I recently caught up with Action Item guitarist and principal songwriter Anthony Li as they tour in support of Owl City on his Midsummer Station tour. Li shed some light on a host of subjects, including Hot Chelle Rae and Nick Jonas. Check out the interview below.
1. You recently released a documentary. Why the decision to release a documentary? What were you guys hoping to gain with the release?
Anthony: The documentary sprung from the idea that we did NOT want to do a Kickstarter. We wanted to give all of our fans a fair / affordable chance at a unique experience. The idea of doing the movie premieres were just that. On top of that, it was great to have our fans get to witness the ups and downs of the band's path; where we were to where we are now. It became this huge event that, I think, our fans will never forget.
2. Three of your singles have charted on Radio Disney. Explain both the ups and downs of charting on a tween-based market, and consequently being pigeonholed in that demographic?
A: When we found out that Radio Disney was picking up our singles, we were ecstatic. When you're a young band, any exposure is good exposure. It didn't upset us or make us feel like we "sold out" because we wrote music that we like and Radio Disney happened to pick it up. To me, that's exactly what should happen to bands. Write the music that you LOVE and if you're lucky enough to have a specific demographic fall in love with it, good for you.
3. How did you team up with Nick Jonas? What was it like working with him? Any insight into him as a musician/producer, etc?
A: It's a pretty simple story, actually. The band wrote a song called "Learn To Fly" and we knew that Nick was in the process of becoming a writer/producer. We sent him the song and he loved it. A few weeks later, we were at his studio working on the full production. He's a very reserved person but extremely talented. If you've ever written him off because he's a Jonas Brother, you're sadly mistaken because he's a prodigy.
4. You have 50,000 followers on Facebook as an unsigned band. How important is the site to your success as a band? Could you exist without it, or has the modern landscape of being a band and social networking become so symbiotic that it is a necessity?
A: Facebook is great but I think the industry bases too much of the "size" of band off numbers like that. Because a "like" can just mean awareness, it doesn't mean they care, or will buy the record, or will come out to your tour. For us, it's great because all of our likes have come from touring or album sales. If you "like" us, you actually like us. Facebook is just a good outlet to keep in touch with fans, but if it wasn't there, we would definitely just find a different social network to keep in touch. Fan interaction is something that's gotten us to the point we are at.
5. The Owl City tour is only a few days old, what have been your general impressions of the tour compared to previous tours?
A: It's great! We all listened to Owl City when we were in high school so it was surreal when we got the offer. Of course with all of his radio success, we knew that we would be playing for the right demographic too. It's a great show together, a lot of fun and high energy the whole time. And he's a hell of a performer.
5a. What percent of fans know your music on this tour? 20 percent or more?
A: It's hard to gauge that sometimes, we've been selling a lot of pre-orders to our new album on this tour. The number is somewhere around 30% of the crowd is walking out with a pre-order. So I don't know if that means they were coming to a concert andplanning on doing that or if they were enticed by our show.
6. You have a new EP coming out soon. What can you tell us about the album. How is it different from the debut EP? A press release about the upcoming EP mentions A-list producers, any names you want to reveal?
A: After touring with Hot Chelle Rae, we were introduced to their production team. We hit it off and they produced five of the songs on our new EP. They also have had other radio hits for different artists. We're proud to work with a team with such a great track record.
7. You guys are a Jersey band. What are your thoughts on Governor Chris Christie? He's a dedicated Springsteen fan, does that make him easier to relate to, or is not even a factor?
A: I saw him sing some Springsteen on Jimmy Fallon the other night. I guess that makes him a cool guy in my book.
8. Where does the name Action Item stem from?
A:We were watching the movie Fight Club and the phrase came up. Our drummer's brother suggested that it would be a cool band name. We were like 15 or so and it stuck.
9. Both live and in the studio, the band is very cohesive and seems to showcase many years of experience. Have any of you played in bands before this? And if so, have you played in bands together before this?
A: First of all, thank you. We've all been in the same band for basically our whole lives. Mark was in a different local band when he was really young but he's been with us for the last four years. We just tour our asses off. And we know it's easy to get written off playing pop music, so it's a priority of ours that we play tight and prove ourselves.
10. Do you attribute your success to the many dates logged on tour or just a natural fit of five guys coming together?
A: I think it's definitely a combination of things. It helps that we're best friends, but at the same time, in the summer of 2011 we did 93 shows. I'm sure that helped spread the word about us.
11. The positive of having a Disney Radio-based audience is that youths tend to buy more records than teens and college students. Explain the impact of the youth movement on contemporary music and CD sales?
A: Believe it or not, our audience isn't so much "Radio-Disney-Based" as much as it is "touring based." Our fans are kids who come out to shows. That's incredible for us because it's means they're very active, i.e. buying music, coming to our shows on tour, etc. That's ideal to us, especially if we want to do this for a long. We can't just have fans when we have a radio hit, and then watch them fade away. We want a strong foundation.
12. Word association time. I list aritsts/performers, you define them in one word.
Justin Bieber: Celebrity
Selena Gomez: Sweet
Hot Chelle Rae; Friends
We the Kings: Crazy
Owl City: Gentleman
Carly Rae Jepsen: Cute
Rebecca Black: Friday