Act As If: An Indie Sound Feature

L.A. can get lonely. Peter Verdell, front man and founder of Act As If, explains why his personal experiences with online dating fueled his upcoming release Lovers Online and the band’s recent single “All The Girls.”

“For better and for worse, that’s the inspiration these days. I feel like a lot of people are in my boat, especially in Los Angeles. It seems like people are perpetually single-ish and going on a lot of dates. Maybe something sticks for a month or two and then you’re back into the online apps.”

Act As If’s latest release, “All The Girls,” came to be in Verdell’s apartment, like the majority of the music he writes. In fact, a large portion of the tracks on the band’s forthcoming EP were written in the span of a month.

A lot of songwriters, especially in LA, put this pressure on themselves to write everyday or write a song a week. I don’t really subscribe to that, I wait until I feel a strong enough emotion,” Verdell said. “Usually when I do sit down to write I’m ready to go and usually the songs get 80% done … I love when that happens. Luck combines with inspiration and I feel like I get some good stuff.”

The song itself is a guitar-fueled pop hit that has a synth-centered catchy vibe that’s impossible not to jam along to. The song touches on a dream and a reality, according to Verdell.

Act As If // Peter Verdell, far left
Act As If // Peter Verdell, far left

I was coming off of a date I had gone on … I live in downtown LA and so most of my dates take place around my neighborhood and that song is a mixture of that date and me fantasizing a little bit too,” he added. 

Act As If’s previous releases include Steady, an EP with tracks featured on various TV shows including MTV, along with There Is A Light and The Iron Is Hot. Verdell says that, as proud as he is of the band’s prior releases, he’s more than happy about Lovers Online.

I haven’t felt so proud of any music as much as I feel about our new EP. I feel really happy about it and it feels fun and new to me,” Verdell said. “I’m so proud of Steady and I’m so proud of our EP before that, but with Steady maybe something that isn’t ‘smart’ about it is that we have a piano ballad and there are a few slow songs and a couple of really poppy songs and maybe it gets a little confusing.”

“I’m always analyzing what could have made it better and who knows, maybe it’s just totally fine and great for what it is, but for this EP I wanted to make five songs that were all a little more fun.”

Working with producer Cameron Lister (The Mowgli’s, The Fratellis), Verdell hopes to stay on track as much as possible, a process he tends to get away from in the studio.

I will let things fly off the hinge in terms of trying a million things and maybe adding way too many things to a song,” he said. “It was really nice to work with someone who was new to our camp.”

Before starting Act As If, Verdell worked at a small, indie label in L.A. called Drive-Thru Records. After spending almost four years working with artists and musicians, he decided to take a leap of faith by taking what he calls, dad advice.

I still have a lot of respect for them [the label] and I’m in touch with a lot of people I worked with, but it’s kind of like … I guess this is like ‘Dad advice,’ but I was like, ‘If I’m going to invest my time anyway, I may as well be doing what I really want to do.'”

“I wanted to start working on my own thing and throw my hat in the ring as well. It was the beginning of a journey when I left the label.”

Since then, Verdell has been touring with Act As If and playing venues both large and small. When asked about the band’s success, Verdell equated the success of the band with small wins and victories, some involving victories in unexpected places.

Act As If
Act As If // PC: Shabnam Ferdowsi

“There’s this random celebrity couple in the Philippines and they used one of our songs in their wedding video. All of a sudden I started getting tweets from a bunch of people in the Philippines,” Verdell said. “It’s just like, ‘holy shit!’ The song went from getting 20,000 Spotify plays to 160,000. It’s awesome.”

“From my perspective, in terms of success and growth, we’re so far from where I want it to be. I think we have had some awesome victories and some small wins, but until we’re touring nationally and on the radio it’s hard to not be like, ‘we’re not there.'”

For such high expectations, it’s all about the little things that contribute to the band’s growth.

“In terms of the success that we have had, we’re so thankful for any song in a TV show and any online review just to help spread things,” he said. “I think the most successful things that have happened to us are little song placements in MTV shows or whatever show it might be. It’s always the random stuff that ends up getting you fans.”

“I remember talking to a band a few years ago and they had just gotten signed to Warner Brothers and I happened to be at an industry dinner with them. I was asking them some questions and they were like, ‘Dude, it’s just a million small steps.’ I always think of that.”

Being a part of the music industry for such a long time, Verdell spoke a bit about digital music and streaming as a whole, touching on ‘Ok music,’ and how he hopes to stay out of that category.

“Things would be better if people were buying music. It’s nice for people to have access, but I feel like there’s too much ‘OK music,’ and I hope that I’m not contributing to that. That’s my biggest fear, I don’t just want to put out ‘OK music’ to clutter up people’s lives,” Verdell said. “We just have too many bands that we listen to and so we don’t end up knowing all the words. I think there’s this special thing from buying an album and then knowing … I can maybe justify buying four albums a month. I’m just going to absorb the hell out of those four albums … I’m going to really spend the time and have fun digging into it.”

“We love knowing about bands, and we love knowing a song or two, and then when we’re at a show we just dance and Snapchat. Maybe not as many of us leave feeling filled up.”

Ending on a slightly off-topic note, we moved the conversation toward the latest phenomenon of Pokemon Go and Verdell’s dislike of the app, which can be read below.

“It made me think. We all have ways to waste time and that’s just life. It’s okay to waste time and it’s okay to read books or watch TV or do whatever it is that makes you feel good for a while, but I think the thing we don’t need more of is people looking down at their phones all the time,” He said. “I waste tons of time, but I don’t think I need to waste more time hunched over looking at my phone.”

Keep an eye out for Act As If’s Lovers Online, available September.

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