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The best kept secret in music


"Actress is Everything Good About Modern Rock'n'Roll"

There's a new sound stirring up quite a buzz here in the Chattanooga/Cleveland area. It's a group that takes the sounds of modern rock and perfectly blends it with the sounds of punk, post-punk, and art-rock eras.
Actress consists of members Aaron Ficchi, Josh Ficchi, Todd Bridges, and Travis Knight.
Taking influence form Bowie, The Talking Heads, and many others, Actress is making great strides with their own 'Defender' EP. It seems that there has been a serious influx of the mod-rock bands into the music scene as of late. Groups such as The Killers, The Thrills, and Franz Ferdinand have all dominated the music scene in the past year. Of course, Actress would be classified as another mod-rock band, but don't let description fool you.
I didn't really know what to expect when Aaron Ficchi gave me their newest CD. It was completely different than what I thought it would be. The whole EP is one that can be played over and over again. It was great to hear the full, tight sound that the band has produced.
The guitars, synths, bass and drums all come together to form their very own driving yet floating sound. Every instrument is a key part of their songs, from the intricately woven guitar parts, to the smooth synths and big bass.
The new EP begins strong and driving guitars backed by a pumping bass. "Such a Bitter End" takes everything good about modern rock today, mixes it up, and presents it all on a four-minute platter. The straight-forward guitar part mixed with the deep bass and heavy synth part gets anybody pumped and looking forward to the next half hour of music.
One of those few songs you can listen to over and over again without getting bored, it definitely gives an excellent first impression. The rest of the CD begins to mellow out with overlapping and floating guitars along side the solid bass and drums.
If you're anywhere near being interested in local music, Actress is coming. - Bryan Crow - Bradley News Weekley

"Our Critic's Pick: Actress"

"Manchester, England, and Chattanooga have one thing in common: post-industrial blight. That shared malaise might account for Actress, a Chattanooga quartet whose dead-on impression of moody Manchester bands like Joy Division and Happy Mondays is striking. Of course, there are plenty of groups riffing on the Mancunian sound (Radiohead chief among them), and Actress wouldn't be worth mentioning unless they added something to the mix. Songwriting is their strong suit. On tracks like "Such a Bitter End," the band's chord changes are quirky and inventive, and their lyrics are just as enigmatic as those of their forebears." - Nashville Scene

"Reasons to Believe"

Each year, the staff music writers and editors of Creative Loafing/Weekly Planet in Atlanta, Charlotte, Sarasota and Tampa get together to discuss which local acts seem to be on the verge of kicking their careers up a few notches. Some are brand new; others have been kicking around for a while. But they all are deserving of a fresh look and listen. Here are our picks of some the best.

Actress. Though hailing from the country-loving town of Chattanooga, Tenn., Actress professes a love for keyboards unlike most bands since, well, those acts whom the group most closely resembles. Which bands, you ask? In lighter moments (of which there are few), Actress brings to mind the synth-heavy, Notorious-era style of Duran Duran; at darker times, the nihilistic, acerbic rock of New Order. Fronted by Aaron Ficchi and aided by fellow Bible Belt-ers Todd Bridges, Josh Ficchi and Travis Knight, Actress is proof positive that not everything from Tennessee is banjos and dirt roads. - Mark Sanders

- Creative Loafing/Weekly Planet

"Actress: Defender CD Review"

I felt like I had settled back into my comfortable space in 1982 when I put this CD in the Z. This is by no means a bad thing. The first song “Such a Bitter End” just reminded me of days back in High School and the music that I listened to back then. I caught myself grinning from ear to ear. It was such a mix of today’s Indie rock and yesterday’s sound, like Duran Duran, Simple Minds, OMD and REM. My roomie thinks this band should be writing movie score for John Hughes movies.

Based in Chattanooga Tennessee, Actress is coming from a state that has to be hard for their musical essence to be heard or taken seriously. In a place where Blue Grass rules and Country is king, these guys are intense and serious about the music they play. They will not be shadowed by steel guitars and banjos, but instead throw themselves into what really matters…their music.

The second song on the CD is ‘Disconnection” Has a great beat with an electronic persuasion to it. The guitar melts you into Aaron’s dynamic vocals and combination of sounds has you dancing in your seat. Its smooth it’s transitional and its fantastico!

“Monster” opens up all electronic. Fast and intense. The bass exsanguinates you. You feel old and new clash and blend. With this band, people will come together. The past is remastered and then returned clean and fresh. Mixed and fixed. It’s about time!!

“Please Imagine an Explosion” is up-tempo. The band uses some cool reverb on the keyboards and guitars. I can’t even begin to come up with words that can express how dynamic this band is; there is a sound that has been void in the music scene for so long. And they take that and throw in new influences and it becomes an audible masterpiece.

Comin atcha with number 5 on the CD is “The Feeling We Forgot”. You aren’t expecting anything like this song throws at you. So haunting in the beginning, distant piano and echoes. Then Aaron brings you to the front with his hypnotic voice and the blending of instruments carry you off into a place that is tranquil, peaceful and euphoric. I am gonna put the headphones on and this song to repeat til I lull away into sleep. Okay, I give, it’s my fav on this CD. I fuckin LOVE this song.

“Trampoline” fun, funky guitar and drums start this song off and then you are slid into the middle of the mix by Travis’ bass. Aaron really shows you the range of his voice in this song. Highs, lows and harmony that is prodigious. One thing I like about this song is it mellows out in the middle and then you got the funky guitar and bass again. This song rocks you off your ass.

Unfortunately I didn’t get to see Actress perform at SXSW. After listening to the CD I wish I could catch them live. I would be willing to bet they have just an incredible stage presence, and, if their music is as good live as it is on the CD, I would be in for a real treat. -Vix
- SugarBuzz Magazine


Despite the name Actress, there seems to be little drama amongst this quartet of rockers.

Actress is a rock band with a Brit-pop sensibility that has been around these parts for a couple of years. The band was the idea of brothers Aaron and Josh Ficchi. The current lineup has been together for a good two-and-a-half years and is a hybrid of both Chattanooga boys and Cleveland natives. For the record the lineup of Actress is as follows: Aaron Ficchi (vocals, guitar), Josh Ficchi (drums), Travis Knight (bass), and Todd Bridges (guitar).

After trying a few different lineups the brothers Ficchi posted an ad on the CIA Music message board. The ad was answered Bridges. The three hung out for a while and eventually asked Bridges to join. Knight, a mutual friend, seemed to be the perfect fit, and so they say, the rest is history.

Once together it didn’t take the band long to forge its identity. “I’m not sure, but once it happened, it seemed like it was already there,” says Bridges. The guitarist admits the band continues to change as it continues to morph into something they hope will be big.

Part of their allegiance to each other comes from obscure tastes in music. While big into the Brit sound, the band members enjoy listening to Radiohead and get inspiration that most people around here may of never heard about such as Kent.

Actress is an original band. You might find it futile to ask them to cover a song for you at one of their shows, but they will occasionally oblige. “We try to cover stuff every now and then, but I don’t think any of us find much satisfaction in it because it’s not our stuff,” says Bridges.

Despite members of the band live in two cities, they find it to be actually helpful in keeping the band together. “It’s made it easier to show dedication to the band,” says Bridges.

When Actress started playing, they faced the same dilemma most local bands do – getting booked. But they say it was no different than any other local band. The band currently plays out an average of two nights a week both locally and regionally.

Response to the band was initially positive. Bridges is pleased and surprised at the wide appeal of the band’s music. “No matter what the crowd might be, they’ll hear something they like,” Bridges adds.

One of the reasons the band stays away from drama is their songwriting style. There indeed is no drama there for Actress. Each member is actively involved in writing the band’s material. “We learned to relax and let one person do their thing and another their thing,” says Bridges. “We just each other enough, and are good enough musicians to write our part.”

When it comes to lyrics, the band can be quite vague as to what they sing about. “A lot of great songs are vague, yet specific,” says Bridges. Whether that will make any sense, the band is not sure, but Bridges believes Aaron does a great job in balancing the two.

The band just recently finished recording their first complete album entitled, Defender. While there have been recordings of Actress circulating for quite some time, they were mainly demos recorded for booking purposes and getting exposure on the local college radio station. “Almost Famous” co-host Dave Reagan says the band is one of the most popular requests on his show which features local and regional as-of-yet unsigned talent. “If they stick to it and don’t self-destruct, they might be on to something,” he adds.

Since the recording process began, Actress has seen a steady improvement in their writing abilities. This they hope to turn into success in finding a label for their material. Ideally Actress would like to have Defender picked up by a label by spring, and Bridges said they have been talking with a number of labels. But as of yet they haven’t closed any deals. If they don’t make any headway with a label, they plan to release the album this summer.

While enjoying the creative process that goes into recording, Actress leans more towards enjoying their live show. “It’s much more immediately gratifying to do a live show,” Bridges admits. He adds the band gets a more immediate reputation from performing live. “We love it [recording], but the fun part is being on stage.”

Despite the young age of the band, most of the members being in their early 20s, they take what they’re doing seriously. “This is what we do,” says Bridges. “It’s pretty much our retirement plan.” The four seem to be happy with the paths their career has gone in such a short period of time, as they have talked with a number of labels already.

While being serious about their music, Actress doesn’t take themselves too serious. “I think we have a good sense of humor about everything,” Bridges says. “We’re pretty self-conscious about not doing that.” He adds that the band is too busy working to take themselves too seriously.

-Dave Weinthal

- Enigma

"Art-rockers Actress Fitting the Puzzle"

The band Actress is chain smoking and drinking in the graffiti-covered
corner booth at the Pickle Barrel downtown. Wearing jackets of velvet and leather and discussing Brit-pop bands like Pulp and Suede, Actress would seem more at home in a SoHo dive or Delilah's in Chicago.

"You drift toward your influence," Josh Ficchi explains. There is little that seems local about Actress. Their look, sound, influences, even the air around them seems imported, but the quartet from Red Bank, Hixson and Cleveland, Tenn., couldn't be from anywhere else.

"There is this excitement when you grow up in a small town," Travis Knight said. "You know something different, and when you're confronted with something totally not like anything you know, you just latch onto it and take hold of that thing. "It's what winds up making you different," he said.
Different is the key word for the art-rockers that share more in common with Franz Ferdinand and Interpol than radio-dominating country and southern rock. Their sound has evolved from Beatle records heard at an early age to the discovery of British pop music in high school.
"A lot of it is, you're in high school, you've got 800 kids and everybody's into what's going on at the time, which is just (garbage)," Aaron Ficchi said. "It's almost like it's you against them, just feeling like you're not living in Tennessee, feeling like you're in Europe. That's what really got us through the difficult years."

Actress' sound derives in part from wanting something they would be interested in hearing. "We grew up very unsatified with what was presented to us (musically)," Todd Bridges said. "We were so unsatisfied that we were very open to coming up (with something better)." What they came up with is a sound that Aaron Ficchi describes as the musical equivalent of classical paintings.

But don't think this sound or their look is mere posturing or posing. These guys can back it up. "It's not an escape. When it's happening you know this is what you're supposed to do," Ficchi said. The group as a whole works to build complete songs that are full reflections of their personalities. "(Songwriting) is a total collaborative effort. We start out with the frame of mind that if it doesn't give us goosebumps it's not worth writing," Aaron Ficchi said. "It means more to everybody when you know not only do you have your own little piece in there, but when that piece works with everybody else. It's like a puzzle that all seems to go together."

-M. Trevor Higgins - Chattanooga Times Free Press

"13-day trip to Texas Music Showcase"

Basements and garages are fine places for rock'n'roll dreams to start but rarely the place of fulfillment. At some point, a band has to take its music to the people. There may be no better place than Austin, Texas, in March when more than 1,200 bands and more than 7,000 music journalists, fans and record-label representatives from across the world converge on South By Southwest, the industry showcase known for launching "the next big thing." To make their mark on the national music scene, members of the band Actress got on the bill, got in their van and headed for Austin. There were no limos, no red carpets, not even any hotel reservations. Living the life of a rocker is tough when you aren't yet a star. As Aaron Ficchi, Josh Ficchi, Todd Bridges and Travis Knight will tell you. So what does it take for a band to make it to the show?
For Actress, the trip meant 13 days, ten shows, 3,000 miles and one new van transmission.
Here's how they described what happened: Mr. Bridges: "The main event isn't the show, it's surviving. It's like being voluntarily homeless for two weeks. We didn't make any (hotel) reservations. (We stayed with) people who would have us."
Mr. Knight: "Sometimes in your hometown and towns where you're established, you forget what it's like to impress people who haven't heard you. That was the most interesting part, just playing the cold crowds that didn't even know anything about us. We were just the guys there at the bar."
- Chattanooga Times Free Press


EP Defender(2004)
LP Isolation (Release Date TBA)
Producer: Matt Goldman
11-track Studio Album
Single: Such a Bitter End
College Radio Airplay


Feeling a bit camera shy


As soon as they take the stage it's immediately evident that something very special is happening. They pick up their instruments and without a word launch into a violent, brusque, boisterous teenage anthem titled, 'Blush'. Flushed with slow-burning grandiloquence and red-hot guitars, their set is inspiring, bringing to mind their flirtation with stadium rock predecessors, U2 and Oasis. What makes these angel-faced upstarts so appealing however, is their capacity for anthemic hooks and retro-laced style reminiscent of The Jam and Roxy Music. They are Actress and they are wonderful.

Hailing from Chattanooga, TN, this post-punk quartet formed in August '02 consisting of Aaron Ficchi (vocals, guitar), Josh Ficchi (drums), Travis Knight (bass) and Todd Bridges (guitar).

Rehearsing in an abandoned loft, they cultivated tasteful art-rock grandeur while performing frequently at clubs in and around Nashville and Atlanta. Soon they were touring, playing wherever they could, sometimes without notice. It was through such shows that they caught the attention of Atlanta producer, Matt Goldman (Copeland).

Within a few months Actress recorded their first full-length album, 'Isolation' and released parts as an EP titled 'Defender' (2004) featuring their buzz-worthy single, 'Such a Bitter End' before finally appearing at this year's South By Southwest Music Festival in Austin, Texas.