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Sad Actor: The Grungy Band of Brothers.

August 26, 2014

SadActorOnline01Text by Beth Ann Downey. Images by Chris Fascenelli.

Bandmates Kyle Costill and Tony Rossi exemplify a strong big bro-little bro dynamic.

It’s evident tonight at Ortlieb’s, the bar/venue that Costill manages. He darts up and down the bar’s long, skinny interior, moving in between the basement, where a leak has sprung due to an April rain shower, and the credit card machine, which is no longer working due to the leak.

As Costill paces around with a worried look, Rossi sips mixed drinks at a nearby table, looking as though he hasn’t a care in the world. Wearing a sweatshirt with a huge cannabis plant on it, he hit Ortlieb’s with friends early for drinks and tacos, and will play a DJ set later in the night.

Costill and Rossi are around each other a lot. Not only do they both carry out various acts of employment at Ortlieb’s but the venue doubles as their practice space for Sad Actor, the grungy rock band the two formed last summer. They met while Rossi was playing drums for local shoegaze heroes, Nothing, and Costill was helping to manage the band.

“One day, Kyle was like, ‘Yo, you’re not doing anything. Your band that you were in all dipped to go to Oakland. Let’s hang out and write some tunes,’” Rossi remembers.

Though the two grew up in very different times musically, they bonded over a mutual love of old-school Modest Mouse. Rossi, 26, also grew to know and envy the past experiences of Costill, 33, like seeing Modest Mouse play a house show and Green Day play at J.C. Dobb’s. But he appreciates that Costil has introduced him to bands like Polvo, Thrill Jockey, back-in-the-day Sub Pop bands and others that were popular when he was just a “young ass kid.”

Costill saw success as a member of Trouble Everyday, the local indie band that got big in the mid-2000s after being reviewed by Pitchfork. The band toured with The Killers and opened for the Yeah Yeah Yeahs at Penn’s Landing. Costill left that life behind when he had his first child, his daughter Parker. He only re-entered the music scene to start Bands in the Backyard, better known as BitBy, in 2011. Booking so many bands at Ortlieb’s and running the venue finally compelled Costill to play again.

SadActorOnline03The friends pulled from their mutual influences to recreate a ’90s grunge rock sound informed by the emo bands they both loved. Rossi describes Sad Actor as nostalgic, while Costill describes the songs as very barebones and personal. Despite their age difference, the ease of the songwriting process has proven them a match made in heaven.

“When I write a song, I sit down and if within the first 15 minutes I’m not into it, that song will probably never get done,” says Costill. “We’re not ones to sit on a song for a long time. I’ll come up with an idea, I’ll record it real quick on my iPhone and I’ll send it to Tony. It’s all very organic.”

Sad Actor is fleshed out by bass player Josh Pannepacker, also of Shorty Boy-Boy and Cheerleader, who also runs sound at Ortlieb’s. The band currently only has two demos out, recorded with Jeff Zeigler of Uniform Recording. But Rossi says their music is not reflective of where Sad Actor material is now.

“That’s why I’m gung-ho on focusing on recording at this point,” says Rossi. “I love playing shows so much. It’s my time to escape from reality. But at the same time, it’s good to have something for everyone to listen to. The way that I work, I want it all done now.”

Going against Rossi’s youthful impatience, Costill doesn’t feel the recording pressure.

“Being in my 30s, I have a career and all, and a family, so I’m not really rushing to do anything,” he says. “I want to do everything the right way. So, there’s really no rush for us. It’s just like, let’s do everything the exact way we want it to be done.”

As a compromise, Sad Actor recorded a four-song EP with Up Up Down Down Left Right Left Right BA Start’s Steve Poponi, which they released at their Boot & Saddle show with Nothing in June. The goal is to now to go on to record a full-length album.

“I want to capture our energy as if we were playing a show,” says Rossi. “I’m such a nerd for bands that do live recordings. Almost all of my favorite albums are just live recordings. Modest Mouse? At the Drive-In? You can feel their energy while you’re listening to it. Being raw and in-the-moment, that’s how a band should be.”

And despite the years that separate them, Costill and Rossi will continue to live in the moment, together, with the rest of their family.

“It’s more or less just like a family of brothers, just hanging out,” Rossi says of Sad Actor. “I’m having so much fun being in this band. Everyone that’s in the band, we all just level, and have a blast playing.”


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