With the release of their debut LP Unmask Whoever, Activity bring an intensity rarely found in such a new project. The tracks are at times darkly poignant yet also strangely reassuring with their cathartic brand of art rock. We talked to vocalist Travis about the album, the impact of lockdown and future plans…
Your album Unmask Whoever has just been released, tell us about it and how it all came together…
We started the band very loosely, having no idea what was going to happen or what kind of music it would be. Things came together through lots and lots of jamming. People would bring in little shards of ideas, or a sequence on a sampler or something, and we’d just work on it without ideas about what would be off limits. I guess we’d started to form some kind of identity for ourselves. When we recorded with Jeff Berner (of Psychic TV), he totally got what we were going for and made everything much better.
I imagine when you planned the release you had no idea of what would be happening in the world – how has the Covid-19 pandemic affected your plans and projects as a band?
Yeah, everything, our tour dates, etc. is on hold until it’s safe to resume. Obviously, for everyone’s sake we hope that will be sooner rather than later but it would be ridiculous to try and tour or play shows now. So, without being in a room with each other, we’re just trying to keep going, sending recordings to each other, like I imagine a lot of bands are.
And how are you all doing – what’s the situation like where you are?
We’re in New York and Philadelphia, so it’s intense and scary here and we know lots of people getting sick. I would imagine it’s pretty similar to anywhere that’s been hit (or will be hit) hard.
Unmask Whoever has a very filmic feel; if your music ended up as a soundtrack for film or TV where would you like to see it being used?
I suppose it would depend on the song, but maybe a montage of unsuccessful bank heists, or a party in a forest, or the end credits.
It feels like, more than ever, music is a really important thing to provide some familiarity and comfort – what are your go-to albums that you wouldn’t want to be without?
For me personally, a few all timers are:
Pastels – Illumination
Grouper – Alien Observer
John Coltrane – Crescent
Alice Coltrane – Monastic Trio
Faust – IV
They’re not necessarily the most emotional sounding records, but I get a lot of comfort from them. I’m curious what the other Activity folks would say actually. I’m gonna ask them.
Amidst the tough times we’re in, how can people best continue to support you as artists and the music scene in general?
I think this really applies at all times, but buying records or downloads and not just streaming things makes an immense difference for musicians who are just getting by. Ordering directly from Bandcamp, or a band’s record label, or an independent record store means the world. When we can do so again, going to shows is obviously great too, but in the meantime, ordering records is great!
And what are your plans when things head back to normal, what’s next for Activity?
To start working on the songs we were starting to write before we had to cut ourselves off from each other!
Unmask Whoever is available now on Western Records
Watch the video for Calls Your Name below
Interview by Siobhan
Photo by Ebru Yildiz via One Beat PR
7th April 2020