Interview With Army Of Freshmen - 19th April 2011

Photo Of Army Of FreshmenBen caught up with Aaron Goldberg and Chris Jay from Army Of Freshmen to talk about their ten years as a band, plans for future releases and much more.

You’re over here playing a handful of UK dates before you head to Belgium for Groezrock at the weekend, how have the shows been going?
Aaron Goldberg (Guitar/Vocals): The shows have been great, tonnes of kids have been coming out and there’s a lot of energy. We haven’t been over here for a while so it’s just nice to see people come back and really be excited. We’re having a great time.

Chris Jay (Vocals): I think last night was actually one of my favourite shows of all time. It was complete insanity; there was a stuffed penguin raped on stage! There was a lot of mess and a lot of energy. Like Aaron said, if you don’t see someone for a while you’re excited and I think that’s been coming across on stage. So yeah, it’s been good. We’ve been playing small clubs full of total rockers and the people that are there are all excited. That’s what I like to do, I’d rather play in front of ten people that are pumped up than a thousand people that couldn’t give a shit.

You’re going to be opening the main stage on Friday, how do you feel about this?
Aaron: We can’t wait. We’ve never played the main stage at any festival before, I’m ecstatic.

Chris: What about Midi?

Aaron: Oh yeah, we played the main stage in China. To be fair there was only one stage though! It was either that or the parking lot!

Chris: We’re really excited but the only thing we’re concerned about is whether people are going to be there. We’re on so early on the first day, we’re the first band and I’ve heard that traffic is a nightmare. We know that it’s not going to be insane, but obviously we don’t want to be on a big, awesome stage and play in front of two people! We’re just praying that people come early. Saturday’s the big day, they really stack it with amazing bands. Friday seems like a bit of a warm-up day so we’re hoping that people come down. I haven’t really thought about it too much because I’ve been so caught up with these UK club shows, it hasn’t dawned on me that we’re going to be playing a festival.

Aaron: You know it’s in three days?

Chris: Yeah…

You’re no strangers to playing to large audiences across the world, do you still get nervous before festival shows?
Aaron: I don’t think we get nervous as such, we just get excited. We like bringing energy and hopefully getting the crowd to love us. We kind of pride ourselves on the crowd not hating us at the least! We love that people will come and see us and although we may not necessarily be their thing they can at least admit that we rocked. We like the challenge of a big crowd in a place we’ve never been before.

Chris: Like I said before, the only thing that I’m worried about is whether there are going to be any people there. You see these big events and you know that there are going to be 15,000 people there in three hours, but who knows?

Aaron: When we play in front of a big crowd it usually goes over, we give them a good time. We convey the fact that we’re enjoying playing music, we give it to them.

You recently released the video for ‘Body Parts’, it looked like a fun video to shoot…
Chris: It was a blast, we did the whole thing in one day. We wrote the treatment, we did all the casting and all the costuming – we got really involved. Things are different now, we’re not going to make a $10,000 video again, so we had to find hook-ups. We found a local director and he used a local theatre school and favours, friends and hook-ups. We ended up getting what we think is a really professional looking video for a very, very cheap budget. I think that’s what bands are doing now, there was a time where you’d know if a lot of money was spent on a video, but now that’s out the window. You see videos that were made for two $2000 that look like a $100,000 video. Right now we’re just hoping that Kerrang! and Skuzz pick it up. TV always helps, especially over here. We don’t come over as much as we used to, so we sort of need that extra momentum of having something on TV.

Aaron: We were sort of hoping that it’d would make it onto TV before this tour, so it would give it a bit of a push. Now we’re realising that this tour could give the video a push and that would give us a reason to come back over again!

Whose idea was the Wild West theme?
Aaron: That was definitely Chris’ idea. He’s a huge Western fan; he loves every aspect of them. He knows way too much about the subject, he’s always renting the worst Western movies ever made and loving them. He was always talking about renting a huge ghost town, but in the town that we live in there’s a film school that has that set, it was perfect. We just got all our friends, a horse and everything.

Chris: I guess we always thought that we’d never be able to pull it off because it would be too expensive. Okay, it doesn’t look like a John Wayne movie, but it doesn’t look bad either.

Aaron: It was almost a dream dressing up as a cowboy! He (Chris) was just twirling guns all day!

Chris: What more could you ask for? When you’re a kid you dress up and play Cowboys and Indians! You always read that when an actor is in a Western, even if it’s a piece of shit, they always say that it was the funnest movie that they ever shot.

There’s definitely a sense of humour behind this and other videos, would you say that you don’t take yourselves too seriously?
Chris: Absolutely. There’s enough angry, screamy, scary music out there. We’re fun, just the opposite. The more fun we have the more fun the crowd has. These shows have been pretty spontaneous and I think that that’s when we’re at our best. When I go and see a band I want some spontaneity, I don’t want them to just stand there and play the same thirteen songs, say thank you at the same parts of the show and then be done.

Aaron: When I was a kid and going to see bands I wanted to be entertained. I wanted to go and have a fun experience, not just stand and watch people play music. I wanted to almost be involved, so we try to do that. We tried to do that with the video, we wanted to make it fun and personable. We wanted to show that we actually have personalities beyond the music.

After having spent what seems like years constantly on tour, do you find it difficult to adjust to life back at home?
Chris: Honestly, it’s the complete opposite! We were on tour a lot for a long time and then the economy shifted, a label that we were involved with went under and touring slowed down, not just for us but for a lot of bands. It’s a weird switch for us because now we’re home a lot, not living ordinary lives, but just living our day-to-day lives. To come over and do a two week tour like this is like a vacation! We’ve all be in the best moods because we appreciate it so much. I think back to some of those tours and yeah, we did have a great time, but maybe there were some nights where I was just going through the motions. Now I try to play a show like I’m never going to play a show again.

Aaron: It’s nice to get the opportunity in these times. Like Chris was saying, you’re not really sure how many more times this is going to happen. We’re very thankful for every show.

Chris: There was a time where we hadn’t been over here in two years. You think back to 2007 and we did four tours here. So going from four tours a year to nothing was weird. It’s so nice to be back and it’s so nice that people remember us. We see it growing again, our Facebook hits have starting going up again, people start bringing friends again. I would say that it’s sort of a building process. We’re not naïve to the fact that we’re not as big as we used to be over here, but we haven’t lost it all – that’s what I’m thankful for. Those twenty kids in every city that haven’t forgotten about us, that’s really cool. Hopefully the next time we come over it’ll be a bit bigger, that’s how the game works.

You must have some pretty amazing tour stories, but is there one that you could pick out as being the craziest?
Chris: We definitely have some crazy ones, some of them probably aren’t even printable! What sticks out for me is the first time we went to Japan…

Aaron: I was just going to say that.

Chris: It was like the Wizard of Oz when you see behind the curtain, you know there’s this other life and suddenly, for one weekend only, you’re a part of it! We were opening up for Good Charlotte in Sapporo, at the time they were one of the biggest bands in the world. That may seem a little strange to say now, but they were literally on the cover of Rolling Stone that week. We went backstage and there they were, there was green rooms, catering and people waiting on you. You’d go to the after show and it would be you and a load of famous people, it was crazy. Then you’d go to a club and the guy from Sum 41 asks you to watch out whilst he pees in a bottle and then all over the bar!

Aaron: We were hanging out with The Strokes thinking, “Where are we?” It was our first time out of the country too, it was amazing.

Chris: Yeah, some bands come over here and they play in front of ten people, but we were in Japan, universally regarded as the coolest place in the world to play, and we were playing the biggest festival they had.

Aaron: It was like at that point on the ladder of success we were a four, but suddenly we’d woken up and we were at eleven!

Chris: It was only for one week, all these other guys were going off to do other festivals. I’ll never forget when we were at the airport and asking one of the other bands where they were going next and they were like, “We’ve got to go and do Reading and Leeds, where are you guys off to?” and I was like, “I’ve got to go back to work at the record store.” We could tell you so many stories from that tour. Aaron and I got mistaken for being in Good Charlotte in a mall and we got mobbed, we had to run away! If you’ve ever seen a film where two guys burst into a janitors office and he looks like he’s never seen two white guys, that’s exactly what it was like! Every time we’ve ever played a festival in every country it’s been amazing, we have some of the best memories from them.

You released the Close Encounter EP over here earlier this years, is this a warm up for a new album?
Aaron: I don’t know if our next move is a whole record yet. I only know that we’re probably going to do another three songs at least, we can promise that. I think that’s just the new way right now, to put out a full record is pretty daunting. If we can get three songs out two or three times a year then, to us, that’s just the same as a full record. It’ll be easier to grasp for the kids, to do a full record is very time consuming and expensive. What ends up happening, and I feel like this happened with our last record, Above The Atmosphere, which I believe to be an amazing record, is that people have stopped listening to full records now. People listen to singles now, so it seemed like a couple of songs off the last record just disappeared. I grew up listening to records, full length experiences which told a story.

Chris: Kids today live in the iPod generation, they listen to a song or two and that’s it.

Aaron: A full album might be too much for people to digest at the moment.

Chris: People’s palates have changed, it doesn’t taste right to get fifteen songs and listen to every one. At least until we see what happens in the world of music and what not, we’ll probably only do another EP, but make it good where each song is amazing.

Aaron: It’ll be a case of us writing six or seven songs and then picking the best ones. We’ll only release the absolute best that we can.

Chris: I can even see it being an EP trilogy or something like that; one last year, one this year and one next year, that kind of equals out to a full record. Maybe do another one at the end of this year with a video and then another one in spring next year also with a video. That was it’s still moving, but not overwhelming and daunting.

As you’ve been going over a decade now, where do you see yourselves in another ten years?
Chris: You never know what’s going to happen. I think it would be the most amazing thing in the world if Army of Freshmen existed for twenty years. We started from absolutely nothing, we were just jerking around in a coffee shop with no aspirations other than playing the local venue. From that to being on the other side of the world talking to you is awesome, I don’t care how you fill those two points. We keep on getting great experiences, they may not necessarily come at the rate that we want them and we accept that the industry’s changed. The phone isn’t going to ring every day but when it does ring I want to hear someone telling us that we’re going to be playing Groezrock. I don’t ever want to have to say that I cant, because I know that it’s going to be a great experience. I’m very happy with where we are, I feel like we’ve had a little rebirth from this tour, the video and the EP y’know? If we went home and did nothing for the next six months it would be a mistake, we need to gear up for our next move. Even if the next move isn’t happening for another six months, as long as you can tell people what it is, it keeps things moving.

Aaron: We know that there’s going to be a next move and you’re right, it might not be for six months but there’s no reason for us to not do that anymore. We’re still into it, we love writing music and we love playing it to kids, I’d love to say that in ten years we’ll still be doing that, but we may be filming our Anvil movie, who knows?

Finally, what do you have planned for the rest of the year?
Chris: I know what I’d like to do, but I don’t know how realistic that is. I’d like to record and put out another EP this year, then I’d like to come back here on a support tour at the end of the year, maybe very early next year. Every time we do a tour like this, no matter how big or small, a couple of opportunities come from it. It’s almost like a waiting game, we have a great agent and it’s a matter of time. I’d love to crack Germany, that’s a big country and I know a lot of bands do very well there, but it’s a matter of supporting somebody. We got our momentum over here from supporting bigger bands, but I feel really good about things so we’ll just have to wait and see.

Interview By Ben Connell
 Band Members

Chris Jay
Aaron Goldberg
Owen Bucey
Dan Clark
Kai Dodson
Mike Milligan
 Latest Releases
Army Of Freshmen - Close Encounter
Release Date - 1st June 2010

1. Close Encounter
2. Down At The Miracle
3. Body Parts
 Band Related Links
Army Of Freshmen Myspace