Chicago pop punks Action/Adventure break down every track on their new ‘Pulling Focus’ EP
There's a pretty big pop punk revival happening right now, and one of the genre's most promising newer bands is Chicago's Action/Adventure. Their Pure Noise debut Pulling Focus is unabashedly catchy, glossy pop punk with a hardcore/emo edge in the vein of early 2000s Drive-Thru Records or early 2010s stuff like The Wonder Years, and it's some of the best music I've heard in this style probably since The Wonder Years were still a pop punk band.
The EP opens with the 59-second "Barricades," which the band said they intentionally wrote as the opener and asked themselves "How can we represent what our band stands for both lyrically and instrumentally in under: 60 seconds?" This song does just that. In it, the band -- made up of five BIPOC members -- ask "Would you listen if we looked any different?", challenging the stereotype that pop punk is a "white" genre of music and writing some of the best pop punk in recent memory in the process. "Barricades" already feels like Action/Adventure's signature song (it came out as a single over six months ago), but it doesn't overshadow anything else on this EP. Pulling Focus remains on a high from start to finish. It's a satisfying, fat-trimmed listen that I've found myself playing over and over again on loop on multiple occasions. It's the definition of leaving you wanting more.
The EP is out today (order yours), along with the video for "Semi-Prologue," and in celebration of the release, we spoke to the band about each individual track on the EP. Read on to listen, watch the videos, and see what they had to say...
This song was the last to be written for Pulling Focus; but we approached it with intentions for it to be the opening track. We asked ourselves: How can we represent what our band stands for both lyrically and instrumentally in under: 60 seconds? With that in mind we all were really stoked with how the song turned out. The riffs, the breakdowns, the vocals…it’s like a mini charcuterie board of what we’re all about. It really sets the tone of what the EP is all about, and what you’re about to hear. When we released it we did not expect it to unfold the way it did; and we’re thankful for that. So for friends that have just found us and friends that have stuck around – get stoked. It gets better. Enjoy Pulling Focus! -Blake
I absolutely love Poser as track two from a video and song order perspective. It’s such a fun bouncy song that still has some bite with a catchy sing along chorus. The video was also a nice shift from the usual melancholy tones and instead went for loud and fun. Listening to the songs back to back really is a nice alley-oop to start off the EP. The whole process has been a ride. This song was written three years ago. We’ve been jamming it for a long time and its exciting to finally release it along with the rest of the record. -Blake
This song is one that is really important to me. From the smooth and warm bass tone to the blistering guitars to the raw power of the drums the song is pretty much a constant aural assault from start to finish. When we were writing this I remember specifically not wanting the song to, for lack of a better term, “calm down” for more than a couple seconds. We really were able to achieve what I feel a sound that captures a certain level of anxiety that feels both different and familiar at the same time.
There is a very visceral harmonic juxtaposition happening on most vocal lines and the harmonies are a mixture of both me and Blake actually harmonizing himself. This was new for us because we usually have a call and response approach to having two vocalists but I think that the dissonance adds a really nice dynamic to the track.
Looking at the piece as a whole you’ll see that "Club 27" is really about relationships. It’s about navigating adult life and the different relationships you encounter along the way, the relationship you have with your own dreams and aspirations, and having to balance that against ever other facet of your life. In order to achieve greatness takes great sacrifice and with enough sacrifice you can start to second guess whether or not you’re actually living your best life and making the right decisions. This song was written to help us embrace the unknowns and remind ourselves that we can always move forward. -Brompton
I’m so excited to have everyone listen to this song. This song more than any other makes me truly feel something. Every single time we play it or I listen to it, I can’t help but be brought to a humble and introspective place. To me there is nothing better than when one can relate to a song in this manner, and I hope everyone can feel the emotion I feel when I hear it. - Adrian
"Semi-Prologue" is different than the other songs on the record. It starts off with the hardship of spending countless hours of effort and not seeing results. But as the song progresses, it puts the problem-solving and overthinking to the side. Instead, the payoff is the catharsis of reaching a boiling point and letting yourself feel the loneliness and doubt for a minute, knowing that you'll continue on in spite of it. -Oren
This is the song I’m most excited for to be a single. Just to add to what Oren said, “Semi” signifies the very real struggle many of us face with the daily monotony, and how to break the cycle of of feeling stagnant to finally being able to self start and realize perseverance is the only way to move towards lasting progress. -Brompton
When I think about “Semi”, a couple different thoughts pop into my mind as to what it means to me. Initially, the song conveys absolute frustration, the idea of truly believing in something and putting the work to achieve it and many times falling flat after taking that leap of faith. Then as the song progresses, especially at the second half, it shifts to more of a feeling of catharticism. Coming the realization that no one has to be on the receiving end and the work itself was its own form of therapeutically releasing all these strong emotions. -Manny
We almost scrapped this song entirely. The instrumentals were feeling a little lackluster and we worked for weeks to try to spice things up, but nothing was taking. Blake implored us to wait until he had the vocals done and swore we would change our minds.
He was right. In roughly 3 and a half minutes, we fell in love with the song. The vocal melodies, the content in the lyrics, and the power they brought to the instrumentals was insane.
This song highlights our collective struggle of living our lives, and trying not to let go of what keeps us young. It really set the bar for the attitude and energy we would be aiming for in the rest of the songs, and helped us break a mold that allowed us to write this EP the way we did -- lyrics that toe the line between hope and despair, and instrumentals that leave us feeling a little more of the hope. -Oren
“Nothing Left” is such a special song to me. I feel like it’s kind of a bridge between our old songs and new songs. It has the grit and staccato rhythms that we always used, and the hooky melodies and harmonies that we’ve been trying to attain more recently. From the moment this song starts, it kind of punches you in the face with a drum fill and uptempo feel. From there the song is a roller coaster of downtempo strumming and beats, to picking all the way up to a sprint. The lyrics bring a vibe that’s somehow both anxious and desperate, and yet determined to distance oneself from these feelings-like being ready to turn over a new leaf. Blake and Brompton have done such a good job harmonizing and embodying a call and response here. To me it kind of symbolizes the internal struggle one might feel when trying to make a tough decision, when the right choice may not be the one you totally want. It’s definitely a song where I can just imagine a circle pit forming from the start. That’s the energy I thrive on at a show, and I’m so happy to share with everyone. -Adrian
Originally this wasn’t meant to be the title track but after spending more time with the record, we felt that this song truly embodied what all these songs were about. The emotional turmoil that comes with giving it your best and finding yourself falling short. Its a reflection of every sleepless night, every strain on your relationships, every career opportunity passed up, every dollar spent, every leap of faith taken to make your dreams come true and asking yourself “Was it worth it?” Its reaching the crossroads, realizing so much was spent on this effort and contemplating if its time to shift your focus elsewhere. -Manny