Interview with: Emily Whitehurst of The Action Design

You may know her better as “Agent M” from the modern legendary punk outfit Tsunami Bomb, but Emily Whitehurst hasn’t slowed down despite the demise of her first act in 2005. Fellow ex-Tsunami Bomber Matt Mckenzie joined Whitehurst in the 2006 creation of The Action Design, which nods to the pair’s punk rock roots but infuses hooky bass lines and powerful rhythms to create a catchy dance rock sound.

Editor in Chief Jessica caught up with Emily prior to the Philadelphia leg of their national tour with friends Killola. Rather discuss Whitehurst’s previous outfit, they talked about touring, tribute albums and Santogold.

Jessica, PopWreckoning: I can’t believe it’s already almost September 23rd! Your album comes out next week.
Emily Whitehurst, The Action Design: Yeah.
PW: That’s exciting. Would you talk about it a little bit. What went into making your debut album?
EW: We would come to practice with a basic guitar part or a bass part and then we all build on it from there, basically. Then I take the song home and work on it as far as vocals and melody. Then we get back together again and rearrange it. We do it over and over again as far as arranging goes, so each song is really process. We want to make sure that we’re happy with everything about it. And we are.

: How long did it take to actually get the album to where you were happy with it?
EW: I think we started writing the songs maybe 6 months in advance. We weren’t on a super strict schedule so we just wrote when we felt like it. We didn’t have the contrary much which was good.
The recording, I believe, it was kind of sporadic, too. It was recorded by the label owner; he owns his own studio as well. It wasn’t super spread out, but I think it took longer than it normally would have. Overall was the mixing and everything that took six weeks or so.
PW: How did The Action Design get involved with Pop Smear?
EW: We released our first EP (listen) with them before this, which was an introduction to The Action Design in the summer of 2007.

: You guys are part of a Seaweed compilation called Hours and Hours. How did you get involved with that?
EW: Some of the guys in the band love Seaweed and are really influence by them. Unfortunately, I am not one of them. I mean, I like Seaweed, but a couple of our guys are in love with Seaweed. Our bass player Matt [Mckenzie] heard about the comp and wrote to the label that was putting it out, KOI Records, and said, “We wanna be on this comp. We love Seaweed! Please let us be on it!” They said OK so we did the cover of “Kid Candy” and we were really happy with that. It’s really different from the original, which is what we wanted.
PW: So you guys got to choose that song or did they ask you to do something that hadn’t already been taken?
EW: Well, they told us what was already taken and then we went through the whole catalog and figured out which song we could translate best. And “Kid Candy” wasn’t taken, so it worked out.

: In support of the album that comes out next week, you are currently co-headlining a tour with Killola.
EW: Killola, yeah.
PW: How long have you been on the road already?
EW: I guess about two weeks.
PW: How has the tour been?
EW: It’s going great! We’re heading to Vienna, Virginia right now.
PW: What’s been the best stop on the tour so far?
EW: The show was surprisingly good in Baton Rouge. We weren’t sure if we were going to be able to because of the hurricane and neither band had ever played there before. It was a really great crowd that just danced all night. It was pretty awesome. The show in Atlanta was in a really cool spot. It looked like Georgia architecture is a lot of brick buildings, it was a really cool area.
PW: Yeah, Atlanta is cool. The tour goes through the beginning of October, which is rapidly approaching, I’ll see the Philadelphia show on Friday. What can the crowd expect?
EW: Well every night we try and put all of our energy into the show, and we haven’t gotten tired yet. So hopefully we’ll still have that energy at the end of the tour.
PW: I’m sure you will. It’s a really cool place that you guys are going to playing. They have a really great sound system. It’s a bar so you think it’s going to be bar acoustics, but they have a really great sound system.
EW: Nice.

: Over the summer, you played on a bunch of Warped Tour dates. What was it like playing at Warped?
EW: It was really hot! [laughs] Our air conditioner broke in our van, so it was a very hot tour. Aside from that, it was pretty cool. There are like a 100 bands on everyday at Warped Tour, so we got to see a bunch of really cool bands and meet some great people. We made some good friends.

: How did you end up on Warped Tour?
EW: We played 5 dates last year, so this year. We were on the Kevin Says Stage. You submit for it through Kevin [Lyman] and he picks the bands. We were received pretty well last year so he gave us more dates this year.

: Cool. Were there any bands that you played Warped with last year that you got to see or hang with again?
EW: I think for the most part it was all different bands. Usually they switch it up every year, so I don’t think there were any bands that we played with both years.

: Do you like shows like Warped Tour, big festivals or do you prefer what you’re doing right now with headlining a show in smaller clubs?
EW: I think there are advantages of both types of touring. I think festival shows are really good for the band as a method of gaining new fans since the draw is not primarily The Action Design. We meet a lot of new people, which is really great.
When we’re on our own, regular tour, the attention is a lot more focused. At Warped Tour it’s hard because there are a hundred bands playing so it’s difficult to obtain those new fans. It’s like a double-sided thing.
PW: Festivals can definitely be overwhelming with so much going on at once. A lot of festivals now have competition from non-musical acts, too, so even for the music lovers in attendance, it’s hard to try to fit everything in. And the schedule always overlaps so you can never see a full set of half the bands you’re there for.

PW: If you and the guys were able to set up your dream tour, you could share the stage with anybody you wanted, who would you want to play on the same bill with?
EW: Oh, that’s one of the hardest questions ever!
PW: It’s become one of PopWreckoning‘s signature questions and everyone says that. [laughs] It doesn’t even have to make sense as far as a cohesive tour, though. It could totally be crazy. Just whomever you want to play with.
EW: We all have really different tastes in the band as far as our favorite bands. One favorite band that we all have in common is Bloc Party. Who are still around, so it could be possible! Maybe Ween or somebody like that. Yeah, why not? Oh, and then a band that we met on Warped Tour that we’re all super good friends with now and that we hope we can play with again is called Beat Union.
PW: Where are they from?
EW: The UK.
PW: Sweet, I’ll have to check them out.
EW: Yeah, they’re really good!

: What kind of music are you listening to now?
EW: Well, Beat Union, for one. [laughs] I’ve also been listening to Santogold a lot. Have you heard of her?
PW: Yeah, absolutely, she’s great! Totally blowing up all over the place in TV and film and commercials.
EW: She’s just now starting to reach the West Coast.
PW: Oh, OK. Well she’s originally from Philadelphia, which is where I’m from, and she was in a punk band around her for a while. Now she’s off doing this totally different thing with is taking off like crazy.
EW: Oh, that’s awesome. I just heard about her a few months ago and I love it. So I guess maybe I don’t have anything new to tell you about. [laughs]
PW: Oh, no, that’s cool. Sorry to burst your bubble! [laughs] Beat Union is new to me, though, so they’re new to me.
EW: Phew!

PW: Thanks so much for taking the time to chat. I’m looking forward to the show on Friday!
EW: Yeah, we have you on our list so you should come up and say hi!
PW: Absolutely! Thanks again, see you soon.

The Action Design: website | myspace | live review



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