First off, I want to thank you for taking the time to do this interview. Now, who am I talking to and what do you do in Army of Freshmen?
No. Thank you. My name is Chris Jay and I’m the lead singer better known as the guy who does the talking in between songs. You may know me from my patented catch phrases like “How’s everybody doing?” and “This is our last song.”
"Beg, Borrow, Steal" has to be one of the catchiest, most infectious album I've ever listened to, and it seems the world agrees. Did you guys expect the popularity you've received from the record?
Ummm… I think you may of accidentally given us the Fallout Boy interview but we’ll play along. So… thanks! We’re really happy with the reaction. We got to tour internationally with it. We got to go to Japan again, where we do really well, and to the UK for the first time, where we’re starting to do really well. Of course ideally we would of liked to have more of a promotional push behind it but 33 St. Records did a great job for what their resources were.
I hear you're working on some new demo's with Jaret from Bowling For Soup. What's it been like working with him?
Exceptional. He’s a brilliant producer and it was a great experience to work with someone whose music you’re a real fan of. I think Bowling For Soup is one of the most underrated bands out there. There songs are amazing (find “Surf Colorado” if you don’t believe me) and their live show is one of the best out there. Beyond all that they are the nicest “big” band we know. You’ll always find them in the lobby after a show. They really appreciate their fans and not in the super fake, “I tell Alternative Press how much we love our fans but we act like assholes to them in person unless you’re one of the big boobed blondes backstage”, way. Ever notice at any fairly big show there’s always 2 to 3 wannabe models on the side of the stage? Especially at Warped. They always look uncomfortable and they only slightly nod their heads. Very disturbing.
Is there a chance of Jaret producing your next album, or is he strictly taking production duties for your current demo's?
For sure. We recorded 6 new songs with him that we think hands down are the best we’ve ever done. Were in the process of getting them out there and seeing what labels are interested. When we find the right place for it- he’s on to produce the whole thing. We can’t wait.
When do you guys plan to release a follow-up record to Beg, Borrow, Steal?
Next year for sure. As to when exactly and on what label- that’s all up in the air. One things for sure if you liked the last one you’re gonna love the new one and if you didn’t like the last one you still have the new Story of the Year to look forward to. Don’t’ tell them I said that though- wouldn’t want to catch one of those Godsmack ass whoppings. Wait a minute wasn’t that Finch? Or was it Disturbed. Confusing this cycle of screamo violence is.
If you had to pick one AOF song as your favorite, which one would it be and why?
I like “Get Um Up” simply because it’s the one that most people know so when we do it live everybody sings along. I don’t think it’s our best song by any means but it wins on grounds of easy crowd participation.
I'm interested in what the writing process is like for you guys. Do you create basic structures for the songs first and then add the keyboards and all that jazz in afterwards, or how does it all come together?
Most of the songs start out as a guitar chords or a riff that we all really like or a maybe piano part that everyone is into. Then we add to it and build it together. It’s really cool process to part of. Our writing is pretty democratic. While the guys are putting it together- I’ll start working on lyrics and trying to fit them into melodies. We all really enjoy the process of songwriting.
Speaking of writing, where do the inspirations behind your lyrics come from?
I like lyrics that paint a picture and you can almost see the song like a movie. Really descriptive and full of references. With that said I put a lot of my feelings and experiences in them cover them but I cover them up quite a bit. Our lyrics fall into two camps- people love um or hate um. Some people enjoy bland 8th grade poetry over drop D. I accept that. Personally I’m way into singer songwriters like Tom Waits, Randy Newman, etc… I like songs that tell stories. Personally I could give a shit how someone is feeling about their girlfriend or lack there of but if they can place those feelings in an interesting way and tell a complete story in 3 minutes or under- you have my attention.
Do you have any big tour plans for what's left of 2005?
Well the bad news is we had the opening slot on a big tour that we were very excited about but fate intervened and kicked us in the nuts- in simpler terms- the tour got canceled. So after the standard 48 hours of rock and roll induced depression, we said fuck it, no one’s ever made it easy for us before and we started right into booking our own national tour- we’ve done it before and we’ll just do it again. With that said we’re going out with our friends from Chicago Split Habit for 3 weeks- west coast/southwest/midwest and we’re doing the rest of the country on our own. Then we’re off for our second trip to the UK in the fall. We’ve never had a booking agent in almost 8 years of the band and we’re up to 600 shows.
What do you feel sets AOF apart from other bands and why should people listen to you?
Well I’m the wrong guy to ask cause I’m biased and I love this band but I can tell you this. We’ve watched a lot of bands we’ve come up with get big and change for the worse and we’ve watched even more bands break up over lack of attention or money or a label. But what I think sets us apart is we’re still the same guys who started this band and more so we’re still together. We’re coming up on 8 years. We slowly get a little bigger each year and I think no instant success or attention and having to work for our place in the rock world has made us extremely humble and appreciative of what we do have. Granted we’re dead broke and buy the time your read this our merch company will most likely have issued a warrant for our arrest but we’re still having so much fun. I had one of those “man I wish more was happening with the band days”. I had sent like a ton of emails out for booking the tour- had like no replies and I was kinda bumming but then we all went out to dinner tonight and just had such a blast driving home- telling jokes and stories and I thought- yeah it’d be nice to have this or that going on but I’m really happy to be in this band with these people and making the music we do. That’s inherently more important then some glossy add or big tour. We just try and write songs that we really like and hopefully will get stuck in your head for a couple of days. As for our live show we completely go for it. We’re not scared to play with anybody. We tweak live. We’re not tortured artists. We treat our fans like friends. We want to get to know them. We don’t hide out in a bus. We’re accessible. We try to be the band we would of loved to meet and go see when we were growing up. When I meet a band as a kid it meant a lot to me- when they were dicks it really let me down. Still does actually. We’re nice guys. I know that isn’t good for a band’s image and labels want tortured artists but you got to be true to yourself and if that wasn’t a ramble I don’t know what is!
Is there any other bands out there in the scene today that you're really into?
Of course a lot of bands that are on labels but not like they need anymore press- let’s think of some smaller ones. We’re all into Split Habit- amazing 3 piece hard working power pop band from Chicago. Suburban Legends puts an incredibly fun live show especially if you’re a ska fan. If you’re into a more reggae groove type thing check out Anchondo from Omaha. For a really good rocking indie type band find Le Meu Le Purr from Ventura. If you’re in the mood to laugh while you rock (God forbid!) find the new Parry Gripp solo record where he does 51 commercial jingles. He was the lead signer of Nerf Herder a band whose back catalog is nothing to mess with. Speaking of old school, The Hippos “Head’s Are Gonna Roll” record was a big influence on AOF. Find that in the used section and thank us. Remember Wheatus? Well they finally got around to getting their second record back from the major and it’s out in the states finally and it kicks ass. Point is there’s a lot of good stuff out there that no one is talking about cause no one is spending money on it. Just because you haven’t heard of a band doesn’t necessarily mean they suck.
I try to ask this next question as much as possible, hoping someday i'll get a really crazy answer out of it, so here goes nothing. Have you guys had any wild experiences on the road (jokes, pranks, random bullshit) that you'd care to share with us?
Oh yeah- you have to in order to stay sane. We’re big advocates of the baby powder on the pillow trick. Powder on a nice white pillow guy goes down face first- bang! He looks like a crack addict. What else? Try pouring crickets in another band’s van. They’ll remember your tour together for a long time- especially at night. Also I stuffed Aaron our guitarist’s suitcase once with trail mix after Warped Tour in Washington. He flipped out. Buried all his possessions and took to the woods for a few hours. Came back later covered in mud reciting “Ocean Avenue” over and over again. We had to turn his mic off for weeks. He never really has been the same. I blame it on the “Van Band On Warped Tour Syndrome”. It’s a clinical issue. Very serious. Expect an outbreak in the next few months.
Well, that's all the questions I have. Do you have any last words you'd like to leave our readers with?
Well thanks for wanting to talk to us. It’s been a pleasure. I am addicted to Absolute Punk. I go there everyday. I find it frightening how AP knows everything! I mean everything. A trombone player from a Christian death metal ska band in the Himalayas has his braces removed and you guys get the scoop. It’s down right impressive. Sorry if I rambled too much. My mother drank nothing but Yoo Hoo during pregnancy. The effects have been devastating. I talk too much, can’t do math and hate the taste of cilantro. Besides my issues… come out to a show this summer! We double dig dare ya. Looking forward to seeing all our friends out there. Feel free to email or im us anytime- our contact info is on the site at www.armyoffreshmen.com <http://www.armyoffreshmen.com> and thanks to everyone who cares. Means a lot.
Thanks again for doing this interview. I appreciate it.
Dude!!! I didn't know Wheatus was even still around, let alone have another album out. That's kick-ass, their debut was, to quote old people, "the cat's pajamas," so now I gotta go look for it. Nice interview, yo. I saw these dudes for about three minutes at Warped last summer and HAD to get their CD!!! That was the good stuff- "Get Um Up Get Um Up Let's Go!!!"
yeah i met them at the Fall Flipside Fest, i just went up to them to tell them they had a really great live show, and when they found out that both my friend and i were named Amanda the lead singer...and one of the other guys was like "YOU HAVE TO BUY OUR CD!! THE LAST SONG IS WRITTEN ABOUT YOU!"