Cutting in on the ‘Action’

Up-and-coming electro-rock band Kill the Action stop to chat with Teodor Reljic about their eclectic approach to music, their in-progress debut EP and the very real challenges local musicians face

teodor_reljic
Teodor Reljic
5 July 2016, 7:18am
Kill the Action (left to right): Andre Portelli, Mark Zammit, Herman Spiteri and Simon Deguara (front)
Kill the Action (left to right): Andre Portelli, Mark Zammit, Herman Spiteri and Simon Deguara (front)
When was the band formed, and what kind of common experience got you all together?

Kill The Action (KTA) was formed around three years ago. We had all collaborated at varying degrees during our teens and were fans of each other’s musical projects and style of playing. The band’s inception can be traced back to Herman [Spiteri] and André [Portelli]’s idea to blend their musical roots with electronic influences. Simon [Deguara] and Mark [Zammit] were approached to give life to an idea which had been long in the making. It is the diversity between the members’ musical influences which has actually paved the way for the development of KTA’s sound.

How has your experience of being in previous bands shaped the way you approach the music of Kill the Action? 

We were all after developing the band’s sound around an ‘electronic backbone’ which could also accommodate alternative and rock influences. The song-writing process has been instrumental in achieving a balance between the use of ambient-style synths and fat synth bass sounds on the one hand, and melodic and driving guitar sounds on the other. 

As opposed to our experiences with previous bands, the ongoing challenge to merge electronic and rock influences to accommodate both their strengths, has led to our individual styles of playing having to take a back seat at times in the interests of the particular track under production. The song-writing process has, over time, also become more focused and task-oriented, similar to the song-writing process utilised by electronic artists.

You’ve released two singles so far: The Inside and Last Train (Straight to Nowhere). How did the sound that characterises these tracks evolve, and are you currently working on either an EP or an album release?

The Inside is hard-hitting and upbeat. It started off as a beat and a couple of riffs which were quickly re-structured. The track remained untouched for a number of months until its post-production where the main synth bass line was added along with some background dissonance. The synth line in the ‘middle eight’ was also added in the studio to resemble an 80s pop song gone wild. 

Last Train is slower. It, too, was re-structured in the studio. There’s more guitar work going on, with the track’s main synth line being used as a backdrop to set the track’s overall tone and vibe. Nonetheless, the track still contains a healthy dose of analog weirdness, which is characteristic of the band’s sound. 

As regards our plans to release more material in the future, we are currently experimenting with distributing our music online at regular intervals prior to distributing physical copies of an EP. We do have plans to release a selection of tracks in the near future and to re-visit certain material with the aim of experimenting with different production techniques.

What are some of the challenges local musicians face – when it comes to both performance venues and the financial viability of being in a band? And are any of those challenges made easier or harder by the internet?

Would it be appropriate to mention the government’s half-baked ‘plan’ to provide local musicians with practice spaces and venues in order to promote a musical culture which is undoubtedly still dull and very conservative? Or might such mention, in itself, be considered as being politically incorrect? What about local radio stations ‘playing it safe’ or the ‘monopoly’ of a handful of bar owners who half-heartedly allow musicians to perform at their venues for a fraction of their revenue? Better not. No use in repeating the obvious. Better not stir up a useless controversy which might lead to political censure or to, effectively, being banned from performing at one of Malta’s top-tier events.

Although essential, especially for bands from small islands dominated by pop enthusiasts, the internet has also led to bands losing revenue from potential sales of their material. Of course, this provides a disincentive to bands who invest most of their time and money in literally giving their material away, especially when one considers that the internet has also provided an infinite number of musical preferences at the touch of a button. Nonetheless, it would seem that crazy people cannot help doing things for crazy reasons.

Could you talk a bit about the music video for Last Train (Straight to Nowhere)? What was your initial idea for it, and what was the subsequent production like?

Following the actual result, as well as the great time we had shooting the music video for The Inside, it was an obvious choice for us to ask Eric Mangion whether he would like to shoot and produce the video for Last Train. 

Eric thought it would be interesting to include footage of the city of Hiroshima, as he was scheduled to visit it during that time. After a number of ideas, we were able to come up with a storyline to reflect the track’s underlying message and to serve as a backdrop for the band’s performance in a similar ambience. Surprisingly, the result reflects exactly what we had in mind, while leaving lots of room for interpretation.

What’s next for you?

We are currently focusing on our live performances this summer, including at Rock the Beach at the Sliema Arts Festival on July 15 and at Sickfest on August 14. We will then continue working on the production of new material and on the release of another single. In the meantime, we will continue to wait for the government to come up with the performance venues it promised, while hoping that Malta’s pop enthusiasts get a piece of The Action this summer.

To stay updated on Kill the Action, follow their Facebook page on: https://www.facebook.com/killtheaction/. The band will be performing at Rock The Beach, Sliema Front on July 15 at 21:00

teodor_reljic
Teodor Reljic is MaltaToday's culture editor and film critic. He joined t...