Army Of Freshmen

By paul

As an army of teenage punk fans gathers outside the Hammersmith Palais in anticipation for the final show of the inaugural ‘Get Happy Tour’, The Army of Freshmen are just wrapping up their sound check inside the condemned 2,000 capacity venue. Despite sounding incredibly slick, vocalist Chris Jay is something of a perfectionist.

“It’s a totally weird mix up there on stage. As soon as you move two feet to the left or right, you get a completely different sound. It’s like ‘oh, there’s the keyboards; but my voice is coming out over there!”

Later on, it becomes apparent that he indeed had nothing to worry about, as their performance is nigh on CD-perfect. In the meantime, Chris, and fellow Fresher Kai Dodson sit me down to tell Punktastic all about life on the road, life back home, and amongst other things, what it’s like touring with one of the world’s most renound party-bands.

“You know a really bad cold slash flu hit the first week into the tour, and it actually ended up with Brandon from Wheatus being hospitalized and he missed three shows. That sort of put a bit of a dampening on the party. Manchester was just insane though. It was Saturday night, a sold-out 2,000 people show at the Academy and after that show it was just ON. The entire tour descended on this pub across the street. It was just insane. We were there until they kicked us out! Then we went to our bus and had an acoustic jam session where Jaret and Eric got out the guitars. A couple of the kids from the show got on with us, and they were just totally freaking out. They were stuffed on a bus for a private acoustic show with members of Army of Freshmen and Bowling for Soup just passing around the guitars doing covers until like 4 in the morning! After I left the bus, I actually witnessed Chris from BFS getting his ass beat with a small tree someone had cut down.”

“I don’t think the last person went to bed until about nine a.m.!” adds Kai, with a very content look on his face. However, these guys will be the first to admit that partying can always take its toll on the shows you play.

“Man, Sheffield got a really rough show!. That was the one where everyone was hungover,” points out Chris. So tonight marks the end of a special couple of weeks for these young Californians. It’s the last performance for a band that has made some great friends in the UK, as well as spending time with the old ones.

“These are the best shows to see, but sometimes it’s a little bit sad as well. Some people are happy to go home and see their families, but some don’t want it to end”. Kai adds; “Nobody wants it to end, everyone’s having a really good time”.

Despite the Get Happy Tour drawing to a close, it’s not long before Army of Freshmen are back on the road with the Good to Go Tour in May. They’ve been long established as one of the hardest working bands in the business, and so with what little down-time they have, you’d expect them to be a very chilled out bunch of guys.

“When we get home, we almost don’t do much. We’ll go home and work our day jobs, and just relax until before we know it we’re back on the road again”. “Right now it’s good”, adds Kai. “We really don’t have anything booked until we come back here in May, so the first few weeks you’re just getting back into the routine of being at home”.

“The band really does take up most of our time. We could do Army of Freshmen nine to five if we wanted to. We’re pretty much doing it all, and we recently parted with our manager which has given us a lot more to do, in terms of planning an international tour. The paperwork on that alone is a nightmare!”

If you weren’t aware, Army of Freshmen are one of the few bands left doing absolutely everything themselves. From running their Myspace, to organising their own tours; they are a band that firmly have the DIY ethic engraved into their souls, and if it wasn’t for that this tour may never have happened in the first place. Chris explains; “We were on tour with Bowling for Soup in the Summer, and about a year ago we were throwing around ideas for the next one, and Kai suggested ‘Get Happy’, as it’s the name of a Soup song.”

Kai adds; “It’s basically been created so that us and Bowling for Soup can play together. We just get along so well, and the response from kids coming to a show where everything’s positive has been incredible. There’s no preaching and everyone is having such a fun time. We wanted to do something that was the complete polar opposite to Warped Tour, or even more so to the Taste of Chaos.” Chris is quick to point out that this isn’t a one off package-tour. Describing it as a work in progress, he’s keen to insist that so long as everything goes to plan, the Get Happy Tour will be invading UK shores again later in the year.

“It’ll probably be a different line-up, but next time we do it in both countries it’s going to be bigger and better. If we can get another band alongside Soup-status, that show will go to Brixton without any problem”.

It’s clear that Chris and Kai are both very proud of how successful the tour has been, and that it’s given them the opportunity to get their faces known this side of the Atlantic. At the time of writing this, the band’s first official UK release will have hit the shelves of music stores nationwide and the boys are very excited about how it’ll do. Again, Kai is keen to point out that it’s the DIY ethic that has got them to this point.

“We’re releasing it on our friend’s label – Brand New Hero Records. It’s not like a traditional release, but for a DIY record it could really have a lot of legs over here. We’ve worked for so long without help that we’re used to doing it all ourselves. We just thought ‘Fuck it, let’s put it out there’ and it’s really worked out great for us right now”.

“The industry’s falling apart right now,” adds Chris. “You can’t wait around for anyone to help you right now. We’re having all the success through doing it on our own as we would have with a label. Ok, maybe we’d have a little more financial backing no doubt, but at the end of the day it’s the same result.”

Make no mistake about it, Army of Freshmen are a band who are in this for entirely the right reasons, and are finally getting to reap the rewards of their hard work. Look out in 2007 for the army, because this is going to be their year.

Andy R

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