No one expects the Punksburgh Inquisition: Bengt Alexsander (Action Camp)

bengt

Photo by Action Camp

Born into the Boston music scene, Bengt Alexsander brought with him to Pittsburgh a competitive drive and an intrepid ability to take creative risks with his projects.  A member of multiple bands over the years, Alexsander not only performs, but is also an audio engineer who masters albums and runs sound for other bands.  After spending over a decade in Pittsburgh, he gained prominence in the Pittsburgh music scene and partnered with several musical groups – notably the wonderful collective known as the Duquesne Light Orchestra. After covering Action Camp on multiple occasions, Punksburgh had to zone in on this local doom/sludge/surf rock legend for today’s inquisition.

Current Bands

Action Camp

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List the names of every band that you’ve ever played in ever.

Zipper, St. Dude, a brief tenure in Urns

What was the artist, album, or song that inspired you to play/write music? 

The Pixies on the visceral side, ABBA on the composition side

Quite the juxtaposition. Photos from Google

What is your favorite piece of merch that you own?

My “ABBA as a black metal band” shirt

abba black metal shirt.jpg

“Dancing Queen” just took on a whole new meaning.  Photo from Google

Tell us one thing about the Pittsburgh music scene that could be better and one thing about the scene that you love. 

To put it in context, I came up in the Boston music scene which is also where I met Maura and started Action Camp. A big advantage of such a large scene is it is highly competitive which breeds really solid hungry bands and promotes a lot of creative risk taking.

I still feel like after almost a decade in Pittsburgh that it could stand to be slightly more competitive to raise the stakes and effort a bit. There are a lot of great bands and musicians in this city, but it can be so friendly and welcoming sometimes that it allows a band to rest on their laurels (myself included) and tread water.

I always push bands that only play locally to tour because it can only make you stronger. In my opinion, playing to your friends and fans every month is one thing, but having to win over potentially hostile strangers is the greatest gift a musician can be given 🙂

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What’s something about you/your band that you think people should know that maybe they don’t? 

At the very beginning, we were almost an alt country band. When Maura and I first met we were on a Nico Case and Frank Black & the Catholics kick, but that quickly shifted way more towards heavier sample based compositions. You can hear some reminiscence of it in songs like Seed, Desert Dogs, and Remain (which we recently brought back and rearranged as a slow doom song tuned down to F)

 

If you had to pick only one of your songs for people to listen to, which one would it be? 

War At My Side – it’s a perfect example of our writing style as a trio: stacked vocal lines, heavy dynamic shifts, and semi-hidden odd time
signatures.

Who would you cast in the movie of your band? 

Maura – Ayn Rand
Joe – Jermaine Clemente
Bengt – Toby Maguire

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How does your mom/family react to your music? Do they come to your shows? 

My family is very supportive and have long stopped worrying about what my “back up plan” is. My mom hasn’t been to a show in probably 9 years due to her being on the east coast, and it’s also a lot to ask her to come see us play a bar in Boston at 1am on a random Tuesday night we happen to be in town.

What band or artist have you seen live the most number of times? 

Weird Paul Rock Band – we’ve played a bunch of shows together, and I’ve worked, participated, or attended almost every 99 cent Variety Show of his since moving to Pittsburgh.

What’s the craziest thing that has happened to you at a show as a performer or spectator? 

Once we were mid set at a club in Boston in the dead of winter when the main water pipe froze and burst. They immediately killed the power (so we didn’t get electrocuted) and had to stop the show.

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Catch Bengt with Action Camp November 17th at Howlers (for Joe Tarowski’s birthday!) with The Dark Lines and BBGUNS. 

Check out some of our past Inquisitions as well!

Brian McGee (The Danzas)
Jonathan Bagamery (Murder For Girls)
Jesse Ley (Delicious Pastries / City Steps / Mantiques)
Adam Sniff (the Scratch ‘n’ Sniffs)
Pat McGhen (Playoff Beard / the Shutouts)

No one expects the Punksburgh Inquisition: Jesse Ley (Delicious Pastries / City Steps / Mantiques)

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Between being a member of a triad of bands and co-DJing the killer dance phenomenon known as “Strangeways,” chances are you’ve encountered today’s inquisition feature:  Jesse Ley.  Talented and charming, Jesse will rock a set on the drumkit and then have friendly chats with admiring audience members.  Staying busy with his myriad of projects, he’s pulling double duty this Friday at the Delicious Pastries‘ double a-sided single release show, where he’ll play percussion with the Pastries and then DJ for the “Strangeways” afterparty.  We at Punksburgh caught up with him to inquire about the following:

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May Day Marching Band: a band by, of, & for the people (and their parties!)

On a beautifully mild and pleasant October evening, Pittsburghers of all stripes gathered in the normally quiet hamlet of Greenfield to rejoice in the re-opening of The Greenfield Bridge, a main thoroughfare connecting the community to Schenley Park and Oakland! Crafts, games, and delicious food trucks abounded, but my main reason for attending, and the perfect musical accompaniment, was a performance by the city’s own community-based band, The May Day Marching Band.

After a bombastic announcement that the bridge would, indeed, be dedicated in the spirit of Wonder by a colorful and impish Master-of-Ceremonies of sorts, The M.D. Marching Band led the procession to the “Wonder” maypole and back with a rousing rendition of “Song for Wonder,” a tune based on “Daniel Prayed” by the late, great Dr. Ralph Stanley and personalized for the event with words by Connor Sites-Bowen. The Marching Band did a fantastic job, especially considering that they had been presented with the song a mere twenty minutes before their performance. Once returning to center-bridge, the band really had a chance to shine, playing a song by Lokonon Andre & Les Volcans, “Mi Kple Dogveckpo” and a cover of the Peruvian folk song “Bella Andajena” in a spirited circle jam complete with frenzied dancing swirling around them.

Much to the disappointment of myself and the crowd, their set and celebration was cut short for some prolonged oration rife with political name-dropping prior to the bridge’s ribbon cutting. Although fun and carefree, the whole event seemed a bit disorganized. There was even a “parade” across the bridge in which the Marching Band didn’t appear to be invited to play in, a true loss.

Undeterred, the MDMB pulled double-duty that day by playing a full set at the burgeoning Glitter Box Theater, only breaking for a group meal, which is one of their only indulgences when compensated for their performances. The group of anywhere up to twenty musicians at any given appearance pride themselves on their volunteerism and have got an impressive resume to boast it, having played this year’s Women’s March on Washington and as far away as Boston’s renowned HONK! Festival in their seven or eight year career.

What’s so punk about a marching band? How about a Crass cover? Filmed by & featuring Punksburgh‘s own Thomas Koraido!

Meanwhile, back at home in the ‘bugh, the band have been a mainstay at Pittonkatonk‘s free-for-all May Day Brass BBQ. Ever evolving and expanding, the band invites musicians of all skill levels to join them under the Bloomfield Bridge from 2 – 4 pm for open practice every Sunday for as long as the weather remains above fifty degrees, after which you are invited to join them in the toasty indoors! I’ve been assured that dancers are welcome as well, although the inside spaces may prevent such revelry. Email for inside practice locations: maydayband@riseup.net.

Experience the socially-conscious party that is the May Day Marching Band for yourself when they play at Howlers on October 25th with L.A.’s folk-metal The Manx and locals Joey Molinaro playing grindcore violin, and Crisp Lake (Chris Blake, ha!) playing hobo street music, from what I gather. Sounds like a good time to me!

#SharePghMusicMonth – Shelf Life String Band 

If you’ve ever wandered into the Park House on a Wednesday night, you were probably greeted by the bluegrass stylings of the resident Shelf Life String Band. This ‘runaway train in complete control’ plays a mix of traditionals and originals that take you on a unique musical journey. The non-traditional addition of a saxophone (played by Mark Jackovic) really throws a monkey wrench into the mix, which makes the band all the more unique.

Photograph taken by Thomas Koraido

 The voice of lead vocalist and guitarist Derek Dysart is wholesome and welcoming. Be aware though – when they commit to a tempo of 160+ beats per minute, the space time continuum itself seems to slow from the furious fingerpicking of banjo player Joe Dep, the fast fiddling of violinist Rocky Youhon, and the serious strumming of mandolin player Andy Boehm. Bassist Riley Zimmerman gives the band its solid foundation. 

Photograph from Shelf Life’s Facebook page

 Whether you are a fan of bluegrass or not, the inviting presence of this band is bound to have you in the mood for some pickin’ and grinnin’ by the end of the night. We here in the ‘burgh are lucky to have them.