By steadily releasing new music and creating a tight-knit community both on and off TikTok, Arrows in Action has become a band to watch within the pop-rock scene since their launch in 2017. The trio is now on their biggest headlining tour to date promoting new record Built to Last, and they sat down with us to catch us up on the last few years and tell us how they put this album together.
The band talked touring lessons, fan interactions, and pre-show rituals, and their gratitude and earnest sincerity shine through. Our conversation is below, lightly edited for clarity.
Atlas Artist Group: We last talked to you guys in 2019 right before you released the first single off your EP, Hell in Paradise. Catch us up on what’s been happening since then?
Jesse: First single was “Chasing Rhymes” — absolute love on that. Since then, we did a tour with The Home Team in 2019 to celebrate the release of that. They did a whole tour, and we did Florida with them. We recorded “This Time,” “Failing On Purpose,” “Honey,” and “Close Enough.”
And then we were supposed to go on tour in April of 2020, and then COVID happened, so we didn’t get to do that. In a weird way it worked out for us, not that COVID worked out for us, but us not touring kind of ended up working out for us.
Matt: The whole tour getting canceled forced us to look for other ways to stay interacting with our fans and with other bands. We started doing Instagram interviews with bands we were excited to meet, like The Dirty Nil and Anarbor and Less Than Jake.
And then Jesse got us into TikTok, heavily. He posted a clip from our “This Time” music video and it did like 50 or 60K views in a day or something.
Jesse: It was insane for us.
Matt: We were like, alright, this is the only thing we do now — all we do — because there’s not much else to do. And then we just started going live on TikTok in Jesse’s house with an acoustic guitar. We’d just sit on the floor and have a shaker and just do cover songs or our own songs.
Jesse: It’s worth mentioning, we all lived at the same house, so when COVID happened, we lived together already, so we were like, okay, I guess we’ll try and write songs and go live on the internet.
Vic: And in a way it became like…it wasn’t exactly a retreat, because everyone was forced into a retreat essentially, but it was cool because we got to kind of just focus on writing. I think we wrote like nine or ten demos, and some of those ended up going on to Be More.
Jesse: “Uncomfortably Numb,” “Endeavor,” parts of “All the Ways [I Could Die.]”
Vic: So then in September of 2020, we went up to Nashville and started writing for Be More. We did like the first half of the record, essentially.
Jesse: We went to a cabin in Kingston, Tennessee and finished it.
Matt: We were fortunate enough to go on tour with This Wild Life and Taylor [Acorn] and after that, touring really picked up for us, which was exciting. We had mutual friends who worked for Bearings and we did that tour, and it’s been a blur since then. Lots of writing trips and lots of touring — whenever we’re not on the road, we’re writing, recording, and making TikToks.
Vic: And somewhere in this, we wrote our debut record.
Be More. was a really, really cool experience. We wrote it out because it was such an interesting, like, rollout. We got to film all the music videos. In April, we did them for “Uncomfortably Numb” and for “Only Be Mine.” We wanted them to kind of connect in a way, which we were able to make work with our really good friend, Dalton Sneddon, who does all of our music videos. What was really cool was the rollout. We wanted to do a rebrand and “Only Be Mine” very much felt like a rebrand for us. We were really excited for people to hear this new sound.
When December of 2021 rolled around, we had gone on tour with This Wild Life, we got back from that tour, and then “Uncomfortably Numb” sort of hit a really good lick on TikTok and we were able to start doing Arrows in Action full time.
We then went on tour with Bearings for five weeks — that was the longest tour we’d ever done, the first real tour we’d ever done. We learned so much from Bearings, Between You and Me, and Young Culture, and they’re still some of our best friends to this day. After that, we did a writing trip in California, and we started writing for Built to Last.
And so throughout all of 2022, we were writing for Built to Last. We got to work with Kyle Black and our buddy, Graham Latterman, aka Hardcastle, who lives in L.A., Alex Austin Pearson from Hands Like Houses helped us write with Graham as well. He ended up writing on “Head in the Clouds” with us. And it was just such a cool experience to make that our job, to be like, okay, we go into L.A. for two weeks and we write.
So we’d spend 12 hours in the room writing, and it was just such a cool experience for us to go full force with that.
Jesse: And then, yeah, to skip ahead, we did two headliners, Magnolia Park tour, released Built to Last, and now we’re here. It’s hard to cover four years — I don’t want to be like, oh we did this and that and now we’re here.
Atlas: But those 18 months were just so weird. It was the 18 months we were inside. But skipping through all of that, even though so much happened, feels kind of natural. You guys did a lot of things, but all of a sudden we were outside again.
Jesse: But the stuff we did we, like, sit on the floor and play guitar while people were on their phones.
Atlas: Everyone was doing that, though, which was kind of nice.
Vic: We made some of our most exciting fans that way. We’ve met people that started listening to us three years ago, and every time we get to meet somebody who we haven’t gotten to meet, who originally found us from the pandemic TikToks, we’re like, “Oh my god, you’ve been part of the squad for years.”
Jesse: It’s really special.
Atlas: In terms of putting the record together, so during the pandemic, during the return to music, how did you approach that? Did you keep those weird 18 months in mind? What was your mindset going into putting the record together?
Vic: We had started writing again for Built to Last right after Be More. had come out. The first song we wrote for that was “Put You Through Me,” and I remember coming home from that writing session being like, this is it, we’re really on to something. This is what the new record could sound like. This is what we can push towards. I remember sending it to Jesse and Matt. They were super excited about it.
Then we wrote “Over It,” then started writing “Entropy,” and started writing “High.” It was a lot of piecing things together. And there was a lot of, like, what’s this record gonna be about? How is this all gonna fit together? Honestly the track for me that kind of tied what we did for that whole year together was the song, “Built to Last.” I woke up one day and I just had kind of a rough week and demoed out just the chords and the lyrics in 20 minutes, and I sent it to Matt.
I was like, guys, I think this might be the end — this might be like the last song on the record. And then we find our way to that song. It was very much like, we have a goal, now how do we get there? That informed how we wrote the rest of the record. Not that it allowed us to write songs like “Seeing Red” or anything, but we had absolutely no fear about that. We weren’t like, oh, can we put this out? We’re like, we can do whatever we want. We have the end of the record, we have the title track. We have to fill this space between and we can do that with whatever we want.
Atlas: To go back to TikTok, because we saw you guys all over our For You pages, what did it mean to have that platform while we were all stuck inside, and how did it change how you interact with your community?
Vic: When we started posting on TikTok, I think it was like late 2019, but we didn’t understand it.
Jesse: We still don’t really understand it, but back then, we really didn’t understand it at all.
We just posted the music video for “This Time,” but then we started going live on there, just to see how that would work. We were trying to do live streams — we had so. much. time. Apparently we could do this every week, because it’s great. We’d just hang out and play songs.
I feel like we made this sentimental connection with a lot of people because they were doing the same thing, sitting at home. We can’t go to shows, can’t do so many different things, but we got to interact and get used to people’s names. We were signing merch on the live streams with people who were buying it at the same time, which is kind of wild.
That was a new way to engage with people. And we still do that pretty regularly now, and we see those names coming up. But now we actually get to go see people and interact with them at shows, which is fantastic.
That community has just exploded on its own. The Menaces is our fan group, self titled via something one of us said, I think.
Vic: We didn’t call them Menaces.
Jesse: They named themselves. But that has taken a whole meaning to itself, but it’s awesome.
Atlas: So you guys mentioned learning a lot from your tour mates, just through touring so much. What are some of those specific things that you’ve learned?
Jesse: Sleep. Sleep is key.
Vic: We haven’t gotten a tour with The Home Team really, but that’s a band that we take so much advice from, where I’ll just talk to Brian and say, what do I do, and he’s like, sleep and water. Those are the two most important things. Sleep 12 hours a day if you can.
Atlas: Brian’s always been the smartest guy in the room.
Arrows in Action: Yeah, so that’s a big one.
Matt: Don’t get to load ins early. Get there on time. I know that sounds weirdly specific, but you know, when you’re opening for somebody, you wanna give them space. The polite thing to do is get there right on time and you’re ready to go. We also learned how to pack lightly.
Vic: I feel like This Wild Life kind of confirmed our need to be quick about getting off stage and supporting other bands. We very much were like, get everything off the stage in like two minutes when we’d finish our set opening for them. And I think they noticed and were grateful.
Matt: We even take that into headlining in a sense that we want to be easy on venue staff and that’s something that we watched them do. They make everything easy for everyone they work with and are always friendly, even when they’re exhausted. I feel like we took a lot from it. We learned from watching their VIPs, and how they were with people, and how to make it very natural feeling and casual. That’s definitely something that we took from them as well.
Atlas: I know we don’t have a ton of time, so let’s do the rapid fire round. What’s on your rider these days?
Jesse: It’s always chips and salsa, vegetables, hummus, iced coffee. More recently it’s been iced coffee, red bulls, we always obviously get a case of water. More recently, assorted La Croix’s: limoncello, pure, and key lime.
Vic: Yeah, we got a little bougie.
Jesse: This is our first time getting a rider regularly, so we went all out.
Matt: Our tour manager encouraged us to add stuff. It had been water, and he was like, “That’s a given, they’re gonna give you water.” And I was like, okay, shit, veggie tray. And he’s like, “Again, they’re gonna give you that. What else do you want?”
Vic: Our photographer added kombucha, so we get that sometimes.
Jesse: So for me, to have the iced coffee always available is just the greatest thing in the world.
Atlas: Besides veggie trays, Red Bull, and coffee, any pre or post show rituals?
Vic: Pre show ritual is a hug.
Jesse: Do a group hug. Group hug, some stretches, sometimes tea.
Matt: Call people, if that counts, always trying to call home as much as possible. Call friends and family.
It’s easy to lose track of time doing this in general. You never know what day it is at home. But then when you’re on tour, you sort of step into Narnia, and you want to make sure you’re, you know, talking to people who aren’t in Narnia sometimes.
Atlas: Aside from here, what’s the most underrated venue that you’ve played?
Vic: I guess it’s hard to say. It’s like, Gramercy is not underrated. Gramercy is accurately rated.
Jesse: I don’t know who’s underrating the venues.
Matt: Oh, Spider Ballroom in Austin, Texas. It’s a strange room. The stage has this weird wooden thing on the top of it, and there’s like a projector that shoots right in your eyeballs. But like, the people who work there are amazing.
The room is very good for, you know, any mid-sized artist, and attached to it, there’s a vegan food truck outside, and then there’s really good craft cocktails and really good craft coffee. And it’s around the corner from a bunch of other cool, funky Austin stuff. I remember we had never heard of it and rolling up on that one thinking, what is this? And we had an incredible time there.
Atlas: I love Austin.
Matt: We had our best Austin show the night before last.
Atlas: Nice! I hope we top it.
Jesse: This will be our biggest headliner tonight, fun fact. We’ll be breaking a bunch of records, just like the global temperature. Hotter every day — I’m making that joke on stage tonight.
Atlas: That’s the tagline.
Jesse: You’ve heard of global warming, now let me introduce you to Arrows in Action! Equally dangerous to the planet, just like climate change!
Atlas: No wonder your fandom is called Menaces.
Jesse: We’ll workshop that.
Atlas: To wrap this all up, who’s an artist we should be watching?
Matt: Honey Revenge. They’re blowing up.
Vic: Cherie Amour.
Jesse: Sophie Powers. She was just opening for Waterparks and now she’s opening for Yungblud.
Atlas: We love Yungblud.
Jesse: I’m not really into hyperpop — or I haven’t been — but I’ve been listening to a lot of Sophie Powers and I’m like, I get this. She’s a good gateway artist.
Vic: She saw us headline in Toronto. We met Sophie and Jules [Paymer] the summer of last year before they were signed.
Jesse: She’s got the whole outfit. I’ve seen it on TikTok.
Arrows in Action is wrapping up their Built to Last tour and heading to the UK to support The Summer Set in November. Stream their catalog wherever you listen to music and follow their socials @arrowsinaction.
Story and photo by Taylor Knauf