After being together for seven years and releasing three albums, Swedish band A.C.T. took their progressive/pop/pomp sound over to the InsideOut label for their latest CD Silence. Featuring plenty of crafty & melodic vocals, quirky arrangements, and intelligent lyrical content, Silence is another fine release from this band, who are quickly starting to make a name for themselves. Sea of Tranquility Publisher Pete Pardo spoke to keyboard player Jerry Sahlin spoke the latest release, their meeting up with the new label, and what makes the band tick.
Read on for the interview!
SoT: First off, congratulations on signing with InsideOut Records!
Jerry Sahlin: Thank you so much! We've heard so much about them as being a very good label for their bands that we are really happy to be on board with them.
SoT: Why don't you take us back to the previous album Last Epic and fill us in on what's been up with the up to and including the latest release Silence?
Jerry: OK. After the last album Last Epic we went out on tour with the Canadian band Saga for about 6 or 7 weeks in Europe. While we were on tour, the folks at InsideOut attended some of the shows, obviously to see Saga. We don't think at the time they have had of A.C.T. , but after seeing us live they were like "wow, who are these guys?", and obviously we knew who they were, so our manager Graham got in touch with them and it all sort of happened, very crazy and magical actually.
SoT: Can you talk a little bit about the latest album Silence, and especially the conceptual ideas behind some of the songs, especially the epic multi-part "Consequences"?
Jerry: We had a little bit of trouble with our former label, and they really struggled to get our albums out. It's a tough business as everyone knows. They went bankrupt, and we were like out in the desert saying "oh shit, now what do we do?" I started to write songs right after the Last Epic album, so in reality many of the songs on Silence are nearly three years old. Everyone in the band was really depressed at the time, but that changed when we got the deal with InsideOut, and I started writing again, and especially the long "Consequences" piece just really came together at that time, really in about two weeks, inspired by us getting on the new label. The recording was spread out between October to February of 2005-2006, roughly about 5-6 weeks of recording in between all the Holidays and things.
SoT: Now that you mentioned "Consequences" again, talk a little bit about that piece if you could and tell us what it's all about?
Jerry: It's like a tradition on all of A.C.T.'s albums to end each one with a very long track, so this is the third one, a really long one. This one is actually three stories on this one, and we always see these stories as kind of like a Quentin Tarantino movie, because we are all really inspired by his films, like Pulp Fiction especially, and how the scenes all are somewhat related to each other through different but interlocking storylines. This one starts with the Millionaire, who wins like 5 million dollars and first all sorts of good things happen to him, but then of course the bad things start happening. Then another story is three songs about one story, the Joanna story. She's like 28 years old and she really wants to have a baby, but gets into a fight with her boyfriend and then gets run over by a drunk driver and dies. The third story is about a little 10 year old girl who writes a diary, and in the diary are these horrible things, one of which is that she's going to kill her best friend. It's all very tragic and easily the most dramatic stuff we've ever written.
SoT: It definitely sounds it. Are you involved in most of the songwriting?
Jerry: Yes, I write all of the songs, except for two of the songs on the new album that were written by our guitar player Ola.
SoT: You do the music and lyrics?
Jerry: Not the lyrics, I'm not a lyric writer, I'm not good with words. I just write melodies and the music.
SoT: You listen to the music of A.C.T., and I personally hear influences perhaps ranging from Saga, Queen, Yes, maybe a little Supertramp, who are all classic bands. What were some of the groups you and the band grew up listening to?
Jerry: Most of us grew up listening to 10CC, the Electric Light Orchestra, Rush, and all that, so it just became natural to do what we do and play this style of music. But we do have many influences, out guitar player for example loves Prince, so it's all pretty spread out, which is what makes our music so diverse.
SoT: There's a little quote I saw on the A.C.T. website, that I believe was from you, that said that hearing Saga's "Careful Where You Step" years ago is what prompted you to start playing keyboards and do this for a living. Interesting how it all played out, that you actually got your current record contract while as an opening act for Saga, many years later.
Jerry: Yes, indeed.
SoT: One of the interesting things about A.C.T. is that the style of the band is hard to classify, as there's a lot of pop melodies, some proggy arrangements, as well as some heavy, almost metal guitar moments. How would you explain the music of your band to someone who has never heard it before?
Jerry: Wow, that's a tough question. Like you said, we have everything in it, pop, rock, progressive rock, pomp, we do ballads, uptempo stuff. When I read all the reviews, people tend to mention so many bands and styles.
SoT: You mention pomp, and that's probably the word I was looking for when writing the review for the album but couldn't quite put my finger on. Electric Light Orchestra, Queen, Saga, Aviary, and New England are all probably closer to the sound of A.C.T., rather than Dream Theater and the like, which many people liked to compare the band to early on.
Jerry: That's correct, yes.
SoT: Any plans to tour around the world with the new album?
Jerry: We don't have any major plans right now, but our manager Graham has been talking to InsideOut about a tour in the spring. Hopefully this will happen, as we really want to play live in the US.
SoT: Perhaps you can convince the label to put together a small tour of the US featuring a few InsideOut bands?
Jerry: That's sounds like a good idea-we'd love to do that! The band is also interested in playing at any of the various prog festivals that we have heard so many things about.
SoT: Are you also doing any writing for an upcoming album?
Jerry: Yes, I am always writing, especially since we don't have any live shows planned right at the moment, and in fact have four songs written already.
SoT: Well, best of luck to you Jerry and we hope to see you in the US sometime this year!
(Click here to read our reviews of Silence)