Act As One is (from left to right): Shawn Brown, Matt Feith, Taylor Nagel, Ben Hoffman, and Jared McNally.

Article by Gina Myers

Since Act As One exploded on the local music scene two years ago, they've been winning fans over. In the past year, the band has seen an increasing amount of attention, both locally and nationally. At the recent Review music awards, they cleaned up in the rock and alternative category, with guitarist Shawn Brown winning in the "Best Rock Guitarist" and "Rock Musician Deserving Wider Recognition" categories, and the band taking the titles for "Best Alternative Band" and "Best CD Release." They've also been featured twice in AMP Magazine, who recently cited Act As One as one of the "eight bands you should be blastin'." The band has even garnered some international attention. They receive comments on their Facebook page from fans all over the world, a number of which have taken to creating music videos of the band's songs and posting them on YouTube. They've been asked to tour Japan, and guitarist Jared McNally says with a laugh, "We're big in Malaysia."

Act As One got its start when Brown created a MySpace page for songs he wrote and recorded. From there, he began to look for musicians who would be interested in joining the band. Of the original line-up, three members remain: Brown (25), on guitar and vocals; McNally (19), on guitar; and Taylor Nagel (20), on vocals. The original rhythm section has been replaced by Ben Hoffman (22), on drums, and Matt Feith (20), on bass. Despite their youth, each member has been playing music for years and has been involved in other local bands, including Wolves in Machines, For the Win, and onyxlovemagnet.

The guys seem happy to have found each other. From the minute they arrived for the interview, they were cracking jokes with one another. Nagel explains, "We like to give each other a hard time." As important as the music is, hanging out is equally important. "We get bummed if one of us can't hang out," says McNally. If they're not practicing or playing shows, the guys are bowling, playing soccer, or participating in some other sport together. "It's like the name, Act As One. We do act as one." 

Last June the band was put in touch with D-Jay Bidwell of Capeside Records. They were signed to the label, and they recorded their first album in the fall. They went to Studiotte, run by brothers Joel and Troy Otte (of the band Brothers), in Wyoming, MI to record. Brown explains the process, "We recorded all of the music in the studio in three days, but we did the vocals ourselves." McNally chimes in, "Taylor's not a very good singer," and everyone laughs.  (It's no surprise, then, when in the liner notes, Nagel thanks "my band for all the shit they put me through.") Brown clarifies, "We were on a budget, so we decided to do the vocals ourselves to save money and time." The end product is No Looking Back.

Comprised of twelve tracks, No Looking Back is a promising debut, chock full of infectious pop punk. Nagel's vocals are like Tom DeLonge, of Blink-182 and Angels & Airwaves, meets Chris Conley, of Saves the Day. The lyrics, which largely concern friendships and relationships, are instantly catchy and likely to get caught in your head after a single listen, especially tracks like "Switch Hitter" and "No Looking Back." Musically, the songs are energetic and fast-paced, but also incorporate hardcore breakdowns and shredding guitars and double-bass drums that fit in more with metal than pop punk—"You've Got Red On You" is a great example of this range. While this movement between genres could be jarring, Act As One handles it seamlessly, like on the title track (a personal favorite) which is largely catchy pop punk, but has gang vocals in the chorus, and a hardcore breakdown with screaming vocals late in the song. The production values are high, and the CD is as polished as anything you could pick up at Hot Topic...which is where you can find this CD. It is currently being carried in 30 stores over four states.

Though the CD has not been out for an entire year yet, Act As One is actively writing new songs, and despite a botched tour where the band played four out of a scheduled eight shows and wound up in some sketchy places, they hope to hit the road again. Like most jobs, you learn as you go and you make adjustments as needed. For now, the band is aiming high and hoping to make it big. "I mean, why not?" asks Nagel. They all feel lucky to be doing what they love with their friends, so why not try to make it work? The lyrics from "True Friends and Dead Ends" capture this attitude: "Live everyday like it's your last / It's our time / Take a stand / Don't hold back...The sky is my limit as long as I have my friends." Whether they make it big or not, they are happy for now being able to play shows, and happiest when they see the crowd enjoying themselves and singing along to their songs.

In addition to Hot Topic, No Looking Back is available for purchase at CD Baby, among other places. For more information on Act As One and to see their schedule of upcoming shows, visit You can also become a fan on Facebook and follow them on Twitter.

© Gina Myers, 2010