’t pull myself to doing that and breaking away. I have this best friend/brother bond with Anthony that is way different than anyone else. I honestly don’t want any other singer onstage with me, singing over the music I write, so I had to make sure that he joined up with me. I was looking to go back to school at one point and just quit music if he was not going to be in this project.
How did you find the other members of this band?
Singleton: Dan was the last drummer of our previous band, but only for a few months. Joel was in a band from the Chicago area that Anthony and I were fond of. We needed a guitar player, and Dan’s old band member Eric tried out. We weren’t sure at first because we were looking to add someone to sing a lot with Anthony, but his dedication and heart were all we needed to know he was the guy. After about a year of playing, however, something was missing. We had the band name, The Action Blast, something so over the top and ridiculous, so I had this idea of adding a sixth guy for keys/samples, and someone that could sing well with Anthony so that our vocals and harmonies were super solid. After putting a lot of thought into it, I brought Paul out to audition and it just clicked. He was the lead singer of a Chicago band. At first I was a little unsure how he would accept a backing role in this group, but the dude believed in what I was selling and bought into the project 100 percent. He’s a super team player, and without team players, this band would not have gotten its feet off the ground as quickly as it did.
Are the sound and direction much different from your previous band?
Singleton: This band is for sure a bit more aggressive and more grooving, I guess you could say. Although I wanted to go that way right away, Anthony didn’t seem as comfortable with the change. It took him some getting used to. However, Joel, Dan, Eric and myself were all about hitting the ground running and doing something aggressive. With this band, the changes and growth are just that we write what we feel, not trying to go in certain directions musically. I am the primary writer, and the mood I’m in dictates the direction of my musical inspiration. I tend to just go with the flow. If I play something I really like, I record it and branch off that with the other guys at rehearsal. I’ve always been a fan of more aggressive rock music, like the Deftones and Glassjaw, but also a fan of the melody in rock, like Sevendust, A Perfect Circle and Blindside. I’m a fan of keeping it simple, though, not a big fan of guitar solos and such, although there is an instrumental song that we do from time to time that has a solo and it’s one of my favorite songs, so who knows. To us, it’s what we feel. If we think it’s whack, we won’t play it. If we love it, we play it, but that’s just on a musical level. I’m not the vocal guy; I just take care of the music side. Anthony’s approach to writing may be totally different.
Lira: The sound started off not too far from what we were in the previous band; however, it always takes a little cleansing of the palate to realize what you have done and what you’re about to do. The more we write, the further we’re moving away from what we were and what we will ultimately become. Also, the music now is a bit more aggressive and dynamic, therefore allowing us to feel a lot more passionate about it when performing onstage. You see the love and heart when you see us live. Ain’t no joke.
Johnny K’s engineer, Tadpole, produced your demo. How did that relationship come about and where were the tracks recorded?
Singleton: We’ve known Tadpole for years. He produced my old band’s full-length and is one of our most trusted friends. We know that when we record with him, even if we argue, it’s because both sides are passionate about the music and the final product. Without that man’s input, I wouldn’t be half the songwriter I am today. I owe that dude a lot.
Are any of those tracks included on your EP?
Singleton: We put the tracks “Where We Build A Life,” “Only Seconds” and “Let This Go” on our EP, and we have an additional song, “Fire,” on our website, www.theactionblast.com, for free download.
Where was the EP recorded and how did you get together with Mateo Camargo?
Singleton: We recorded half of the EP with Tadpole. We tracked drums at Rax Trax in Chicago and did the rest of the instruments at Tadpole’s home studio. For vocals, we brought his Pro Tools rig to Anthony’s place so we could work on it all night; at the time, he was living in a parish house attached to a church, so we could track anytime without disturbing anyone nearby. The other half we recorded with Mateo Camargo, the guitarist for Madina Lake. He’s been our friend for years through previous bands and working together, so we were comfortable with him and his work and we knew that he wanted best for the songs too. We tracked those songs at Holada Sound Recording, which is our guitar player’s home studio. Thanks to Bob Holada, we were able to spend some time there and knock out the songs. We only had two days to do all the tracking, so after we did all that, we packed up the studio and did harmonies and overdubs over at my parents’ house while they were on vacation. I was house-sitting, so it just worked out, having a nice big house to hang out and work on music all night. It was very stress-free.
Without major management or a record deal, you have opened for Nonpoint, Trapt, Pop Evil, Red Jumpsuit Apparatus and others, toured with RED and had a track on ESPN. What has enabled you to accomplish these things?
Singleton: Hard work and long nights. I seriously spend hours and hours online, looking at venues’ websites, e-mailing agents, calling promoters, clawing and scratching for shows. We have no agent, no manager, no lawyer. I do everything on my own and nobody helps or gives us any handouts. Usually it’s hard to get into a venue because nobody really cares if your band is good or not. Promoters don’t care — it’s just a fact. They want money and people at the shows. If you can convince them that you deserve to play, and they actually watch you and develop a bond, that’s when it gets a bit easier, but breaking that initial ice is always a hard time. There are a billion bands, and every one of them thinks they are the greatest thing out there. The only thing that separates bands is devotion and desire. This is my life. There is nothing to me that is more important than this music and my bandmates, so if I have to be broke or work lame part-time jobs so I can still have enough time for my music to help further my career, then so be it. The guys in my band rely on me to lead them, get the shows and make the contacts. The last thing I want to do is let my band members down. I know they are counting on me and that keeps me motivated.
You’ve made no secret of your dislike for social networking. Why the disdain? Where do you see the good and bad in social media?
Singleton: Social networking has made it so that any band can reach out to anyone, which is an awesome thing. However, I also think it’s a double-edged sword, because anyone with recording gear can put up a song and flood the Internet with spam, so when people who actually spend the money and the time to develop their music release theirs, people are jaded because 100 bands “added” them or sent them spam. It really hurts the hardworking musicians who make this their life. I’m not saying we’re better than any of those bands, either, because music is subjective, but it’s frustrating when you send messages out or try hard to establish yourself, but people associate you with bands that don’t work hard or record quality music. Sometimes the people on the Internet will only listen to you if you have so many views or a label. Being unsigned isn’t cool; if you are a “local” band, it’s not cool, especially in Chicago. However, for people that already like us and listen to us, it’s a great way to keep in touch with them. It does have its advantages, but the downsides are there as well.
The band’s message is about “self respect and being true to yourself and others.” Why is this theme important to you, and do you believe it’s missing in a lot of today’s music?
Singleton: Self-respect is lacking today, not only in music, but also in entertainment altogether. It’s good to have some sort of respect for yourself and what you are doing. If you don’t respect yourself, it’s hard for people to respect you in return. I stay drug-free because of that fact. I view my life as a blessing, and I don’t want to corrupt it or take advantage of what’s been given to me. I also like the fact that Anthony’s lyrics are positive, and he’s not blasting F bombs, talking about sex, or being sleazy with our music. He’s talking about real-life situations and doing things his way. Kids these days, when they grow up, they don’t have the same kind of values. I was talking to a close friend who just graduated high school, talking about how all his friends do heroin. Heroin? That is just ridiculous. So if kids hear our songs about staying true to yourself, respecting yourself, your body and others, I’m cool with that. If we can influence anyone in a positive manner, I’d say my job on this earth is done, and the ability to do it through music makes me that much happier.
Lira: Self-respect is very important with every aspect in life. I was faced with a situation that questioned my very wellbeing while writing our first few songs, and it took the death of a family member for me to realize that there’s so much more to life than spending $8,000 on hair that didn’t belong to me, and a scar that doesn’t belong on me. The few seconds that it took for me to find out my cousin passed, I realized that I’m a fool, and I’ll never disrespect myself again and [will] live life whatever it throws at me. I hope to have people everywhere know that you dig deep for yourself and nobody else. Respect what you choose, what you will decide, and show everyone this way of life is so much better.
You are involved with Seer Outfitters, which was started by Kyle Korver of the Chicago Bulls. Please tell us more about this organization, how and why you got involved, and what you’re doing to help.
Singleton: Kyle Korver and his brother, Klayton, started Seer to help children and families in need. They help donate money to needy, hungry families, they build ramps for handicapped children, and fund after-school programs for children to help tutor them and keep them off the streets. I reached out to him because we’d like to help. We feel that with our music, and with our fans and friends, we can change things. No, we’re not Bono or anyone special, but if we promote his clothing line and our friends/fans buy T-shirts, that money goes to children that need help and people that are less fortunate. Every show on tour, I wore a Seer Outfitters T-shirt, and if anyone asked me what it was, I told them about the company and why I wore the T-shirt. If me promoting the company can help put food in needy children’s mouths, I will wear the shirt every day of my life. Let’s face it — nobody is going to pay attention to The Action Blast charity, not yet at least, so we aligned ourselves with something that already had momentum. In Chicago, not many things can capture people’s attention like sports can. So with Kyle playing for the Chicago Bulls, it was easy for us to get people to listen. I don’t know how many shirts people have bought, but I have seen some in crowds at our shows. Anything we can do to help make a difference is awesome in my book, and for our fans to help as well is even cooler. So go to www.seeroutfitters.com, buy a shirt, and have a positive impact on someone’s life.
Learn more about The Action Blast: