We Became Actors unleash 'Something Major'
Jesse Stensby, We Became Actors frontman, peers at me across from a bounty of eggs and home fries at the Triple Rock and blinks as I ask him about the band's creative process.
Photo by Louisa Podlich
The band has just finished their debut LP, Something Major, a 12-track pop-rock summer-ready record. I'm slowly extracting the story on it from the band, which includes Stensby (lead vocalist and keys), Christian Dahlager (guitar), Paula Ward (bass), and Mike Hinton (drums). Dahlager and Ward are breakfasting, too, and Dahlager clears his throat.
"Well," he starts, "Jesse and I do the writing, but... I mean, sometimes we will write a song on the spot, in rehearsal."
"I'm not a very diligent songwriter," explains Stensby. "Sometimes we just rock out and see where it goes, and those are the best times--almost as magical as a great show. And it feels like a song happened to us. 'That just happened', I'll say that a lot."
"You say that all the time," grins Dahlager.
"Because it's true!" Stensby laughs. "But that's how we've always preferred the creative process. With us, I feel like there's songs out there floating around and we just reach up and grab for them."
"Reaching" is a good word to describe the new record. The influence of producer Ryan Olcott (Mystery Palace, Food Team) is perceptible on Something Major; compared to the band's 2009-released EP, This Is Where We Stand, the new album is polished, with a fizzy, controlled-chaos kind of rock energy. It is indie pop-rock done startlingly well: Stensby's vocals wrap perfectly around dynamic guitar riffs and anchoring, robust drum beats to deliver songs that just beg to be turned up louder.
Something Major sounds palpably like the driest, most sizzling-hot day of the summer--maybe specifically like the Fourth of July, with sparklers and fireworks and joy. The opening song and title track, "Something Major", will become your instant summer anthem--the song you will play on repeat in your car with the windows rolled down as you cruise your way to the lake. Or maybe the uplifting "Knights of the Brightside" will get to you. Or the playful, Minneapolis-centric "I Feel Like This Summer's Gonna Be One Long Hold Steady Song." Or the first released single, "Swimming Pools." Or--hell, the entire album, really.
The tone and themes of Something Major center around brotherhood and optimism, without getting too lofty about it. The title track, with lyrics like "The sun comes out/How beautiful there's something more/All I need is complete/The sun comes out/Wanna take this chance to do something major," is a song to start your day with.
"The EP was pretty much a downer," says Dahlager. "This kicked things up. Sort of as a metaphor for how much hope you can find in like-minded people, and holding on to those things that we loved when we were 12 years old. Not being super nostalgic about it... Just staying true to it."
The rapport between the band members is obvious as they alternate between jabs at each other and praise of one another's skills. Dahlager and Stensby met in college and were fast friends, officially forming We Became Actors in 2006; Ward and Hinton later joined in 2008. Together, the band shares more than just a sound aesthetic--they have common principles that guide more than just the music they make, and the strength of their values are the backbone in their songs.
That is not to say Something Major is idealistic, by any means. The new album is far from naïve, instead focusing on a lively celebration of what lies ahead--and what lies ahead is undeniably bright and promising as the new album. We Became Actors are ready for you, and you need them like you need sunshine. You really do.
We Became Actors will be holding their CD Release show this Saturday, April 16, at the Kitty Cat Klub with the Idle Hands, Sam Cassidy and Red Daughters, and DJ Kenny Kingston. Go.