A couple of weekends back — June 22 to 24 — Dying Scene were out and about at the 5th Annual MOTOBLOT Vintage Motorcycle & Hot Rod Street Rally, held at the All Rise Brewing/Cobra Lounge in Chicago, IL. In addition to a number of contests and bike and scooter shows, the three-day festival featured performances from more than two dozen bands, including such varied acts as the Legendary Shack Shakers, Supersuckers, The Creepshow, and Nuns of Brixton, the self-described “Only Clash Cover Band That Matters.” While we’ll bring you photo coverage from the bulk of the festival in another day or so, we wanted to take the opportunity to highlight one of the bands present that we’ve never quite covered before: Mystery Actions.
One of Chicago’s most promising up and coming groups, Mystery Actions took the Mods and Rockers stage to deliver yet another fiery performance. So who is Mystery Actions? Allow us at Dying Scene to introduce them to you.
The band is made up of Nikki Beller on lead vocals; Lucy Dekay on guitar, Mary Rose Gonzales on drums; and Sarah Travelstead on bass guitar.
The band was started in early 2013 by bassist Shauna Fay. Per Gonzales, Shauna was looking to start an all-girl punk band and recruited with the words “Playing rock and roll is good for the soul.” Gonzales was introduced to Beller and Dekay and from the start, the band became the baby of all four as Gonzales describes it. Though Gonzales was the most experienced musician, meeting and jamming with the other three, all first-timers on their instruments helped lift her out of the funk she was in.
“I always daydreamed about it, listening to the Supremes or the Ronnettes as a kid, daydreaming on the couch. Oddly enough, “Be My Baby” was our first jam that night we all got together at Superior rehearsal spot” recalls Beller. Later in the year, Shauna moved to Portland, OR. The three other members have remained the entire tenure of the group. However, they went through 7 “unofficial” bassists until 2016 and Sarah Travelstead came along to cement the still current lineup.
Per Beller, there have been quite a few exciting moments for her and her bandmates. Among her personal faves, “I’d say our first highlight was opening up for Oi Polloi in 2014. Upon our east coast tour return, we had the pleasure of playing one of the last shows at Chicago’s legendary Double Door, alongside Cocksparrer. Playing with the Buzzcocks for the 2nd in 2017 at the Ritz in San Jose, CA was otherworldly. We recently shared the stage with GBH and the Dead Boys. Other memorable shows would for sure be Peter and the Test Tube Babies, Shonen Knife, Protex, Murphy’s Law, The Freeze, The Queers, Lower Class Brats, Go Betty Go and more to come! We’ve been very lucky and are very grateful.”
Recently, Mystery Actions got their friends and fans involved in trying to land them a spot on Flogging Molly’s Salty Dog Cruise 2018. “I read about the contest from the Flogging Molly cruise Facebook page and decided to enter. I made the video for our entry using pictures of our friends and family along with live shots of our shows,” says Travelstead. Though they did not get the spot, they recall the process as a positive one.
Of course, four people will have varying influences and on ideas which shape them as musicians and as a group. As for musical influences, per Beller: “We all have different influences which really helps add to the sound. I have influences all over the board, from Diana Ross of the Supremes and Ronnie Spector of The Ronettes to Vi Subversa (Poison Girls) Honey Bane, Wendy O Williams (The Plasmatics) and Alice Bag (The Bags), Suzuki Quattro, New York Dolls and Girlschool, Motörhead, Prince, Bowie Mick Jagger, Screaming Jay Hawkins, I could go on and on. I also draw out my demons and toxic energy on stage, it’s definitely a release. Before I found punk, I grew up on Rock and Roll music from the 50’s, Chicago blues and the big band era.”
Gonzales had some differing influences: “All of us girls grew up with different influences but our sound has been relatable to the 70s punk feel. I grew up listening to Elvis Presley but when I reached 5th grade I discovered the band No Doubt. Gwen Stefani blew me away as a child. 1 she was a woman and 2nd she did the damn thing. When I reached high school I was obsessed with the Buzzcocks and thought Joan Jett was practically god”.
And their outfits? Beller being out in front is especially cognizant of how she presents herself and what helps her performances. “As for outfits, I wear whatever I feel. I’m comfortable with myself and in my power and strength of Womanhood/spiritual being. I like to wear clothing that makes me feel powerful, sexy, innocent, whatever mood I happen to be in that day. I like to bring out my kink and personality in what I wear. Being all female musicians, people like to put us in a separate box. We’re tough and powerful and I like to make that known by the way that I look. Like hey, boys, we’re here, we’re comin’ and demand respect. We don’t really plan anything, we work hard and show up, whatever happens on stage is raw and natural, as it should be.”
It’s always intriguing to me how band names are selected. I discussed with Gonzales.”… we booked our first show without having a band name. In order of operation, we wrote songs, booked a show and lastly came up with a band name. Eventually, they needed something to put on the flyer so we needed not only a name but we needed it fast. We referred to ourselves as “last minute bitches” and that’s exactly what we were. We all sat in the middle of our rehearsal space with our notebooks, calling out random names. If we liked it we wrote it down and started the process of elimination. I remembered one of the names Nikki came up with was “Leather daddy and the sailors” but obviously we weren’t gonna use it. Hahaha, Mystery Actions was what stood out. Not only was it a song by The Rezillos but the name just truly meant something to us .”
So what is on the horizon for Mystery Actions? Little doubt more highlights and increasing a fan base to their infectious punk rock and the rowdy, leave it all on the stage performances. One thing sure to increase exponentially the amount of touring. Beller: “we haven’t toured much far away yet, we did an east coast (2016/6 shows) and west coast tour (2017/4 shows down the coast of California). We since got our passports, so more to come!”
Specifically though, they are in the process of finishing up their debut release with producers, Vee Sonnets and Karl Gustafson,( both of whom are members of The Crombies) at Legendary Records. They have several as of yet unreleased tracks. “By late fall it should be in the works and be in people’s hands by the holidays. We’ve also worked with Filmographer Sarah Giroux and will be releasing our first music video for our song, “Line in the Sand.” Next show we look forward to will be September 22nd for Punk the Burbs fest. It’ll be our second time playing with The Queers and our first time playing with The Bollweevils!” Gonzales informs me.
Beller also discussed with me reasons for her excitement at recording. “This will be our first record available and it’s long overdue. I’ll be ecstatic once that baby is in my hands. And when I say baby, I mean it will be the equivalent of holding my non-existent first born child in my arms. We have put so much work and dedication into this band… vinyl is what I want. It lasts forever and I look at it as your footprint, it will last long after we are gone… unless you leave it out in the sun, but then we’ll be a warped candy bowl or ashtray.. which oddly enough, still sounds exciting.”
Mystery Actions is one of the upcoming stars of the Chicago punk scene. They may be based here but with them and their fans alike know they will become known widely outside their respective zip codes in short order. Anyone who has seen them perform will attest there is no mystery to what make them exciting.