Watergate journalist Carl Bernstein and famed author Nora Ephron probably had big literary aspirations for their son, Max. But he went and started a Los Angeles punk band, the Actual, instead. Over the past few years, the trio -- comprising Bernstein on guitar and vocals and brothers Jeremy and Aaron Bonsall on bass and drums -- released a self-titled EP (which featured Quicksand drummer Alan Cage) and the critically lauded album Songs on Radio Idaho, establishing a sound that balances heavy hooks and grim emotion with polished power-pop songcraft. As catchy as Alkaline Trio or latter-day Jawbreaker, yet devoid of cloying Sum 41-isms, the Actual somehow caught the ear of erstwhile grunge goon Scott Weiland, who produced the bandmembers' imminent sophomore full-length and took them on the road with Velvet Revolver last year. But don't be fooled by Bernstein's streamlined, understated tunes; lurking within those indelible melodies is the literary complexity and soul of a poet. Mom and Pop must be proud.
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