Chris Jay – Army Of Freshmen Interview

"A man writes one song about time travel and the next thing you know, people think he's H.G. Wells!"

I had a chat with Chris Jay from Army Of Freshmen for an update on one of Flecking’s favourite bands.

Hello Chris, how are you?
I am good. Just woke up. Sitting on the couch. Gorgeous day. Making my to do list.

It’s been a while since we saw you in the UK, what have you been up to?
Been missing the UK frankly. It’s weird cause in ’07 and ’08 we practically lived there. 2009 to be honest was tough financial time for us, we had a label deal fall apart- not the first time that’s happened either. Not fair to complain though, ’cause I know it’s been rough for everyone out there, but the good news is we are seriously talking and making UK plans for 2010 along with getting ready to do some new recordings.

You toured China last year, how was that?
AMAZING. We didn’t know what to expect at all – in fact we heard some horror stories about playing shows there. Instead we played the biggest show of our career. Two massive festivals. Our first JumboTron shows too. Total dream. Wonderful place. Wonderful people.

Are Chinese fans different from US fans?
Absolutely. They are much crazier because rock and roll is a relatively new thing there. It didn’t come to their country ’til the late 70s and early 80s. But you can also tell some things aren’t the same, like they don’t buy any merch really or CDs – they are all pirated there.

Are US fans different from UK fans?
Yup. UK fans I think are more passionate. I mean, a fired up UK crowd is hard to beat. On the flip side, I don’t think you need me to tell you that UK fans tend to find artists first and also bail on them first. You can get big there quick but also disappear quick.

What do you love/hate about touring in the UK?
Love the people. Love the culture. Love the magazines. Love the double decker tour buses. Hate most of the food (Wagamama rules) and how everything closes early. Also hate that a lot of the showers are with those weird box things that have no pressure.

Any plans to come back and see us soon?
Yes. One of our goals this year is to get back there. Miss it terribly. Should have some news on that front soon.

Are there any plans for another Get Happy tour?
Honestly. I don’t know. I would love for there to be another one. Bowling For Soup have been busy with their new record, which is great by the way, and we didn’t tour much in 2009 so that slowed the idea down a lot.

Do you think bands can survive without a record label these days?
Oh yeah. Unless a label is gonna give you real money or invest real money in promoting you, there’s no reason to have one. Anyone can get on iTunes worldwide and there’s no more record stores really. It’s harder now to make a living at it but it’s easier to spread the word.

You guys are keen MySpacers, do you think it’s important to keep in touch with fans through social networks?
Totally. Sadly MySpace has been devastated by Facebook. I think people go to MySpace to listen to a band or grab some tour dates but as communication tool, seems like it’s all spam and invites. It’s hard to know how much time to put into it. I know some bands, they don’t write, they don’t play, they just promote online, that’s kind of self-defeating.

In an ideal world, how do we deal with music piracy?
Capital punishment? I don’t know. It’s here to stay and we have to get used to it.

Who has been your favourite band of the noughties?
The noughties? Haven’t heard that yet. Wow. I don’t know. A lot of the bands that I’ve always liked. Wheatus and Bowling For Soup are two bands that had a huge influence personally and musically on me in the past decade. They’re also personal friends so that helps. I’m hard pressed, two of my favourite bands of all time kinda let me down in the 2000s – they Might Be Giants and Weezer. Their recent records kinda broke my heart. Hard to even talk about really!

Who is going to be big this decade?
God only knows. I don’t think you’ll see that many get big big. The days of the U2s and Madonnas, the mega stars, those days are over. Not enough people are caring about music like they used to. Of course one or two will always slip through the cracks or the sewers more likely, say a Lady Gaga, but you’ll see artists more on the cult level. Less Wembley artists and more club acts.

Where do you see yourself in a decades time?
I hope happy. Hell, I would love to see Army of Freshmen exist for 20 years. Wouldn’t that be something?! I just want to make a living recording, writing, and performing music. Some combo of that. Throw in some travelling. I don’t need to be on the road all year but it’s in my blood. I like to travel. Also I’m starting to dabble into writing for TV and movies. I’ve got my first speaking role in a film that’s coming out this year and there’s some top secret TV and movie things in the works. But first things first and that’s getting some new AOF music out there and getting back to the UK!

Any predictions about the music industry for 2020?
It will look absolutely nothing like it does today and that’s probably a good thing.

Describe AOF in three words.
Army of Freshmen.

And now for a couple of questions from Brendan B Brown (Wheatus)…

How are east coast American girls different from west coast ones?
East Coast girls have more of a tough aspect to them. I think at the end of the day, I’d pick an east coast girl over a west coast girl. Maybe because I’m from there and you like what ya know, but they’re a little more real, generally speaking of course. Midwest girls and southern girls though are the most, how shall we, prone to party? That’s a different conversation though!

Why are all AOF songs about time travel?
A man writes one song about time travel and the next thing you know, people think he’s H.G. Wells!