Heroes and villains

Action Camp serves up sunshine and darkness on one electronic platter

By Zach Rogers

Action Camp constantly contradicts labels and genres. One minute they sound like some sort of futuristic, electronic surf band, the next there’s a sludgy guitar riff that pushes the sunshine right out the door. In the end, it creates a distinct sound that takes the best of all these worlds and boils it down into one cohesive unit. This is the music of Action Camp – boiled down goodness that’s silent, murky and ready to explode. Now as they – Bengt Alexsander and Maura Jacob – get ready to hit the road for a short winter tour, they took a minute to discuss the evolution of the band and the recording of their new record.

You describe your music as a mix of doom, surf and electronic. Interesting mix – how did it come about?

We’re fans of bittersweet music. We like a catchy pop melody, but we’re also hinting at something darker lying underneath. We each came into the band with different musical backgrounds, and over the years we’ve found ways to make our experiences complement one another. Over the years what inspires us has changed, with subject matters becoming more extroverted and grand, so our style has evolved to meet that. In the last couple of years we’ve had more obstacles to overcome, so the music started to reflect reality by getting darker and heavier. But it also felt more true to what we wanted to express. – Action Camp

You’re currently recording a new LP. How has the recording been and when can we expect a release?

It’s been going well, and we’re excited about it. Our aim this time is to make a cohesive piece of work rather than a collection of songs like our first LP. It’s hard to say without sounding oddly spiritual, but it’s like we’re much more aware of ourselves – our confidence and compositions have grown so much in the past few years. We’re getting better at translating our ideas into something tangible. If we’re lucky the album will be done in January, but ultimately it won’t come out until we’re both completely satisfied with it. We’re a lot harder on ourselves than anyone else will be. – AC

For the band, what’s better – recording in a studio or playing live?

It’s hard to choose because it’s two different sides of being an artist. The studio encompasses writing, arranging and recording into the process. It’s all about figuring out what we want to say and putting everything under a microscope. It’s almost like a puzzle, and it can be satisfying when you finally get all the pieces in place. Playing live is about reproducing that moment and expressing it in the most concise way you can. When a performance really clicks, it can feel like a spiritual experience, but you can’t discount the initial spark that got it to that place. Recording is about fleshing out a deep, living feeling and performing is taking that more mature product to others so they can feel it too. – AC

You guys are gearing up for a winter tour, playing a few shows in Ohio before wrapping things up in Pittsburgh. How did Ohio get so lucky?

Ohio has always been very good to us. A lot of our friends who play in bands are based in Ohio and crowds have always been really receptive, so we have plenty of reasons to keep coming back. We usually hit Cincinnati and Columbus anytime we’re heading west, but we’ve never done Dayton. Our friends have spoken highly of it and we finally had an opportunity to play here. It also doesn’t hurt that it’s a much shorter drive than most tours we do – winters have killed us in the past. Getting caught in a blizzard on the highway is not much fun. – AC

What’s the Pittsburgh music scene like?

It has its ups and downs like any scene. There are a lot of great bands I wish would tour more to show other places what’s happening here. The people that come out to shows are very supportive, and it’s very much a community, so you’ll see people you know all the time. The Pittsburgh scene is always evolving and it’s getting harder and harder to pin down. It used to be known for metal and punk music, which is still thriving in the city, but the hip-hop scene has also been getting a lot more attention lately. I’m hoping this mounting interest in the city can give people more of a chance to see the talent we have in all the different genres. It’s part of what I like about touring, too – showing others that the Rust Belt produces all kinds of great music.       – AC

What’s in store for Action Camp in 2013?

We’ve been talking about shooting videos for every song with a different videographer each time, but beyond that, it’s touring as much as possible for the next two years. We’ve been on a six month break from shows and in the studio eight-to-ten hours a day so we’re more than ready to switch to the live setup for the foreseeable future. We’re hoping to eventually travel to parts of the country we’ve never played in before, especially in the South and the West Coast. And who knows, maybe our next record will be written entirely on the road. – AC

Action Camp will be appearing at South Park Tavern, 1301 Wayne Avenue, on Friday, Dec. 7 along with Yakuza Heart Attack. Admission is $5 for all ages. Doors at 9 p.m. For more information visit www.action-camp.com or www.actioncamp.bandcamp.com. 

Reach DCP freelance writer and intern Zach Rogers at ZachRogers@daytoncitypaper.com

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