Army Navy Keeps Everything In Line

Army Navy Interview @ CMJ by ModernMystery. //  

Recently we met up with indie darlings, Army Navy. You may know them for their catchy songs, their tracks in Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist and their stellar cover of “Right Back Where We Started From.” The band’s second full length will be out this year and they show no sign of slowing down. This is surely an interview to read. Ben Gibbard geekery included. We talked to singer/guitarist Justin Kennedy and guitarist Louie Schultz about the history and future of Army Navy.

Modern Mystery: Where is your favorite place to play?

Justin Kennedy: We actually have better shows in New York. People are more excited about music here, or maybe people know about us more here for some reason. I honestly have no idea why, but we always have great shows here. We always have a great time.

How did you get involved with the Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist soundtrack?

Kennedy: The music supervisor who got the CD turned it into the editor who was putting together an early edit of the movie and was throwing in music. She was giving him stuff she thought was cool and it stuck, and kept sticking. Edit after edit the songs kept staying in and they got really attached to the song. We got two songs in the movie. The supervisor called us and said we’re the only band that has two songs in the movie, and they one of them was going to stay because they were getting down to the wire. They wanted to get rid of the second one because they wanted to feature as many bands as possible and they tried and tried to replace it, but there was so many viewings of the edit, they were totally attached to it and couldn’t get rid of it. Which was great for us. They wanted one of the songs for the soundtrack which was exclusive to the album. It was great for us because there was way more money going into the press than we could ever put into it. We gave them that song as an exclusive. We went to the premiere and us and The Submarines were the only bands representing. The director who we ended up chatting with and was super awesome…His manager was one of the producer’s husband of the movie and it was his Birthday the nigh of the premiere. They wanted us to sing Happy Birthday. I didn’t know they realized they wanted us to sing it to 300 people. We’re trashed. They took us backstage and announced us. It was the most uncomfortable and hilarious moment. Then the DJ tried to put a beat to “Silvery Sleds!”

How did everyone in the band meet?

Kennedy: I met Ben through a friend who had some early demos that I had. He was a musician looking to play something, and he was played with our old drummer Josh in another band. Josh was playing like avant garde Brazilian music. He was into it. We had a couple of other members including an ex-girlfriend of mine which was a bad idea who was playing keyboards at first. Then we had another girl playing keyboards and that didn’t work out. So we were like we need a guitarist who plays keyboard:

Louie Schultz: I played in another band with Josh briefly and the band broke up largely because the singer was heavy into crystal meth and tried to steal some of the band member’s equipment. I hadn’t talked to Josh in a while after that and I was going through my phone and was about to delete him. Then I figured I’d call him one more time before I delete his number. He picked up. It was a really awkward conversation. Before I hung up he said “Wait wait! Don’t you play keyboards too?” So he said come to the show, and I came and saw Army Navy, which was the Fever Zone at the time.

When did the name change?

Kennedy: It was after that. After Louie joined the band. Then Josh quit the band because he became a famous screenwriter. Pete Thomas played on the record who was from Elvis Costello and the Attractions. Through Josh then we found Doug, and he was amazing. We knew. He could do his own thing and sing. He responded to our Craigslist ad at the exact same time.

Does everyone bring in their own songs to a recording session or is it a collaboration?

Kennedy: I write the songs but everyone collaborates on everything that happens. When I first started making the band which I didn’t even know was going to be a band, I would just make up everything on fake drums and keyboards. Once everything solidified and everyone knew what to do and was confident about what the band was, I just came up with ideas and acoustics, and made Garage Band recordings of acoustics of that song and send it to those guys and we’ll just go into practice and jam on it and everyone will come up with their own ideas.

Are you releasing the new record on your own label?

Kennedy: We don’t know. To be announced!

What is the new album going to sound like?

Kennedy: Is Ska popular now? Because it’s going to be in the next year. It’s coming back. Swing dancing is making a resurgence! It’s adjacent but it’s definitely a new batch. It feels like a whole new thing to me. It’s a new wave of what’s going on. It’s totally going to make sense. All of my songs make sense together but there’s definitely too and we’re going to be really focused on getting it done. It’s going to be bigger and better and really strong.

Do you prefer being in the studio or being on tour?

Kennedy: I think studio probably. You can’t have one without the other. One feeds the other. The songs we worked on during the first record became what they did in the studio then playing them out so much. The band that we’ve become after releasing the first record has a lot to do with touring.

You used to be in a band with Ben Gibbard, is that right?

Kennedy: I knew him from high school. He’s one year younger than me and moved to my high school from somewhere in the east coast. His dad was in the military. We met because he either had a Spinal Tap tee shirt on or a Lemonheads tee shirt on. The Lemonheads tee shirt he wore all the time was a handmade tee shirt and it was so stupid. It was like the Lemonheads candy, he printed it out and made a tee shirt of it. I was like “Are you a fan of the candy or the band?” He made his own in art class. He was like “I’m a fan of the band,” and then we were best friends.

Do you still keep in contact?

Kennedy: Yea. He had a band before we started in high school called, it was the name of an R.E.M. song “Oddfellows Local.” I played one song with them during lunchtime and then we started our band towards the end of high school.

At what point in your life did you know you wanted to become a musician?

Kennedy: I kind of tried to kind of give it up for a while actually. I guess I’d write songs and stuff but I wasn’t enthused to be in a band. I wanted to play in bands and not do my own thing. I played with Ana from That Dog and her first solo record. Played with her, toured and recording a little bit. It got me excited and I thought I have these songs maybe I should do something with it. It got me focused like I really need to do this. Even if it was just me in my bedroom with my M-Box and my computer, I was just drawn to it and it feels right. We’re happy with the things we have done on our own. Putting this record out, selling records, touring, the movie, videos, kind of doing it our own way feels great. It makes us want to keep on doing it.

Where do you see the band 10 years from now?

Kennedy: It’s hard to say. We’re happy doing it now I’m sure songs keep coming, we’ll be inspired. I’d love to do it as long as we can. Hopefully not a reunion tour or covers night!


Devendra Banhart to Release New Album

Fresh from his transition to Warner Brothers/Reprise Records, freak folk  leader Devendra Banhart is set to release his major label debut. I don’t quite recall hearing that he made the jump from his former indie label but kudos to him for branching out. Banhart will release ‘What Will Be’ later this fall but there is no official release date yet. This will be his sixth record and the rumor is that there is an hours worth of material on it. Nice. Below is the tracklisting, and though no new music has really leaked yet, we’re leaving you with an old Banhart video below.

‘What Will Be’  Tracklisting
01 “Can’t Help”
02 “Angelika”
03 “Baby”
04 “Goin’ Back To The Place”
05 “First Song For B”
06 “Last Song For B”
07 “Chin Chin & Muck Muck”
08 “16th & Valencia”
09 “Rats”
10 “Maria Leonza”
11 “Brindo”
12 “Meet Me At The Lookout”
13 “Wiliamdzi”
14 “Foolin'”

Watch ‘Feel Just Like a Child’

Interview: Justin Rice of Bishop Allen


Last week after the Bishop Allen instore for the release of their new record ‘Grrr’  I had the pleasure of meeting up with singer/guitarist Justin Rice after the show for an interview. Justin with his easter plaid shirt and navy hoodie was beyond cheerful as he greated us hello. We headed out to the cold New York sidewalks for the interview and chatted about everything from influences, the new record and their stint in that little film staring Nick and Norah. 

How did you and Christian meet?

We went to college together, and we had English 10A Early British Writers together and we were in the same section. And we really didn’t talk to each other until one night we saw each other at a Jawbreaker show and the next day when we were in our section, we struck up a conversation and started playing music together.

Jawbreaker? Didn’t see that coming! Who are your influences?

I mean, we both worked at the radio station and so we were defiantly like record collectors and so there were tons and tons of bands we listened to, lots, and the influences are pretty wide from like 60’s Garage Rock to like, I don’t know, The Seeds, The Shangri-Las, The Castaways, and too, like Buddy Holly and the 50’s. Great 50’s Rock and Punk Rock from the 70’s. Talking Heads are a big influence and also I really like Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen and just beautifully written songs. So I sort of like them to have a lot of energy which is why I like early rock songs and punk rock songs, and then I like songs that have really interesting points of view like Bob Dylan’s songs, and Leonard Cohen.

How did you get involved with ‘Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist’?

They called us out of the blue, um the director, Peter Sollett had this script in development for like a year or so and was going around to shows trying to find New York bands that he liked to put into the movie. And he just came to one of our shows and it was like ‘I think you guys are perfect’. So they hired us, literally.

There have been a few rotating members of the band, why so?

Well Christian and I, the main two, have worked together for a really long time, and we have like a rapport and its um, really good to write songs as a duo and then start to work out the details with a bunch of different people. But we also have a lot of friends who play music and most of them play in a lot of different projects. So, most of the time when people aren’t playing with us at a given moment, it’s because they’re off working on a different project, and a lot of them will come back in. Um, it just seems to be a good way to work, to have the main two songwriters always there and then have people rotate in at times. People seem to like it as players and we like it as musicians.


Which do you prefer, being in the studio or being on tour?

I prefer being in the studio, but its much harder. Um, its like being on tour can be a drag and it can be a little bit boring when you’re driving for a long time.  But its mostly really really fun. But being in the studio, its harder, its more challenging. But like at the end of the day when you’ve made a new song its like really, really amazing.  You know its like the feeling you get from writing a new song is far greater than anything else I’ve ever experienced.

What was the overall inspiration for the songs on the new record?

Um, I don’t know, I think that there were, alot of it was…..we wanted to make a record that was really upbeat, and that had like a really strong rhythmic element, that was almost like chattering teeth, you know? Something you can dance to but not a dance record, you know? Something that brought the energy out in the percussion. And so I think alot of it, when we start to think like that, alot of the things that started to pop into my head were like school yard chants and double dutch. Um you know and also  a lot of songs that have lots of  ‘ma’ rhythm.

That’s a good word! I heard that several labels before had offered you contracts. What did Dead Oceans offer to you that the other labels couldn’t lure you in with?

We’ve been putting music for a long time by ourselves and we were pretty happy doing it. So we weren’t really looking for a label. There were some labels that came to us, um, and I don’t know, Dead Oceans was the one that came to us and explained very clearly how they could help us out. And they had a lot of enthusiasm but they were also really practical and really smart, and I don’t know, just how transparent they were about what they hoped to do, and how much we liked them as people is really what drew us in. It wasn’t a thing as much as it was them. They were good.


What inspires you to write a song?

Nothing! I don’t think its inspiration as much as compulsion. I mean for me, I try to find something, a thought that interests me, um whether its something I encounter in everyday life or something that I read. Or hear in another song or a thought that pops into my head. Usually those thoughts that are interesting to me, they make want to figure out why they’re interesting, and the way I tend to feel that out is by writing a song. So its a way of thinking.

What was the first musical instrument that you learned how to play?

Um, the guitar. But I think it turns out that I’m better at the piano, but I only discovered that a few years ago. I think my inclination is towards the piano.

How did the recording of ‘Grrr’  differ from recording ‘Charm School’ and ‘The Broken String’?

We did it all at once, we like did it really in a 3 or 4 month period and when we recording it, basically we recorded a lot of demos and Christian and I would split time in the practice space. He would go in the morning I would go in the afternoon. Once we had those demos, we actually went into a studio and worked to record and to mix, to record the drums and mix with like a producer which we’ve never done before. Its still about half home recorded, and the home recording is definitely more um, like was used more in a decisive manor. We used it to really figure out what we wanted it to sound like, and before I think that we just kind of would record over the period of a long time and put it all together at the end, you know whats finished. This time we were much more deliberate.


What made you decide to release the 12 EPs instead of one record?

I don’t know! (laughs)

Sounded like fun!

It was like a dare, like a challenge, we kind of dared ourselves to do it. Then once you commit to doing it, then you can’t back down because people would know and they’d say ‘Alright, we’ve got January, February, March, April….where’s May?’ you know? And like, even though, whether that’s true or not,  it feels true, that position, that  feeling of there being some external expectations, really makes you like live up to your word and finish what you need to finish. So it was like, it kicked our ass into finishing a bunch of songs.


What is your favorite song to perform live?

Um, I think my favorite song right now, although we kind of woofed it today, is ‘True or False’ because I get to play the wood blocks. And uh, I like playing those.

Who doesn’t like playing the wood blocks? You’ve been in a couple of movies. Which do you like more, acting in a movie, or playing music?

Playing music and that’s what I do most of the time. The movies that I’ve been in are kind of accidental, because they’re mostly made by the people that I know, and making music is what I do everyday.

If you weren’t in Bishop Allen, what would you be doing?

(long pause) I don’t know. Living it up, uh like doing some, building some houses in Africa or something. Living it up in Iceland, I have no idea. Its so hard for me to imagine.

Where do you see the band in ten years from now?

Hopefully we will continue to make music that’s decent (laughs), you know? Like I don’t see us giving up, and I’d like to keep, I  hope that in ten years I feel still excited about songs and making music, and that’s all that I can hope for.

What board game can you kick anyone’s ass at?

Trivial Pursuit! Easily.

Bishop Allen at Other Music 3-10-2009

Standing outside of Other Music in New York’s East Village (in the freezing cold), the line grew waiting for the highly anticipated Bishop Allen instore. On the release day of their third album titled ‘Grrr’ the band and attendees had a glimmer of excitement in their eyes. Waiting to hear the new record, Bishop Allen treated the crowd to a load of new tracks, along with some old classics.

With the room so packed you couldn’t even move, it didn’t stop us from having a stellar time. I noticed something last night in Justin Rice  that I haven’t seen with many other singers (as odd as this may sound). He has a great ability to truly connect with the audience. He looks in their eyes like he is talking directly to each and everyone of them. He’s having a conversation with them. A lot of singers don’t do this I’ve noticed, and quite frankily, this impressed me.

Bishop Allen played some brilliant tracks off of the new record like they’ve been playing them forever. ‘Grrr’is a nice progression from their prior work, but does not by any means lose the integrity and sound that Rice, Rudder and company bring into every piece of music they write. That’s the kind of thing that makes a band timeless, and Bishop Allen is the definition of that.

Check out more pictures of Bishop Allen at Other Music after the jump

*Stay tuned in the next few days for our Bishop Allen Justin Rice interview. Hint: He likes playing the woodblocks…alot*