The Action! Thrives With 5

The number “5” comes into play with the Syracuse-based rock quartet The Action! as they will celebrate their fifth and 13-track effort — the appropriately titled 5.

On Saturday, Oct. 14, the 7:30 p.m. show will take place at Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, at 246 W. Willow St., the central New York city’s barbecue and music joint. The cost for the show is $10 upon entry, but you’ll also walk away with a copy of the album. Matthew Blake and the Blues Dragons and The Causeway Giants kick the evening off.

The album has been released with L.R.S. Records and follows 2012’s Accelerator and a 2015 EP Monumental Instrumentals.

The Action! was originally a septet formed as Skatos in the late 1990s, a high school ska- and punk-influenced band at West Genesee Senior High School in Camillus. Their current lineup features all original members: Adam Carkey (bass, vocals), Craig Chamberlain (drums, vocals), Dan King (trombone, vocals), Mike Gibson (lead vocals, guitar), and Chris Nolan (trumpet, vocals).

They were able to chat last night via phone about their newest effort and how they are peeling off their old skin. On their Facebook page, their story boasts that they’ve killed ska, rebelling against their former perceived genre.

The shedding of the two-tone skin may be hanging around their ankles as the band tries to shake it off. Yet, there are no regrets with omitting even a hint of the genre on 5. The dance tunes are genuine, skank-free.

They’ve incorporated other instruments such as a mandolin and accordion to accentuate. Horn solos have also been cut back. “There are only three horn solos, which is low,” said Nolan. “It allows us to make room for more diversity.”

However, they still love their past work and will continue to play the songs. Their history, they acknowledged, helped make them what they are presently.

The Action!’s 5 cover art.

While listening to 5, it’s blatantly clear The Action! continues full steam ahead as a rock band, breaking out of the stereotypes of coming across a pop punk and ska outfit. As these 30-somethings continue to mature as songwriters and musicians, they’re unafraid to give nods, subtly and blatantly, to the music and bands they’ve grown up with or currently love.

“Summertime” kicks the album off with distinction. Cue the crisp introductory guitar chords reminiscent of “Sheep Go to Heaven” off of Cake’s Prolonging the Magic from 1998. But what follows isn’t alt-rock as much as it is folk rock.

It’s more of an Oliver Wood thing as Gibson belts out the first word. During our conversation, the frontman mentioned The Wood Brothers also being contemporary inspirations. As the song progresses with blazing horns and grooves, The Action! pays significant homage to The Band.

When digging through sixth track “Lost the Girl,” the folk rock sounds and storytelling shine through like the lamplight during a rainy night. It fits in well at the center of the album as it would in the middle of an evening at the pub while surrounded by a bunch of friends, but it’d also be a wonderful contender for a closing song. Yet, it would have clashed with “Snow,” which will make warm your heart as the second to last song.

“Good Old Time” caps off 5 as a sexy, funky Band-Wood Brothers inspired concoction with strings rockabilly woven in. It’s also a reassurance that the guys are nowhere near done and an appropriate “to be continued” stamp.

“We’re never going to stop being a band. It’s already hard to schedule anything. There may be times where we have to play less. We have families and kids,” said Gibson.

Inspiration aside, putting the album together has taken an effort. The last time I formally spoke to the guys was in March 2015, for an online piece for Syracuse New Times. According to the article, Gibson said they were in the studio. “We’re recording little-by-little each year,” he said at that time.

The recording process took five years and played out between two studios, said Carkey during the phone conversation. They worked with Brett Hobin at Hobin Studios and Steve Sopchak at The Square Studio. Time and patience served them well. He added the time “allowed us to arrange and rewrite songs while we were recording.”

At that time, The Action! were playing songs off the album, including the upbeat and the addictive anthem-esque “Never Been to Boston” and second track “I’m Gonna Beat Up Your Boyfriend,” which is an appropriate nod to Ramones.

The track “Amy,” a waltz, was written by Gibson after Levon Helm’s death in 2012. Amy, Helm’s daughter, who has since made several central and upstate New York appearances in the last few years, was the songwriter’s muse when composing the song. Where acoustic versions of the song can be found online at The Action!’s YouTube page, this newly recorded track features the full band.

Fans, old and new, wondering how they can get their hands on the tracks they’ve only heard live, can now celebrate this Saturday.

The tracks are distinctive standing their own, but the track-to-track flow of 5 isn’t doesn’t allow a hiccup. The Action! has provided well-dressed songs to this fall 2017 collection.

“There isn’t a real theme to it. I am always trying to write the best songs that I can,” said Gibson. “I tried to write the songs from a way different perspective.”

“As we’ve grown up, our style has been more relaxed,” said Chamberlain. “We’ve blended a bunch of genres, but we’re not fitting a mold or trying to win awards.”

Yet, 5 is strong, a worthy nomination for a 2018 Syracuse Area Music Award for best rock album, and there is a good chance they could take home the award.

What a way to celebrate their twentieth anniversary as a band?

For now, the best bet this weekend is to head over to Dinosaur Bar-B-Que for the show. Aside the free CD upon entry, there will be door prizes and drawings; all patrons will be allowed to participate simply by walking through the door. While supplies last, fans can pick up some The Action! designer sunglasses or a koozie. And there will be a prize wheel — check the CD for a golden ticket, allowing one free spin. Guessing a daily trivia question correctly on their event page will also garner a free spin as well.

Then, after the night is over, go home and spin some more music.

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