IN TUNE: Action Item was about to play its largest show ever, a homecoming at the massive Starland Ballroom, to end a national tour. The Bergen County band’s gig got when hundreds of fans held up cut-out hearts with “Welcome Home,” “Thank You” and other sentiments during the song “Home.”
(l-r) Brian, Anthony, David, Mark, Dan (CLIFFVIEW PILOT photo. No re-use without hyperlink.)
“Our main priority with this tour was to make it a celebration of everything we’ve accomplished,” said Anthony Li of Lyndhurst, who turns 23 this month.
Still, they never expected that kind of response.
“I think we were all taken back,” Mark Shami, 20, of Rutherford, told CLIFFVIEW PILOT after the Nov. 20 show in Sayreville, which drew nearly 1,100 young fans.
Smooth vocals and catchy, soft-rock melodies might remind some of The Fray or One Republic. The band’s style ranges from straight-ahead pop (“Somewhere Out There” and “Boy With The Microphone”) to piano-driven ballads, such as “Home.”
But it’s the lyrics, sung with heartfelt commitment, that have cemented Action Item’s place as New Jersey’s latest up-and-coming pop band.
“We want to really showcase our passion and the easiest way to do that is to be real and write songs that mean a lot to us,” Li said.
Action Item was formed three years ago. Besides Li on guitar and Shami on piano, there’s vocalist Brian Cag and bass player David Buczkowski, both 22, and drummer Dan Brozek, 24, all from Wallington.
“We were friends first and we really came together through music.” Cag said. “It kind of just happened naturally, which I think was the best way.”
They immediately hit the road, opening for acts that include Justin Bieber, Selena Gomez, Allstar Weekend, We the Kings and Honor Society. They played Bamboozle and Warped.
As Li put it, the bandmates told themselves “we are going to go on tour, we are going to build our fan base, and that is how we are going to make a name for ourselves.
“We learned what to do, what not to do and what makes people happy.”
Last month, Action Item began its first headlining tour in Allentown, Pa. The “AI Family,” as the bandmates call their fans, has turned out in full force all season, with sell-outs for “The Stronger The Love” tour in Boston, at the fabled Roxy in Los Angeles and at Manhattan’s Gramercy Theater.
At each stop, the band members hung around afterward until the last fan had gone. They took loads of funny photos and videos, then posted them on Facebook , Twitter , a terrific MySpace page and elsewhere. Besides several band sites, the guys each have their own individual social networking pages, as well.
What’s more, “Whenever we have time off, we like to do weekly Stickam chats,” Li added.
(One happens to be scheduled for this Wednesday: Action Item Stickam chat )
Action Item has a full catalog of originals, three EPs (including “The Stronger The Love” EP, which was featured on “Keeping Up with the Kardashians”) and several singles. The group has been independent from the start, supporting themselves through constant gigging, but they hope to someday be signed to a label. Having Nick Jonas produce their most recent single, “Learn to Fly,” could help there.
Here’s an acoustic version of “ Learn to Fly “:
After 6 months of straight touring, Action Item plans two more dates this year: in Poughkeepsie on Dec. 17 and then in Danbury the following night.
Li said the group is going to write and record some new music before hitting the road again, this time with Andy Grammer, beginning in Cleveland on Feb. 7. Dates are scheduled in Philadelphia, Boston, Nashville, Dallas, Austin, Fort Lauderdale, Atlanta and elsewhere.
“The number one priority for us is new music right now,” Li said. “It’s time to show how much we have grown in the past year and a half.”
Bronx native Megan Skehan, 20, is a junior at Lehman College in the Bronx. She’s majoring in Multimedia Journalism.
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