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INTERVIEW: Jaycen Mckissick Discusses Transition from The Action Design to Survival Guide

Photo by Jim Williams

Independent artists Jaycen Mckissick and Emily Whitehurst have teamed to star Survival Guide. The duo are members of The Action Design who are currently on a hiatus. Mckissick talks about the new project, sound and vinyl release.

NP: Well, I’m going to begin with a question fans are wondering about… Is The Action Design done or is it in a “hiatus”?

JM: Officially we are on a hiatus. It’s hard for me to say definitively whether we will or will not do anything together again. We’re all still good friends that have deep respect and love for each other. We also love playing music together but there’s so much more to being a “working band” than that. Touring is a lot of work. Not just on the road but also when we are home. There’s bills to pay, family functions that get missed, people get sick…. You know, “real life” stuff. That’s pretty much why we decided to take a break. At some point tAD just stopped being a collective priority. Which is not to say that it can’t or won’t be something we do again. I think in all likelihood something will put us back in a room playing music together someday. At what level, I’m not sure. We couldn’t really see tAD as “breaking up” because it just didn’t seem like that’s what we were doing. We just all had other things we needed/wanted to focus on. For Em and I, our focus became Survival Guide.

NP: When did the idea to start a new project begin? Was it a moment or did it progressively happen?

JM: I’d say it was a progression. We both still have a lot of drive and creative energy. When we started talking about it, we decided to start a new band that’s just the 2 of us and see what we could come up with. It was a little scary at first! In tAD the writing process was so different. Matt was definitely the most prolific writer in tAD. We all contributed to the writing and flushed things out together but most of the songs seemed to start with Matt. When it came to starting srvvlgd there were immediately a lot of insecurities. We were like “Can we do this? Can we write full songs with just the two of us?” Fortunately for us we found out that we could. Writing turned into producing, producing turned into recording and recording turned into mixing. Before we knew it we were doing it all. Just Em and I in a basement in Sacramento, from start to finish.

NP: Are you guys looking to create a new sound or just go with what is created?

JM: I think what we’re looking to create is a transparent sound. Meaning, we write what we write because that’s who we are. So why try to make it something else? It’s really kinda cool because it’s like we’re finding out what/who we are by seeing what comes out when we write. I think the stuff that we’re writing now is going to shock some people who think they know who we are as musicians. Hell, it has shocked us!! Some people might not like it… but that’s ok! I totally expect to get a wide array of good and bad response from what we are going to do with this project. That’s actually what I want. I want to startle people who think they know what to expect from us.

NP: Is there going to be more members added or is it going to be based as a two-piece band?

JM: I really like the idea of having guest musicians on recordings and I think eventually we will add other musicians for the live show. As for now though we really wanna see how far we can take it as being just the two of us. In the future, who knows? We can do anything. There are no rules for this band.

NP: “The Walls” sounds great. How did you and Emily decide it was going to be the first track to help promote the new band?

JM: Thank you! We picked “The Walls” because we felt that it was the most representative of what we’re going to be doing in srvvlgd without spelling out exactly what everything will sound like. It has energy but isn’t in your face. There’s different instruments and sounds. There’s parts of the song where I am actually doing nothing at all, which is really exciting to me.

NP: How did the band get signed by Side With Us Records?

JM: We we’re talking about wanting to put out a 7″ as our first release and we started brainstorming small labels. Em immediately thought of Side With Us Records. It’s a small indie label out of the bay area that has been putting out some really awesome bands from our area like The Velvet Teen, Not To Reason Why and By Sunlight. Em saw Leslie from SWU at a show and asked her if she’d be interested in working with us on our first release. She said yes and it’s been super awesome! We’re very happy to be working with Side With Us!

NP: What are the plans before the June 30 release of your 7” vinyl?

JM: Well we have the vinyl available for pre-order now at By pre-ordering you receive a download code via email that’ll score you the 2 songs from the vinyl plus 1 bonus track and other digital extras. Otherwise we are continuing to lock ourselves in the basement to write/record/rehearse and get ready to play some shows!

NP: Are there any tour dates in the works?

JM: We haven’t booked anything yet but we really want to get back out on the road soon! Em and I both love touring, meeting awesome people and sharing our art with others! We can’t wait to show everyone what we’ve been working on.

NP: What else can fans look out for…? Merch? Another track release before June 30?

JM: We just started talking about the possibility of doing a video. We have some special limited merch items that’ll be hitting our webstore in a few weeks. As far as music… You’ve stumped me there.. We haven’t really talked about it. I’m sure we’ll stream another song before the 7″ is officially out, right? It seems like the right thing to do… right?

Check out for more information about the band. Listen to their first track”The Walls” below.

The Walls by survival guide



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  1. Underthegun07
    Awesome interview! Thank You!
    • No prob! Thank you for checking out TheBuzz at GigHive.
  2. [...] Check out the interview I conducted with Mckissick who talks about the new project, sound and vinyl release here. [...]
  3. distiller86
    So Excited!!! Can't wait to see them!!
    • Word on the street is that they're working on newer music.