Actual Size - Reciprocity

Justin Walton

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Actual Size Reviews

Reciprocity Reviews

Face Magazine, Volume 12, Issue 9
January 19-February 1, 2000
A Band by Any Other Name: Actual Size Redefines the Rules
Story and Photos by April Boyle

Face Magazine Cover

Over the years, Face Magazine has features scores of bands driven towards "success." Some of them have gone on to further their careers, while others have sadly fallen by the wayside. Although all of them are different, each tale contains stories of hardships endured and triumphs that have empowered the band members to continue reaching for their musical goals. Actual Size doesn't fit neatly into this category. Instead, the recounting of its tale begs the question, "What makes a band a band?"

Like most bands, Actual Size has experienced its share of growing pains since its first incarnation began in the fall of '93. Shortly after forming, the band decided to oust its female singer, whom the band members "affectionately" refer to as "Crotch Bag," in hopes of finding a more compatible personality. Founding drummer Torin Sjogren, Cheshire cat grin widely displayed on his face, recalls how the band accidentally railroaded vocalist/percussionist Jason Rayne into joining Actual Size.

"All of us in the band saw signs that Jason had put up, signs announcing that he was a vocalist and announcing that he had several influences that we shared," recalls Sjogren with a chuckle. "Basically, because we wanted to snatch him, we all took down his signs, not knowing that the others had taken them down. So, we all showed up at practice, and we all had it."

"They pretty much took down what amassed to 20 or 25 signs that I put up," confirms Rayne, "and I get one call. That's all I ever got. I didn't find out until weeks later that they took them all down. Talk about destiny."

Since then, Actual Size has gone through several other lineup changes. Original band members Chris DeSorbo and Jeff Glenn parted ways with the band in '96 and '98 respectively, opening the doors for the addition of guitarist Justin S. Walton and bassist Matt Frye. John Farias was added in the fall of '97 as a secondary guitarist. The lineup changes didn't hinder Actual Size, though. Rather, each band member swap sparked new creativity and musical direction in the band, inspiring them to release their first demo, Restless Weave, in '95, followed by the full-length CD Brinkman in '97 and the current release, Reciprocity, in 1999.

"Whenever you bring in a new element to the band, that's great that you have this new element, but almost more importantly is that you have to reevaluate everything that you're doing, in relation to the element," explains Walton.

"Justin started bringing in tons of ability to bring out our creativity because we had been kind of stifled in our relationship with our first guitarist," adds Rayne. "We had a lot more to say, and Justin had gone to music school [Berklee School of Music] for composition. So he was right there with us. We started really reaching out at that point."


"When Matt came into the band, we started revamping a song called "Air Raid" [off of Reciprocity] and wrote whole new portions that just kind of exploded," continues Rayne. "It was a really beautiful song with a kind of classical orientation, but it came into its own once he came in because it breathed new life into it, to take it apart and say, 'Okay, here's the bass line,' or 'Here's what I always wanted to hear but didn't.'"

Each recording brought the band closer to realizing its sound and potential. Along the way, Actual Size was able to garner support for its recordings. Bolstered by critical acclaim from Brinkman and a full gigging schedule, Walton decided to apply for a grand from B.E.A.M. (Benefiting Emerging Artists in Music), a program backed by Jim Beam Bourbon. The program, which is overseen by an advisory board comprised of musicians, industry executives, and media representatives, awards a total of $75,000 to emerging artists for the purchase of equipment, studio time, and tour support. The program requires that all applicants be at least 21 years of age, and each applicant must briefly answer three questions: "What has been your greatest influence," "What would you like the grant money to be used for", and "Why do you believe this grant should be awarded to you?"

Walton's answers to these questions, combined with a follow-up interview, lead B.E.A.M. chairman Pat DiNizio (frontman for the Smithereens) to award Actual Size a grant for $1800. The grant was greatly appreciated, but it helped to only somewhat defray the cost of Reciprocity. "This money was a huge help and came at the perfect time," says Walton. "All $1800 went toward funding Reciprocity. This took a small chunk out of the debt, but by no means covered the costs. In the end, we spent over ten grand on the album. Some of that was money earned through gigging and selling merchandise, Brinkman and T-shirts, but most of it came out of my pocket and Jay's pocket."

In the weeks leading up to Reciprocity's October '99 release at the Stone Church in New Hampshire, B.E.A.M.'s publicity firm, Shandwick, released info about the grant and Actual Size's upcoming release to various publications, resulting in a number of good press write-ups. To outside observers, everything seemed to be progressing nicely for Actual Size, but internally the band had decided it was time again to reevaluate its status. ON November 24, 1999, Walton released a press statement, making official what the band members had come to realize months before. It read "After more than three years as a fixture in the Seacoast New Hampshire and Southern Maine music scenes, the Portland/Durham based original rock band Actual Size will be entering an extended hiatus from live performance. Having released their second CD, Reciprocity, Actual Size will be continuing as a studio-oriented collaborative effort between founding member Jason Rayne and guitarist Justin S. Walton. At present, the principal objective of Actual Size and Seismic Records is the promotion and distribution of Reciprocity, as well as other Seismic products and merchandise."

Actual Size


Actual Size Is:
Jason Rayne, vocals/percussion, 24, from Portland, ME.
Justin S. Walton, guitars, 24, from Somersworth, NH.
John Farias, guitars, 22, from Dover, NH.
Torin Sjogren, drums, 26, from North Conway, NH.
Matt Frye, bass, 22, from Dover, NH.

How They Got Their Name:

"What it came down to was Actual Size was pretty much just two words that came together, and we decided, 'That doesn't offend anyone too much,'" says Jason Rayne. "'As a name, I think we can stomach that all right, and the music speaks for itself.' What it eventually came around to mean was, 'We are nothing more than the music itself. Whatever you feel that you're getting form this experience is Actual Size.'"

Is this the end of Actual Size? Some would argue that a non-touring band is not a band at all. Actual Size disagrees. For the band, it's the albums, Reciprocity in particular, that define Actual Size, not the live performances.

"I cannot stress enough that an album and a live show are completely different art forms and need to be kept separate in one's perception of a band and their music," insists Walton. "Reciprocity is Actual Size, more honestly and completely than any Actual Size gig ever was."

It's hard to sit here and toot your own horn, and I don't want to do that on tape," adds Rayne. "We were doing our music because that was the stuff that really moved us. It really, really moved us, and it continues to. It's kind of sad, but I'm sure there are millions of bands across America that go through the same exact thing and they fizzle out. It was like a divorce. When you lose a member, you lose a piece of yourself, as well as the person you invested that piece into. It's a lot easier to let Actual Size continue as an entity than to destroy it. We haven't destroyed it. We're reevaluating things."

Historically speaking, the music world agrees with Actual Size. After all, they're not the first musicians to decide not to tour in support of their album. Steely Dan, for example, stopped touring for 19 years because of equipment, scheduling and complexity-of-arrangement concerns. The Beatles retired as a live act before the release of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. Seal, as a rule, doesn't tour. Even big touring bands like the Rolling Stones and R.E.M. took hiatuses from the stage. Now, it's Actual Size's turn.

Considering the band's history, though, it's not really a surprise. Actual Size never really played out live much until the release of Brinkman. In fact, before that album, the lineup of Rayne, Walton, Glenn and Sjogren had only played two shows. A similar statement can be made about the pre-Walton lineup. When thrown into a rigorous gigging schedule for Brinkman, many of the members found that playing out live was burning them out musically and physically.

"A person only has a certain amount of spirit to give something, in and out of itself, of your own volition," explains Rayne. "If you don't feel it coming back, it's impossible to continue. I just got to a place where I was not eating last year because I didn't have enough money to eat with all my bills. I, at 160 and 6 feet tall, went down about 15 or 20 pounds. I was at my most depressing place in my life. That's when I decided, 'Wait a second. Something's gone awry here. I love music, but I'm living for this kind of idea versus a reality.' That's when I had to kind of reconceptionalize my entire life and say, 'Step back for a moment. What else can I do now?' Music is hugely, hugely important to me, and it's one of the only way that I've felt I can fully express myself, or at least to an extent. I don't know if anyone can fully express their ideas, but you can approximate. The approximation went into Actual Size. I'm at a point where I'm in a much better place, living a normal live, still realizing that Actual Size is an entity, in and of itself, that continues."

Although Actual Size, as a unit, has decided it's better not to tour, at least for now, some of the Actual Size members have gone on to do their own projects and continue to perform out. Walton, in particular, can't imagine his life without live performance. "This routine is not only my lifestyle, but my life," states Walton. "The brief month in the spring of 1999 when we had no gigs was my darkest hour. Outside of music, there is no justification for my existence. If this is not true for any musician, they will stop being a musician before too long."

Actual Size's decision to become a studio-only band came about in the spring of '99, shortly after the initial recording of Reciprocity. In an attempt to keep the Actual Size name alive until the release of Reciprocity, Walton joined forces with bassist Robert Lord and drummer Richard Habib from the New Hampshire band Dreadnaught and began playing out under the Actual Size name. In the summer of '99, the trio of Walton, Lord, and Habib realized that they had taken the Actual Size music in a direction that was no longer Actual Size. Walton then decided to officially join Dreadnaught.

Dreadnaught continues to perform Actual Size songs, along with Dreadnaught songs, but don't go to a Dreadnaught show expecting to hear Actual Size. Currently, the Actual Size songs are done strictly as musical pieces. "If we decide to do any singing over the songs, we will not be using any of Jason's melodic lines or lyrics," explains Walton. "I'm making a point to keep and develop song structures, chord progressions, and instrumental melodies that I feel are fertile. I'm treating the Actual Size material as 'standards.' That is to say, we are reinterpreting the material as a jazz group would reinterpret a lead sheet. The melodies and chords are there, as well as a basic concept of the song's style and feel, and then we run with it. I'm trying not to be too precious about these songs, but to open them up for musical discourse and reinvention every night. What makes that all the more challenging and exciting is that the se songs are not two-chord jams or simple pop tunes. They involve intricate time changes and key changes, as well as very specific motifs and arrangement parts that need to be hit. Ideally, this approach will create a spontaneous combination of improvisation and arrangement that will be at once complex, visceral, honest, beautiful, and engaging for both the audience and the players."

Walton is indeed excited about the direction he plans on taking with the Actual Size material, but that in no way detracts from his enthusiasm for Reciprocity. For Actual Size, Reciprocity is the culmination of the band's career to date and a springboard for future studio projects. From the album's conception, The Actual Size members knew they wanted to create a product that would embody the band's sound and spirit. Big Sound studio in Westbrook seemed like the obvious place to do this.

"With this album, we decided, 'Okay, we really need to step it up and get the good production again,' and we decided to go and belly up to the bar, ante up, put in some real money and go gold. So we went with Big Sound because we had worked there before [on Restless Weave], and I knew that I loved working with Joe Brien.

"We went to Big Sound because Jay and Tor had had a good experience there recording Restless Weave with Joe in '95 and because they have analog gear, which we believe to be tonally superior to digital," adds Walton. "There is a certain warmth, depth and resonance to magnetic tape which has yet to be emulated convincingly by ones and zeros. Most importantly, Joe is a great guy to work with, very music, very creative, but also very down to earth and human. I'd love to do another album with him sometime down the road."

The recording experience ended up being different from any the Actual Size members had participated in before. The band ended up going in to record at Big Sound in mid-January 1999, during one of the biggest snowstorms of the year. With the snow piling up outside the door, they boys settled in for their week-long recording session.

"We had our own atmosphere within the confines of Big Sound for seven days," recalls Rayne. "I stepped out on the second day and that was amazing. Some people stayed in longer. That's the only time I've ever been in a building where snow is piling up to the door."

"That was the greatest experience," agrees Walton. "The place was like a fortress. My dad came down, and we drove through Westbrook. I was just shocked to be orbiting around in the outside. This was after, like, four or five days just being in. I was in the control room the whole time. I slept maybe four hours a night. Joe and I would be there first thing in the morning."

In the end, it all fit nicely together to create the atmosphere and sound that Actual Size was looking for. Reciprocity is a 70-minute-plus composition, comprised of 10 listed tracks and three hidden bonus tracks. Like Brinkman, Reciprocity is stylistically jazzy with an infusion of funk, a style the band feels harkens back to the music of the '70s. Reciprocity, however, shows a marked tightening of the band stylistically, as well as clarity in Rayne's vocal that makes his lyrics more obviously discernible.

"The lyrics are all over the place," says Rayne, "but a lot of it comes down to, if I were to live my life exactly that way I wanted to, in a very idealistic place, these lyrics would kind of say where that is. There idealistic, but they're truth and they're beauty."

Actual Size feels strongly that Reciprocity embodies the essence of the band and hopes that the album will be able to stand on its own, without the aid of live performances. In the meantime, the members are doing everything they can to aid in the album's success. "In order to promote Reciprocity, we have placed copies in record stores throughout Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Massachusetts," says Walton. "We have also sent copies to a number of publications for review. In the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas, we ran radio promotion with Powderfinger and received decent airplay for the disk at college and independent stations throughout New England. We maintain a web site for Actual Size [] and participate in at least 15 major web sites for independent music around the country [,,,, etc.]. I'm always on the lookout for ways to reach audiences through the net and other avenues. Basically, the band Actual Size is doing everything it can, without playing out, to support the disc. The objective is to keep our options open and record again as soon as possible."

"We're kind of playing angles," adds Rayne. "I've got some connections out west that I'm working on. We're doing what we can with it, and we very much want it to fly. But if it flies on its own, that's one thing. If it takes a whole bunch of blood, sweat and tears, that's another. We've put the blood, sweat, and tears in it, and now it's time for it to fly with its own wings."

As for the future, the band is leaving that open. After all, very little is ever set in stone nowadays except for epitaphs, and Actual Size isn't willing to sign its own death certificate yet. If the circumstances were right, the members might just decide to reevaluate the band's status again.

"This doesn't keep us from thinking about a future at all because if there was enough interest, in a way that would really help us get to the next echelon, whatever that is, just out of the bar scene, we'd do it in a heartbeat because music does guide me and make me go," insists Rayne. "I do feel like I need to have my foot and my vocal chords in it. But, at the same time, I've done it all my life, so I feel like I've put my two cents in, now with a couple of pieces under my belt."

"I think that a big part for me too is just the sense of completion," agrees Walton. "What this album represents, it's huge. It's years and years of my life. This album, more than anything, is like the culmination of everything I've worked for in my life."

The Noise - Rock Around Boston, April 2000, Issue #2000
ACTUAL SIZE, Reciprocity, Seismic Records, 9-song CD

All right, boys and girls, I'm going to clue you in on a little secret. I'm talkin' about my home state of Maine. Besides scenery and some of the best beers in the world, Maine has produced some damn fine bands over the last few years: Rotors to Rust, Twisted Roots, Rustic Overtones, Colpitz, and now Actual Size. Their second full length Reciprocity is a smokin' little platter of rockin' funk. I know what you're thinking, as Thomas Magnum would say, and yes the Chili Peppers/P-Funk/Fishbone influence is obvious. That's inevitable; get past it. AS can hold their own, thank you very much. What sets singer/percussionist Jason Rayne, guitarist Justin S. Walton, guitarist John Farias, bassist Matt Frye, and drummer Torin Sjogren apart is that the groove is not lost to their overabundant chops. Jazz chops, that is. If Phish had a bit more funk in 'em, they'd sound like AS. It's scary how proficient these cats are, but these days the kids like to hear grooves. Has Actual Size got grooves? Damn straight! Live energy doesn't translate all that well here, but it's not difficult to conjure up a packed dance floor in one's head. They've done a terrific job at finding the balance between being an "art" band and a "commerce" band. Actual Size is Yes and Hootie simultaneously. Having said that, there's no such thing as a perfect balance in the music biz', a business which is perpetually forcing talented musicians to bend over for the commerce end. Dancing groove hounds don't give a shit about chops, and musical elitists rarely shake their groove thang. AS's best bet is to get in the van and build up their fan base among the Phisheads, who at least appreciate both sides. Dance if you must, but listen and appreciate as well.

Brian Westbye

Face Magazine
The Local Record Round-Up Early Winter, 1999
Reciprocity (CD)

(amazing... none of this exists any more. -Ed.)
Actual Size c/o
P.O. Box 4885
Portland, ME 04112

This quintet's first full-length release fulfills the promise of their previous effort, the six-song EP Brinkman. Vocalist Jason Rayne, guitarists Justin Walton and John Farias, percussionist Torin Sjogren and bassist Matt Frye collaborate on all the music, an enviable roster of well constructed yet jam-worthy songs that could, in concert conditions, be built into sprawling improvisational pieces. Listen to Walton and Farias on "Golden Reyes" for a taste of what I'm talking about. In five and a half minutes the duo works in both delicate harmonic interplay and chugging riff mode. In either case you can hear where these songs might go given an extra four or five minutes. And while it's important for the bassist and drummer to be in sync, Sjogren and Frye can function independently of each other. (Listen to the opening of the title song, on which Frye parries gently with one of the guitarists). The group actually does some jamming on record with "Salsa Shark," a relentlessly uptempo showcase for each of the band's instrumentalists, and "Air Raid No. Thirty-Three," which starts quietly enough but rocks harder later. What may give some listeners pause is the impressionistic lyrics of Jason Rayne. Read aloud, they tell stories only in the broadest sense. Yet - and I don't mean this as a criticism - this is what you expect from this kind of music, and it fits. Rayne's a good singer, and he sounds as if he's comfortable within the context of the songs. Actual Size is just another example of the vibrancy of Portland music, 1999. NO screaming, no power chords, no wall-rattling bass, and yet you can listen to Reciprocity without once punching forward to the next tune. (Beware the hidden tracks...).

Bennie Green

Actual Size - Brinkman

Brinkman Reviews

FACE Magazine Local Record Round-Up / Late Summer 1997

This quartet hails from Portland (childhood friends Justin Walton on guitar and Jason Rayne on vocals) and half from New Hampshire (bassist Jeff Glenn and drummer Torin Sjogren, though the latter was born on St. Croix). And though they've been together for only two years we haven't heard much from them. What initially will strike you is the group's ability to jam (an increasingly common trait) and the similarity of Rayne's voice to John Popper's (of Blues Traveler). But what you should listen to more closely than the voice itself is the words he sings. Unlike so many locals, these guys know how to write a lyric that isn't trite. They are, in fact, almost poetic, and though that opens them to the charge of being artsy or oblique, I'll take it over retread "Love me, I love you" lyrics. For instance, "Porcelain" is crowded with images of city rot while lamenting the punch away from and the destruction of nature. "New Tune (which only lasts five minutes but could easily be stretched in concert) uses a similar method of layered descriptions to move us through the seasons. "A drip; the dew of breath so sweet" eventually gives way to "Death must be this way." Granted "The Duck of Love" is much more obscure, but it at least possesses an easy groove you can sink into and guitars that range from moderately strummed to plugged in and hammered. I don't want to lump Actual Size into a category, because I don't think they're just a run-of-the-mill group. They not only play and sing well but also say it with flair. They have the entire package, and their further evolution should be rewarding to watch.

Northeast Performer November 1997

"Actual Size weighs in at 784 lbs." reads the inside cover of Brinkman. If they were any heavier these guys might not be so cool or fun or likable. Any band that successfully adheres to an alternating 5/8 - 6/8 time signature for 6 minutes 23 seconds has the potential to create some very esoteric, very annoying music. Actual Size sidesteps the untasteful-but-impressive moniker by filtering the unnecessities out of their songwriting. Just as they flirt with fusion, they reel themselves in. They keep things spicy with tasteful improvisation, bouncy syncopation, and impressionistic lyricism. Brinkman's six tracks are a fantastic blend of jazzy harmony with rock and roll tendency. This is a curious mix of individuals. Guitarist Justin Walton brings the extended chords and clean sound of jazz music, but he never goes over the edge into "jazz odyssey land." The guitar work, and especially the chordal solo at the end of "The Duck of Love," is refreshing, with Walton shaking the fluffiness out of the jazzy chords. Jeff Glenn's bass and Tor Sjogren's drumset add the rock-funk flavor that these songs demand. Sjogren is as comfortable riding his hi-hats open as he is playing "splang, splang a dang" on his ride cymbal. Glenn plays solidly throughout, but knows when to let his fingers fly. Jason Rayne is all you could ask for in a vocalist/lyricist. He sounds something akin to a merged version of John Popper and Corey Glover. His pitch center is smack in the middle, he has a nice descending vocal trick which he uses extensively. He can thrash as well, doing so on "New Tune." And the lyrics are ingenious, in an atmospheric kind of way. The individuality only adds to the depth of the quartet. It isn't a jazz guitarist playing in a rock band with a good singer. The conglomerate includes all of that, but remains a funky, dance-inducing unit. Actual Size has been playing the Maine and New Hampshire scenes, and they dropped into T.T. the Bear's in mid October for their first time Boston hit on October 5th. Hopefully, more gigs in Beantown will provide them with a bigger audience, bigger gigs and more tunes. Check them out, they won't disappoint.

Jonathan Babu

Jam Music Magazine March 1998

I remember being in college and hearing the everpresent melodies of the Grateful Dead. Actual Size's sweet sounds remind me of those melodies. But there's more than sunshine in those chords. A flavor of islands. A bit of Ska. But I never thought that these two styles could ever be heard together and sound good. Then I listened to Actual Size's album Brinkman. In this release not only do these styles mesh beautifully, I'm tempted to believe they've become better. These four folks have made something stunning. By sticking to the four basic rock n' roll food groups - bass, guitar, drums, and vocals - they've grown an enjoyable nad energetic child. Gene splicing the skills of Jeff Glenn and Tor Sjogren gently tapping out the hypnotic, thrumming beats on bass and drums, respectively, one can't help but want to become a part of their creation. However, the smooth mixture of Jason Rayne's vocals, and the warmth of the chords from Justin Walton's guitar have beaten you to it. The result is something more than its parts. Even the CD itself is a musical mystery. Both calming and energetic, you could crank up the volume for your party or adjust the six songs down to a meditative level. The melodies had me switching betwee n being philosophical and chair-dancing while I wrote this. There's even some '70s flavor reminiscent of Stevie Wonder and a familiar sixties sound from another fabulous foursome. If you ever enjoyed falling into the mystical freedom of the Dead you will enjoy this CD. If you thrill on the cutting edge of modern ska you will enjoy this CD. Whatever you do, don't stay away from the Brinkman.

Trebor Carey

Foster's Daily Democrat Showcase May 1997

While its album art depicts decaying goats, Actual Size is nowhere near as morbidly minded. Actual Size is Jason Rayne, vocals; Jeff Glenn, bass; Justin S. Walton, guitar; and Tor Sjogren, drums. The quartet has been playing local clubs and parties for several years now and has just put out a six-song album, available on CD and tape, called Brinkman. The cover of the album depicts a lonesome goat under the blue sky of the desert. On the inside there is a picture of a dead and decaying goat. All this seriousness is offset by some goofy, candid shots of the band. After scanning the album artwork, I expected something very dark, heavy and disturbing, along the lines of Tool or Metallica, but as the first strains fo music leapt from my CD player, I was reminded never to judge a book by its cover. Actual Size's sound is more akin to Phish or Blues Traveler with a twist of progressive rock. Jason Rayne belts and swings over the solid jazz-rock rhythms of Sjogren and Glenn, while Walton's guitar meanders from chord to lead and back again. The band never really decends into all-out jamming yet most of the songs clock in around the six-minute mark. I spoke to Glenn about the Actual Size sound, plans for the new CD, and the unusual album artwork. "We're not a real jam-oriented band and we're not totally heavy and we're not necessarily funk, although that's all in there," said Glenn. "There's an improvisational element to it, but it's all very structured." Actual size does a good job of balancing its many styles while maintaining some sense of accessibility. "It's an attempt to feel good," said Glenn. "To groove and be melodically interesting." According to the bassist, the latest version of the Actual Size sound is the product of an evolutionary process that involved the departure of one guitarist and the acquisition of Walton. Walton and Rayne met each other in high school where they performed in rival bands until finally coming together on this project. Walton has brought a wider variety of stylistic texture to the band, according to Glenn. "With our last guitarist, we played a lot of heavy stuff," said Glenn. "Justin is really into jazz, so once we picked him up we started playing a lot of jazzy, bluesy groove stuff." Glenn explained that the album artwork symbolizes the duality of life and death by depicting a happy, normal goat, juxtaposed with its dead and decaying counterpart. Apparently, drummer Sjogren, who took the dead goat shot, is a bit of a road kill aficionado. "Our drummer goes on a motorcycle trip every summer with his family out west," said Glenn. "And he likes to take pictures along the way of all the dead animals he comes across in the desert. He's got a whole collection of photos." Rayne's lyrics are highly poetic, full of symbolism, and imagery that hints at relationships and social commentary. My favorite is Watermelon Days, a remembrance of happy childhood days now fading into memory. Sunshine's smile, bliss full of child running wild. Summer days they've gone away. Sky is red today my childhood fades. Oh to be a flittering soul without a care but jumping in a water hole. - Watermelon Days The recording, done at Quad Sound Studios at Harvard University, is crisp and clear and the playing nearly flawless, but the sound quality lacks depth. You can catch Actual Size at the Blue Mermaid in Portsmouth on July 4. The CD is available through the band and at local record stores.

Jon McCormack

Portsmouth Herald Spotlight July 1997

Brinkman, the debut CD by the Portland-based band Actual Size, is a collection of six original tunes which feature surprising intelligent, almost cerebral, lyrics. My first listen to the CD had me scrambling for my Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary. The title of the CD is taken from a line in one of the tracks, "The Duck of Love." "I'll be a brinkman until I'm sure that I might die." For the benefit of those of you who don't happen to have your dictionaries handy, "brinkmanship" is defined as "the art or practice of pushing a dangerous situation to the limit of safety before stopping." This is also an apt description of hte band's musical style, which stubbornly refuses to remain in a single category, but rather pushes the limits of pop and rock to include elements of jazz and funk. Singer Jason Rayne's lyrics are a body of soul searching, introspective poetry set to jazz-inflected guitar riffs and solid bass lines. Rayne's voice is reminiscent of Blues Travelers' John Popper, complementing Justin S. Walton's guitar work to lend depth to each composition. Actual Size especially shines on tracks such as "Porcelain" and "New Tune," both of which highlight the band's talents with a blend of technical musical ability and true artistry. In "Porcelain," Rayne's lyrics evoke a sense of sadness and loss, ("the orange humming of a street lamp/hung above/crowds out the romance of a starry sky/that once could glisten") while the song's upbeat, intricate musical style lends balance to a song which might otherwise be in danger of taking itself too seriously. The CD's six songs tend to sound a little too similar to each other, and some of them test the listener's powers of concentration with long musical interludes which might be better suited for live performances. All in all, however, Brinkman is a decent first effort, well worth listening to. Actual Size is a band to keep an eye on, with that rare combination of musical talent, intelligent lyrics, and a sense of humor.

Michele Tracey

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