Actors & Actresses
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Actors & Actresses

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Actors & Actresses are from Kansas City, though I feel like I could have guessed it before I double-checked. KC has never really had a specific definable sound when it comes to rock music. But A&A have a strong, almost overwhelming Shiner/ Life And Times vibe going on. They fill a ton of space for a trio, without ever being even remotely heavy. In fact, some of the songs seem to drift by, but never in a complacent or light way. It’s like huge, post-metal, but with melodic shoegaze vocals and a couple Valium after all the bong rips--- slowed down but still complex. Something that’s usually “crushing” is more like “soothing”, with just a few details switched around.
Overall, it works. They leave out the meandering electronics or winding guitar parts and (most importantly) the tortured vocals that can ruin similar, dreary bands. But they also don’t put quite enough to grab onto, at least on the first handful of listens. It’s there, but a bit too buried in some ways. “Hello Tornado” is the big highlight, which, fittingly, is toward the end of the record. I bet this either really works or really doesn’t live, which will probably decide how many people go into a record like Arrows. If you go in looking for something, you’ll find plenty of it. If you’re waiting for it to come and find you, you’ll probably wait for a while and then wander off.- Anderson
- Anderson


Kansas City's Actors & Actresses came onto my radar with their 2005 EP, We Love Our Enemy. I recall liking their sound, but as usual with a music junkie you get a sensory overload at times and since this EP didn't blow my mind, I soon forgot about them. It wasn't till my new favorite label, The Mylene Sheath(Constants, Caspian), released their follow up album, Arrows, that it all came back to me.

These gents are flat spitting out some heart of American goodness in the form of experimental yet retro sound waves. The moment that “Dig to China” starts echoing in, my cerebral cortex immediately flashed the cover of Failure's Fantastic Planet. Moments later, the grey matter once again hard at work, drew up the beautiful similarities to Codeseven's last batch of tracks. All of these feelings warmed my heart, because this is a sound I ache to hear more of, and Actors & Actresses, I find, are doing it magnificently well.

Like most bands who dabble in this genre, there are many thought pondering moments of ambiance and aural helter skelter. “Quiet,” is a track that perfectly displays this ability. By merging the profound spaciness of a band like Constants with the nerdy genius of Shiner or The Life And Times, they've honed a talent that, while extremely niche-based, is also insanely brilliant. Each piece of meandering feedback, every morsel of textural reverb, and every emittance of sonically melodic utterances draws me closer to my nostalgic youth, yet at the same time pushes me towards an exciting future. - rabbitholemusic.com


According to their myspace, Actors & Actresses are influenced by a wide range of artists from Sigur Ros and Explosions In The Sky to Isis and Ride with a little bit of The Cure thrown in for good measure. Often times, a band’s music taste poorly reflects what their music actually sounds like (take 3OH!3 for example, who list Bonnie “Prince” Billy’s Lie Down In The Light and Alopecia by Why? as 2008 favorites). Surprisingly, however, Arrows sounds like a true mishmash of Actors’ influences and as a result, Arrows lands somewhere in the no-man’s-land between slowcore and post-rock (with occasional metallic tendencies). This apparent lack of direction would drag most bands down in the dust of their own ambition, but not so for Actors & Actresses. They’ve clearly found a happy center between all of these well-respected, and quite varied acts. But once they find their comfort zone, they stay there and never roam elsewhere. Puzzlingly, this is both the band’s millstone and their halo.

As far as the sound goes, there are few curveballs. The almost dubsteppy ‘Hello, Tornado’ and eerie, almost Kid A-esque ‘Quiet’ stick out in my mind as the exceptions. But somehow, they aren’t the sore thumbs of the album. When you have a nine-track album (one of which is an intro and another an interlude) you trim the fat and do what you must to get the job done. In a recent interview, guitarist Andrew Schiller spoke about trying to put the album onto an LP and having to cut away some of the excess music to make it fit. Schiller said it helped the creative process, and you truly can tell. Arrows never self-indulges; never gets too pretentious for its own good. It makes a statement, then moves on to make another. This does work to the band’s advantage like in ‘Murder’. Most of the tracks on Arrows last an average of five minutes, but ‘Murder’ is the shortest non-interlude song, lasting only two. It may be short, but it feels fully fleshed out. Its potential is definitively realized by the artist. But on the flipside, ‘Law Of Entropy’, a good song it may be, feels underdeveloped and it actually seems like Actors’ could have done more with it.

Arrows isn’t easygoing. A vast majority of the album keeps practically the same tempo and dynamic level, often making it hard to even tell where one song ends and another begins. It is devoid of Explosions In The Sky’s hooks, Sigur Ros’ ambient purity, and Jesu’s (another of the band’s influences) heaviness. Stylistically, it is by all accounts a middle-of-the-road album. There are times when more variety and more expansion would be welcome (at the end of the album for instance) but for the most part, it works. A cursory examination of the record leaves much to be desired, but this album is not a piece of work to be understood and appreciated instantly. It might reveal itself to the listener at a snail’s pace, but the music itself unfolds immediately. So in celebration of Actors & Actresses’ endearingly laconic nature, I’ll wrap it up in similar fashion: Arrows, even with its faults, is a good album, and certainly a worthy addition to the celebrated Mylene Sheath roster.

John Spencer - John Spencer


Kansas City’s Actors&Actresses’ latest, Arrows, is an homage to an overlooked and mostly forgotten genre, a style of music often defined as shoegazer. This swirling mix of post-punk and psychedelia emerged from Europe in the ’90s, flying so low below radar that it went unnoticed by a majority of American audiences.

While grunge was all the rage, bands such as Swervedriver, Lush and Kitchens of Distinction were in the shadows, developing a dark, moody, reverb-heavy sound that was truly alternative.

It’s easy to get lost listening to Arrows. The band relies on slow tempos and beautiful, somber melodies punctuated by haunting noises and held together by barely there vocals.

Bassist/vocalist Scott Bennett is pushed down so far in the mix it’s next to impossible to tell what he’s saying. Each soft phrase, some doubled in chilling harmony, represents the longing and melancholy of a guarded artist. The songs appear very personal, but Bennett’s careful not to let us know too much.

Throughout you might wonder where the single is hiding. That one song you could quickly associate with Actors&Actresses. After all, even the shoegazer bands of the ’90s usually had one radio-friendly track on each record. The closest thing might be the finale, “Law of Entropy.” After a long buildup it breaks out of the haze into a very catchy movement that’s not quite a chorus, yet it leaves a lasting impression well after the song has devolved back into a quiet finish.

Other standouts include the ethereal “Dig to China” and “Murder,” an experiment in backmasking. On this dizzying number the instruments were recorded normally and then played back completely in reverse. The vocals were then added to cause a spectacular, if unsettling, effect.

Arrows isn’t really something that can be appreciated piecemeal. Each song on its own would seem lost when taken out of context. That’s not to say there’s a bad track on this album. There isn’t. It’s just a collection better understood in its entirety.
— liz garcia { ink - Liz Garcia


If Sigur Ros gives us the sounds of glaciers grinding together, what KC's Actors & Actresses - whose moody post-rock is in some ways similar but more direct emotionally and less majestic overall - offer up is more intimate, somewhere between icebergs and ice cubes, the aural equivalent of something hard and frozen bobbing in water warmer than itself.

It's the sound of melting.

The trio's songs start with what seems like chilly restraint, a sound sometimes plodding and distant. But, as the slow riffs repeat, Andrew Schiller's guitar thickens and Scott Bennett's vocals lift into a warm falsetto. Best is the stately psychedelia of "Poverty," a seven-minute grind that seems slight at first but eventually makes you sweat.

For 25 minutes, these four tracks swell and sulk, accumulating power through the band's skillful repetition, each building to climaxes both meditative and muscular, each a mellow roar.
- www.pitchmusic.com


To put it quite simply, indie label Mylene Sheath has been on top of its game in 2009. Dogs, by Beware Of Safety, is a huge guitar-rock record released to widespread critical acclaim. Gifts From Enola is possibly one of the biggest post-rock bands on the planet not named Explosions In The Sky. Not to be outdone, Missouri three-piece Actors & Actresses released Arrows a couple of months ago and as expected, it’s virtually dripping with talent. Drummer Dave Sumner and guitarist Andrew Schiller took the time to answer Sun On The Sand’s questions about the recent album, their label’s intuitive business model, the recent vinyl resurgence, and more. Special thanks to the band (which also includes the talented Scott Bennett, who sings, plays bass, and designs the band’s artwork) as well as Joel and Lindsay at Mylene Sheath. Oh, and for God’s sake…somebody fly these guys to Europe.

First of all, thank you both very much for doing this interview. Could you all state your names and position in the band?

DS: Dave Sumner; drums, auxiliary sounds, videodromes.

AS: Andrew Schiller; guitar, disappointment generator, truck.

You share a label, Mylene Sheath, with heavyweights like Caspian, Gifts From Enola, and If These Trees Could Talk. Do you ever feel overshadowed by these very popular acts?

AS: Even though we enjoy the music from the other acts on the label, I can’t say that we feel “overshadowed” by them. I think Mylene Sheath has worked very hard to compile a band roster that has a certain direction based on their personal tastes, but that all fit within a certain role to play. Caspian, from the very start, were huge advocates of making us known, and were ultimately the conduit to getting us familiar to all the other acts that they were friends with. This included greasing the gears to getting us into the Mylene family. Everyone on the label so far has been very supportive about our sound, even though we sound different from most of them. Mylene Sheath found ways to make our presence known and work our sound into the roster in a positive way. But we owe Caspian a huge debt.

A press release that I read said that as a band, Actors & Actresses were “dedicated to the idea that music can be heavy without being angry, and lush without being boring and aimless.” Do you feel that you successfully realized your vision when creating Arrows?

AS: I think the vision of our sound had already been established before the recording began. As players, we all have our specific tastes, but also common ideals that work well. We made a conscious choice to format our musical tendencies long ago, even before we released our EP We Love Our Enemy, into something more digestible and accessible so we just didn’t fade into this gallery of long-form, grandiose post-rock. I think Arrows is successful in that it shows cohesion and control, when it’s easy to just let it go into this anthemic opus of endless variation. We like to keep things moving along.

How did you go about trying to create that vibe, both in the writing and production stages? What were some challenges that you faced in the process?

DS: We spent a huge amount of time and effort getting the arrangements and dynamics just right and striving for variety. A song has to have a good reason to exist for us to go through with it. This was also the first time that we constructed certain things in the studio instead of beforehand, which was daunting at times. Arrows was sort of “glued together” during the production and post-production phases.

Your label, Mylene Sheath, has partnered with Gimme Sound to give away its releases for free with the promise that the bands would receive half of the ad revenue. What are your thoughts on this partnership and Gimme Sound itself?

AS: The idea behind Gimme Sound is pretty progressive. It addresses a common problem in the digital age with a fair solution – music that many times would just be taken for free, but with a karmic angle that’s almost irresistible: help people who are disenfranchised in exchange for an easy click and save. Speaking for myself, I had seen the business model before, for worthy causes such as world hunger or breast cancer – “just click here and help”. Gimme Sound works by offering something you already want with convenient method that causes real effects. I hate the term “slacktivism,” because it has roots in what’s been referred to as a culture of false honesty, but I think a system like this short-circuits any negative effect. Gimme Sound allows you to choose how you help, based on what you want. Will it last? That’s to be seen. I’m not in a position to say whether the financial effects enact real change, but I like the idea. Ultimately, it’s up to the listener, whether they get the music through Gimme Sound or not.

Are you afraid that this business model will lead to a decrease in your album sales?

AS: If Gimme Sound is honest about their download numbers, then no, because every download me - sunonthesand.net


Discography

Arrows- CD/LP released on The Mylene Sheath (2009)

We Love Our Enemy EP- self released (2005)

Find streaming audio at:
www.myspace.com/actorsactresses
www.last.fm/music/Actors+and+Actresses
www.gimmesound.com/actorsandactresses

Photos

Bio

Actors & Actresses are dedicated to the idea that music can be heavy without being angry, and lush without being boring and aimless. They began working to create an atmosphere that elevates rather than overwhelms the listener's senses with a focus on creating a unique visual accompaniment that blends with their music. Soon after their 2004 debut, the band found that using an ideal balance of eerie and comforting sounds pleased a swiftly-growing audience. Many new fans of the band were surprised that a sound so large and layered could come from just 3 musicians. Scott Bennett anchors the trio with a massive thrum of down-tuned bass diametrically-opposed by his soft alto vocals. Andrew Schiller's guitars provide a backdrop that moves between subtle harmonic textures and blaring noise. David Sumner guides the roiling mass of sound with precise rhythm constructions from both his kit and banks of samples that give Actors & Actresses an instantly recognizable signature sound.