The “high school Battle of the Bands” band.
It’s a right of passage for music fans and musicians alike. For the musician, it’s usually the first “real band” you formed. You’re 13. You learned power chords and a few covers. If you were a little ahead of your years, you may have pieced together one awful song that rips a Sum 41 chorus off blatantly. And then you play the show. From there, the only direction is up and the adrenaline rush of playing live in front of people actually paying attention is the selling point. For music fans, we all endure a handful of memorably awful high school bands. They come in many shapes and sizes, including but not limited to “the metal band covering Megadeth and Attack! Attack! in one set”, “the pop punk band that use church words when they cover explicit Blink 182 songs” and, of course, “the awkward kids that somehow completely ruin Green Day’s ‘When I Come Around’ for all time”.
Hearing the fact that the mean age of Californian pop punk act Emily’s Army rests right around sixteen years old brings the memories of past Battle of the Bands crawling out of the back of the mind as awkward as they were back then. But the Army doesn’t deserve lumping into the high school power chord crowd like most, as is evident by us crowning them our “Get Stoked on It” band of the month title. Maybe it’s the fact that they have the talent to write sounds akin to “When I Come Around” in their blood (drummer Joey Armstrong is the son of Green Day singer Billie Joe Armstrong) Or maybe it’s the simple fact that their debut record, Don’t Be A Dick, already mixes the band just fine into the Warped Tour scene with their sunny punk meshing bits of Green Day influence with modernized lyric work and quick wittiness. Now featured on Spin Magazine’s website and touring much of the US this summer (tour dates posted after the interview), the band have completely proved their ground not only as young musicians related to renowned veterans, but as a punk band trying to make their name just as big (if not bigger) than their forefathers.
Two Senses recently chatted with the band’s singer and guitarist, Cole Becker, about Don’t Be A Dick, Jack Black movies and touring in the middle of nowhere.
1. I figure the obvious question of “how was it like growing up with a rockstar” gets posed to Joey a lot, so let’s start things off differently. How did you all get into playing music?
Cole: Actually, when I was growing up, I listened to a lot of Green Day. But I also listened to a lot of Creedence Clearwater Revival, Jimi Hendrix, and older stuff like that. I’ve known Joey for as long as I can remember, and I’ve been around his family forever. But what really “frosted the cake” for me with music was the movie School of Rock. After watching it, I was done…I wanted to learn the guitar so bad and I finally started playing when I was 9. Since then, I have never stopped loving it.
2. If you could pick one album that you grew up with and inspired you to play music, what would the album be and why?
Cole: I think the biggest inspiration to me has been Creedence’s Greatest Hits CD. My mom loves Creedence, and I do too. To this day, I think that it still has the most amount of plays on my iPod.
3. How did you all meet/become a band?
Cole: When we were all little, my dad designed the Armstrong’s house. I guess we just seemed like nice kids, so Joey, Max and I would have play dates all of the time. After seeing School of Rock, Joey and I became a band and invited Max to join. After a while, we got a gig at my sister’s birthday party. However, the day it fell on, I broke my wrist. Joey went to a different school and knew a kid named Travis, who we called and asked to learn our songs and play with us that night. Luckily, he is a fast learner, and we did great. We loved having him around, so he stayed with us.
4. The new album’s called Don’t Be A Dick. Is there an underlying reason for naming the album that? It is for fun or to call out specific people?
Cole: Other than it being something we say to each other to keep us all in check, Don’t Be A Dick means a few other things. A lot of the songs call out dicks, so it seemed to fit. We knew that we wanted it to catch the eye, which I hope it does. I also just really like the way it flows.
5. You have songs on the record that call out athletes who make for shitty role models(“Asslete”), slutty girls on Halloween (“Ho-lloween”) and, of course, the quintessential “fuck the police” song (“Bad Cop”). You’ve all seemed to bypass writing the typical “in love with a girl” or “this girl broke my heart, I’ll write angry songs forever” type songs, so where would you say you draw influence to write?
Cole: I guess I’ve just never really felt the need to write about that stuff. I get really affected by the world around me, and I just write down what I see, hear, and feel. I figure you hear enough songs like that already, so why not write about something else for a change.
6. You’ve already toured the US as a relatively young band, so I figure you guys must have a few token “crazy tour stories”.
Cole: I have a bunch. My favorite, though, is when we were in Olympia, Washington. We were scheduled to play at this place called The Hall of the Woods. Our friends in Bobby Joe Ebola and the Children Macnuggets, who we were playing with that night, had warned us thoroughly about the place [and] about how strange it is. The whole time, I was thinking to myself “Yeah, alright, it can’t be THAT weird.” So we get off the highway and pull down this road. As we were driving, the forest got thicker and thicker around us. Our GPS thing said that we had passed it, but there clearly wasn’t anything there. So we back peddled, just to make sure, and sure enough it had appeared. It was an abandoned church that was painted black, with a hand carved sign that said “Hall of the Woods” above the porch. It didn’t look like anyone was there, so we knocked on the door, and out came a very tall skinny guy named Elm. He had some hand done spiritual tattoos on his face, and what looked to be a four year beard. He let us in, and we unloaded. The opening act, Adam, was a very eccentric dude. When my brother approached him to congratulate him on his set, he replied just with the words, “Gaping hole.” We played well, and a solid twenty people showed up, which was surprising, because, as previously stated, it was in the middle of nowhere. Needless to say, it was an experience.
7. What would you say are your goals for Emily’s Army in the next few years? World tour? Awards? Survival of the apocalypse?
Cole: My main goal is just to stay as true to what we are as possible. I don’t want to get caught up in anything but the music. My guitar teacher Mitch’s favorite quote is “live your truth,” and it is one of the most influential sets of words that I know.
8. If you could sum up the band in one word, what would it be?
Thanks to Emily’s Army for chatting with us. Their new record, Don’t Be A Dick, is out via Adeline Records on iTunes/Amazon. The band is touring the rest of the summer at the following locations:
- 8/3 – Los Angeles, CA – The Roxy w/ Fever Charm
- 8/4 – Long Beach, CA – Dipiazza’s w/ Fever Charm
- 8/6 – Huntington Beach, CA – Pipeline To A Cure (Benefit Show)
- 8/11 – Cambridge, MA – TT The Bears w/ Chixdiggit, Kepi Ghoulie
- 8/13 – Baltimore, MD – Insubordination Fest
- 8/15 – Portsmouth, NH – Slaughterhouse 5 w/ Dopamines
- 8/16 – New Brunswick, NH – The Loft w/ Black Wine, Nuclear Santa Claust