Actionslacks is a rock band based in the United States. Yes, the country. Because while 2 of the band - bassist Ross Murray and lead guitarist Chuck Lindo - reside in the San Francisco Bay Area, singer-guitarist Tim Scanlin lives in Pasadena, California, and drummer Marty Kelly hangs his hat in Waterville, Maine.
It's been a long, strange trip for this outfit, which formed from the ashes of various collegiate bar bands in and around Berkeley, CA in 1994. Since then, the band has released 6 albums on 5 different labels, had 12 different members, logged over 50,000 miles, played hundreds of shows, contributed music to numerous films, TV shows and video games, and generally endured all manner of threats and pitfalls that haunt any band who dares to shoulder the Mantle of Rock. However, one thing has never changed: an unswerving dedication to and obsession with writing Songs. For Actionslacks the melody is key. It doesn't always have to be pretty, but if you don't have one, you don't have a song.
Actionslacks formed when New Jersey-native Marty Kelly responded to a "drummer wanted" flyer posted by Southern California-bred guitarist Tim Scanlin and NorCal native bass player Mark Wijsen. In late summer 1994 they started practicing regularly in an abandoned factory in Emeryville, just south of Berkeley. Songs were written, shows were played, and demos were made, one of which wound its way to the offices of the Minneapolis label Skene! (Candy Machine, Lifter Puller, Hard-Ons).
The resulting long-playing Slacks debut, Too Bright, Just Right, Goodnight, garnered impressive write-ups and considerable radio play. After months on the road, the band returned home to record a follow-up, One Word, for Brooklyn's up-and-coming Arena Rock Recording Company (Luna, Elf Power, Superdrag). Thirteen months and numerous near-fist fights later, the opus, complete with a full-string section on five songs, was done. Its release in 1998 saw the band receiving even more press and increased attention at college radio. Another monster voyage around the US culminated in a theater tour supporting one-time Arena Rock colleagues Harvey Danger. Scanlin and Kelly began 1999 by amicably parting ways with Wijsen and firing their booking agent. An often-uneasy relationship with the road gave way to a year of woodshedding in the band's Oakland practice space, writing the songs for what would become their third album, The Scene's Out Of Sight. Enlisting the help of a veritable cast of thousands, including ex-members of Samiam, Sunny Day Real Estate, the Mr. T Experience, the Mommyheads, Pell Mell and future Slacks guitarist Chuck Lindo, Scanlin and Kelly eventually got the songs where they needed to be. The album was finally tracked (with Mr. T bassist and all-around stellar human being Aaron Rubin holding down the low end) in the fall of '99. Presiding over the sessions was one of the band's heroes, J. Robbins, singer-guitarist for late greats Jawbox and Burning Airlines. Much to the band's delight, Robbins also pitched in on vocals, guitars and piano, making the album a truly collaborative effort.
Though the album was done, the band still needed a
permanent bass player. Enter Ross Murray, erstwhile string-plucker for defunct San Francisco pop-rockers Amateur Night. Murray came to his first rehearsal having learned almost every song the Slacks had written. His incredible musicianship and easy-going demeanor landed him the gig.
In late 1999 the newly revitalized Slacks decided to hang their collective hat with NYC's The Self-Starter Foundation, home to such acts as Les Savy Fav, the Mooney Suzuki, Lifter Puller and Enon. Extensive touring followed the album's release, and by the close of 2001, after tours and supports with a multitude of bands, including Buffalo Tom, Girls Against Boys, Ocean Colour Scene, the Promise Ring, Superchunk, Jets to Brazil and Superdrag, the band was exhausted and ready for a break.
The final piece of the Slacks puzzle reemerged early in 2002. A native of St. Louis (where he founded local faves The Nukes) and a veteran of the San Francisco music scene, Chuck Lindo represented the answer to the Slacks' prayers: a guitarist and singer of incredible talent and breadth, who was also well adjusted and devoid of ego. Lindo's addition to the band resulted in vast improvements, both on stage and in the studio.
In the spring of 2002 the band released an EP, Never Never Shake, Baby, on Austin's Post-Parlo imprint, before getting down to the business of recording their next full-length.
No one was prepared for the logistical insanity that
marked the creation of the band's fourth album, Full Upright Position. Completed over 3 years while the band was spread out around California and the East Coast (Kelly moved to Waterville, Maine in August 2003), it saw the Slacks experimenting with new methods of songwriting, new sounds and new styles - everything from electro-infused rock ("33 1/3", "Close To Tears") to alt-country ("Keeping Close To You") to Bond film-inspired grandiosity ("Moneypenny's Theme"). Painstakingly recorded at 8 different studios, from San Francisco to Washington, DC., the album is a testament to the fact that where there's a will there's a way.
Once again, co-producer/engineer J. Robbins took the helm, displaying an incredible amount of patience and skill in the face of often overwhelming adversity. The album was finally released on April 20th, 2004 on The Self-Starter Foundation. A week later, the label imploded due to gross mismanagement, resulting in the album being essentially stillborn.
Determined not to let 3 years of blood, sweat and tears be wasted, the band promoted the album as best they could, hitting the road for West and then East Coast tours in support of it (joined by keyboardist Darice Bailey, who was in the band for a brief time). Ultimately, the album received considerable praise from the national press and substantial college radio airplay. Stlll, the Slacks - and many fans who wrote them and approached them at shows - were left to wonder what kind of impact it could have made had it received the promotion it deserved.
In July 2004, Murray became the last Actionslack to tie the knot, and in August of 2004 the band celebrated its 10th anniversary. For Scanlin, Kelly, Murray and Lindo, a decade of near constant band activity was about to give way to a whole new paradigm, not to mention a new generation of Actionslacks.
For 2005 and 2006 the band was on hiatus while they worked on families and careers. Scanlin founded a music creative and licensing agency, Kelly became a librarian, Murray entered the mortgage industry (he's now in grad school) and Lindo became an independent composer. Between January, 2005 and October, 2006 Kelly, Scanlin and Murray all welcomed baby boys. During this time the band played only 2 shows, and convened just once (in LA) to work on new material, though it would prove to be fruitful.
The band regrouped in January, 2007 to play at the wedding of 2 fans in Northern California, then came together again later that spring for a West Coast tour in support of Australia's You Am I, one of their favorite bands. The rapturous response they received at San Francisco's Bottom of the Hill - the band's spiritual home - was a turning point, reminding them how much they loved (and missed) playing together. Shortly thereafter they resolved to make more music together.
Jobs and families made it difficult to spend long stretches of time in the same room writing and recording. Instead, the band relied on technology to create a virtual studio. Scanlin demoed ideas in Apple's Garageband application,
then posted them for Kelly, Murray and Lindo to work on their parts. Eventually detailed demos emerged, and after a year of emails and conference calls, the band finally convened at San Francisco's Tiny Telephone studio in May of 2008 with engineer Aaron Prellwitz. In a testament to months of preparation and years spent playing together, the band played the new songs perfectly the first time, despite having never performed them in the same room. The session at Tiny was a success, with 7 songs being completed in as many days. As for the sound, it's a return to the band's core competency - lean, loud, dynamic indie rock with big hooks.
Kids With Guitars represents Actionslacks' re-entry into a musical landscape that has changed drastically since the release of Full Upright Position in 2004. The band's decision to make the EP available on their web site on a pay-what-you-want basis reflects their enthusiasm for new models of music distribution and promotion, and their desire to reach as many new listeners as possible. Having refuted the myth that a band can't contend with careers, kids, and geographical separation, the Slacks have resolved to record a handful of new songs every year and release them on their own. Full control, promotional tools galore, a diehard fan base and years of experience. It's a good time to be Actionslacks.