Actor Observer Remind Fans That They're Not Alone on "Pareidolia": "We Have It Within Ourselves to Power Through, Reinvent, and Reshape Our Thinking"
It’s impossible to choose just one thing that stands out about New England post-hardcore band, Actor Observer. Maybe it’s their desire to write meaningful music that inspires listeners to better their lives, or maybe it’s their raw honesty on their recently released full-length album, Pareidolia. Hell, it’s also the band’s willingness to try new things and step out of their comfort zone musically. Whatever you want to choose, there are a multitude of things that make Actor Observer special, so it comes as no surprise that Pareidolia is a heavy-hitter, both musically and emotionally.
With the new album out now, we recently caught up with vocalist Greg Marquis to talk about the writing and recording process and what the band hopes that fans take away from their music. Read the full interview and watch the band’s music video for “The Devil You Know” now below.
Interview by Shannon Shumaker
The Prelude Press: Can you tell us a little bit about Actor Observer for anyone who might not be familiar?
Greg Marquis: We are a Boston based band that takes influence from so many different genres and styles. Some say we sort of sound like Underoath, Circa Survive, Counterparts, so I guess you could consider us post-hardcore but you’ll hear a lot of different elements in our sound. We tend to focus on existential or psychoanalytical concepts in our lyrics, mostly as they relate to how we coexist with the people around us. Community through vulnerability, openness, and support is something we value deeply.
How do you feel the music scene in Boston has affected you guys as musicians and the music you’re creating today?
It has everything to do with why we are here. Growing up in New England, the shared catharsis and community of the alternative/hardcore music scene is what inspired the inception of this band. Our brothers in Vanna, Therefore I Am, and the bands they came up with like A Loss For Words, Four Year Strong, and Transit all embodied the hard work, determination, and honesty that made us feel at home here. We try to keep that spirit alive in our music and our live shows.
You just recently celebrated the release of your latest full-length, Pareidolia in August! Now that it has been out for a few weeks, what are some of your favorite things about the album?
Our favorite overall aspect of the album is the wide range of styles we were able to explore while keeping the whole thing cohesive. This record displays the broadest range of our sound so far, from our first song with no screaming (“In Your Ways”) to our first song with only screaming (“On Your Laurels”). We don’t want to be a one-dimensional band, and we know the risks that can come along with not fitting into one specific genre, but at the end of the day this band has always been a vehicle to explore and learn more about ourselves as people and musicians while also trying to connect with as many people as possible who are willing to give us the time of day.
When you first started working on Pareidolia, did you have any major goals in mind? What did you want to accomplish with this release?
Musically, that dynamic range was a deliberate goal from the start. We have our roots in the hardcore scene but also love atmospheric post-rock and indie rock and are most inspired by bands that aren’t afraid to marry those styles. We also came up with the overall lyrical concept early on so we wanted to make sure that the theme of perceptions, illusions, patterns, and beliefs could be woven throughout each song. We wanted this album to connect with anyone who has ever felt like they’ve had the rug pulled out from under them and left them grasping in the air for anything to help them feel grounded in an otherwise chaotic or meaningless world. Despite that morbid or nihilistic approach, there’s a layer of hope and a tremendous sense of empowerment if you can find a way to pull yourself out from that void and rebuild your worldview.
How do you feel you’ve grown between the release of your debut album, The Longer Now and Pareidolia?
To us, ‘Pareidolia’ is an expansion of all the things we learned and loved about ‘The Longer Now.’ We feel more confident and in-tune with our own identity as a band and with each other as friends and musicians. We feel like we’re finally beginning to own our sound and be even less fearless with our approach, which makes us really excited to keep pushing forward.
Were there any important lessons you’ve learned over the past few years that helped to make this writing and recording process better or easier this time around?
Pick your battles and be open/willing to try any/every idea presented because you never know what the end result might be. We like the songwriting process to be a collaborative effort, but it can be hard when you become married to your own ideas or convinced that someone else’s ideas won’t work before hearing them fleshed out. When working on pre-production with our producer Kevin Dye from Gates, the song “In Your Ways” went from being just another ripper to being one of the most melodic and orchestral songs we’ve ever written. That never would’ve happened if we hadn’t been open to humoring his idea of changing the entire vibe.
What would you like listeners to take away from Pareidolia?
At the very least I want people to take away from this record that they are not alone and that their struggle/pain is valid. More specifically though, I want to remind everyone that we have it within ourselves to power through, reinvent, and reshape our thinking. It’s not easy by any means, and sometimes takes venturing down to the darkest places in our subconscious, but I truly believe that once we can confront the root of our toxic thought patterns, we can begin to form newer and healthier ones. You are absolutely entitled to your sadness or problems, but you are not beholden to them.
With the album out now, do you have any plans to hit the road soon?
Definitely. We are more energized and hungrier than ever to tour and reach as many people as possible. Right now we are doing a collection of one-offs and weekends in the Northeast to support the album locally, but we will get to the rest of the country and hopefully further within the year. The next few shows are 9/29 in Manchester, NH at The Bungalow with our friends in Anyone Anyway, 10/21 in Brooklyn, NY at Kingsland with our friends in Pocketsand, and then an upstate NY weekend from 11/2 to 11/4 that we are still ironing out, but rest assured, there will be friends involved.
With 2018 coming to a close in the next few months, do you have any other big goals for the rest of the year or any other plans in the works?
Playing out and promoting the album is the big focus. That and planning tours for the next year. We’ve started writing new music too, so we’re really excited to take the cold months to hash out some new ideas and maybe even work on some alternate arrangements of our current songs. We’ll see!
Thanks for taking the time to chat with us! Is there anything else you’d like to add?
I would just say if you haven’t yet, please take a second to check out our music video for “The Devil You Know,” filmed and edited by our friend Matt Bastos. He did an incredible job and so did all of our friends who acted in it. A lot of personal expression went into making this video, on everyone’s part, and we hope viewers can relate to it.