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!