Features First Person

You Sing I Write’s May/June Wrap Up

I had the opportunity to tour with my first band back in 2008 when I was an intern at Rolling Stone. It was not as glamorous as I had previously thought, but an experience nonetheless. The band was Army of Me and I was in a tiny van with four guys as they toured with The Used. While it was a rite of passage I’ll never forget, I’ve always wondered what life on a tour bus is really like and I finally got to find out this year when I spent 24 hours on the road with Hunter Hayes as he broke a Guinness World Record for the most shows in 24 hours in multiple cities.

I spent 24 hours en route on a media bus where I tested out the bunks, realized the awkwardness of using the bathroom and had a newfound appreciation for the road life that so many artists deal with every day. You can read my full recap on

While I may not jump at the chance to travel the country on a tour bus myself, I wouldn’t say no to the next band opportunity. What was even more exciting was that that experience presented me with my first ever music plaque. I have a few softball trophies under my belt, but a music plaque is definitely a first.

That Hunter Hayes experience was just one of several that exhilarated me so far this summer and made me stop and cherish this crazy journey of being a music journalist. Last month, I interviewed Jason Mraz who I had grown up listening to. He was pretty much my college roommate’s life soundtrack and whenever I hear “I’m Yours” I’m always reminded of her ringtone.

I have not been that nervous for an interview in a very long time. I usually still get butterflies, but this time it was a huge knot in my stomach. He turned out to be more than cool and just a super chill person. Basically, exactly what you’d think he’d be like in real life. Watch our chat below.



Another highlight was interviewing Miranda Lambert. She just released her new album Platinum and while I only got 15 minutes with her, I was taken aback by how down to earth she was. While she’s married to perhaps the most popular man in country, Blake Shelton, she was so incredibly nice and even gave me some hilarious, yet questionable advice about turning 30 in November. “There’s always Spanx and Botox, you’ll be fine.” Watch my interview with her below.



I was lucky to spend some time chatting with the guys of The Wild Feathers over beers and found a new favorite band in married duo Johnnyswim during an interview. Also, Naughty Boy told me my interview with him was like therapy, which reaffirmed my decision to major in journalism and not psychology. Now I have the best of both worlds!

Stay tuned for more adventures next month. I promise to update more often! In the meantime, follow me on Twitter and Instagram to keep up with my day-to-day.

CD Reviews

EP Review: Army of Me’s “Make Yourself Naked”

In an age where Auto-Tune is recognized as music and overproduction takes the place of the stripped down and acoustic, Army of Me‘s latest EP, Make Yourself Naked is a welcomed reminder of where it all begins. On Make Yourself Naked, singer-songwriter Vince Scheuerman breaks things down and takes the listener on a journey.

“I never intended for anyone to hear this music,” Scheuerman said. In fact, the recordings on Make Yourself Naked were originally meant to be song ideas and demos for the next Army Of Me record. It was recorded on his laptop, in his bedroom in Washington DC.

Reminiscent to that of Switchfoot singer-songwriter Jon Foreman’s seasonally themed EP’s released last year, Scheuerman pours his heart and emotion into each track, inviting listeners into his bedroom. With the overlying theme of love, the EP includes the beautiful “Don’t Be Long” and “Love Song” (listen below).

While a definite contrast from Army of Me’s debut album, Citizen, the five-song EP was Scheuerman’s first attempt at self-recording: he only had a microphone, guitar, keyboard and laptop to work with. The result is a raw EP of honesty and intimacy.

Revealing his vulnerability, with delicate finger strumming on “Love Song” Scheuerman sings, “Love I want to give myself away/Love I want to receive you back in the same way/I make no sense on my own/We’re meant for each other/This is love/I forgot the part of my heart that could burn for someone/Happy surprise when I can’t take my eyes from you/You are something sweet/Surely have captured me/But I know I will stay anyway.”

“Lost At Sea” draws numerous aquatic metaphors, allowing the listener to come to his own conclusion while “On My Way” paints a vivid picture of a man on a long and uncertain journey. Beginning with soft strokes of the piano, “Don’t Be Long” ends the EP with an ethereal chorus to the fadeout of the song, begging the listener to question what’s in store next for Army of Me. A solid release, it is hard to believe Make Yourself Naked was recorded in Scheuerman’s bedroom on a laptop. Nonetheless, it is often these intimate moments that make the best music.

To listen to “Love Song” click here. Be sure to visit Army of Me on MySpace for tour dates and to purchase the EP.

Related Links:
Audio Interview with Vince Scheuerman of Army of Me
I’m With the Band
Army of Me Invades Brooklyn
Q&A; with Vince Scheuerman

Features Q&A

Top 10 Interviews

While I’ve been taking suggestions on revamping my blog, some advised cleaning up the sidebar and deleting older interviews to make it easier on the eyes. After much thought, I really can’t just weed out certain interviews because each has a life of its own. Maybe its the frank musician that discussed exactly what’s wrong with the label executives, or the bass player that told me just how “gross” groupies are, regardless, each artist I’ve talked to needs to be showcased. So, when you’re bored at work or just surfing the Web, you have plenty of reading material on your hands.

While going through each interview I came up with my “Top 10” list of interviews that have surprised me or left an impact. Here’s my Top 10 list, in no particular order.

1. Jon Foreman of Switchfoot (photo above)
I’ve been listening to Switchfoot since high school. I’d buy tickets with friends and we’d travel to NYC together at least once a year to see them live. One year, when covering the show for MTV’s concert blog, I was able to meet the guys, and interview frontman Jon Foreman. To meet one of your favorite musicians and talk to him about life, his fears of being a songwriter and pretty much anything else you’d want to know was truly one of the best moments in my music writing career. Read the in-depth interview here.

2. Colbie Caillat
I remember my cousin from California mentioning Colbie Caillat on his visit to New Jersey right after her debut album was released. A few weeks later “Bubbly” exploded on the radio and I just had to buy myself a copy of her album. The next summer she was going on tour with one of her biggest influences (and mine) — John Mayer. I was able to set up an interview for the blog and was surprised at how humble and down to earth she was. Talking about her stage fright before performing and thoughts on just why “Bubbly” took off, Colbie shared insight into her life before and after her music invaded the airwaves. Read all about it here.

3. Marko DeSantis of Sugarcult
This was my first impromptu band interview. Before catching Sugarcult’s set at Starland Ballroom, I noticed a group of fans by the stage door talking to someone. My friend found out it was Sugarcult guitarist Marko, so I asked to interview him. Why not? He wrote down his email address in my notebook with the casual, “Just don’t show this around” and I emailed him questions a few days later. My first nationally published interview, it was featured on Jane Magazine‘s Web site. I still can’t believe I did that, but it paid off. Read the full email interview here.

4. Kris Roe of The Ataris (photo above)
I lucked out being able to interview Kris twice — first for Rutgers University’s entertainment section, Inside Beat, and last year for my blog. Having listened to The Ataris growing up, I attended a performance of theirs at Rutgers and was able to obtain an interview after talking to his manager. After interviewing him with my friend Monica, I remember leaving the room with the realization and determination that, “This IS what I’m going to do the rest of my life.” Haven’t looked back since. Read the full two-part interview with Kris from his performance at Maxwell’s last year here.

5. Joshua Radin
Incredibly honest about the music industry, Radin bought himself out of his five record deal with Columbia and put out his most recent release independently. Not to mention, it hit No.1 on the iTunes folk charts. Not too shabby. A class act to follow, Radin even performed at Ellen DeGeneres’ wedding. Read on for more of his take on the music business here.

6. Stephan Jenkins of Third Eye Blind
I was extremely nervous for this interview. 3eb was one of the most recognized bands of the 90s and having read up on past interviews with the band I was a little worried how mine would pan out. Luckily, it went extremely well — good enough to be used as my first interview feature on! You can read it on Marie Claire here.

7. Vince Scheuerman of Army of Me (photo above)
Possibly the most open singer-songwriter I’ve interviewed, my chat with Vince revealed many of the stories behind his songs, the struggle of making it in the music business and a typical day in the life of a musician. Read on for more here.

8. Tyson Ritter of the All-American Rejects
Oh, Tyson. Brutally honest and never afraid to hold anything back. Though it was a quick 3-question on-the-spot interview outside his tour bus at a concert, it’s one that will always stand out in my memory. Laugh about it here.

9. Jeph Howard of The Used
Okay, I must admit interviewing Jeph on their tour bus was definitely a highlight of the interview. Possibly the longest interview I’ve had, he chatted with me for nearly an hour about life on the road, groupies, and struggles the band has faced. Read all about it here.

10. Sia
Australian singer-songwriter Sia was definitely the most captivating and lively phone interview I have ever had. With her infectious laugh and refreshing take on the music industry, it’s interviews like these that make me continue pursuing this crazy career. You can read the interview featured on here.

That’s my Top 10. What’s your favorite? Did I miss one that should be added?


Blast From the Past: I’m With the Band

Ever since I booked my flight for Texas to attend the South by Southwest (better known as SXSW) music festival later this month, I’ve been reminiscing about touring with Army of Me last year. Definitely one of the best times at the start of my music blogging career, I learned a lot about a typical day in the life of a band. The struggles, the triumphs, the music. Originally written for my internship, I thought I’d post my brief blog entry about my experience below. Love to know what you think!

Growing up during the height of the boy band era and attending all their concerts, I’ve always wondered what it’s like being on the other side. Not the fan waiting anxiously for the doors to open to get a spot closest to the stage, but to be backstage. I’ve always been curious to what goes on behind the scenes of a tour — what bands do before the show, the real deal on groupies, what the inside of a tour bus looks like — the whole lifestyle.

A few weeks ago I got a chance to find out what really goes on during a typical concert when I toured with Army of Me on the “Get A Life” tour. I witnessed the diversity between an up-and-coming band, traveling from show to show in a small, smelly, 15-passenger van converted to fit five guys, their equipment and whatever else they need for months on tour and a more well known band, punk rockers The Used, who travel in a bus with separate bunks, a big screen TV and a back room nicely furnished, almost reminiscent of a living room.

Most surprising was how down to earth and friendly each band was. You hear stories of bands that have ridiculous requests or who are jerks to their fans and groupies, but this wasn’t the case. Speaking of groupies, do they even exist these days? Apparently they do according to bass player Jeph Howard of The Used, and he’s not too keen on them. “Groupies are gross. Groupies are the girls that sleep with all the other band dudes. I’m not down with that.” Although, maybe groupies only exist for the bigger bands. Army of Me drummer Dennis Manuel doesn’t think they have any. “Even if we have any groupies, if they make it far enough backstage and then out to the back of the club, and they see what we’re in [the van] it kind of kills the mood.” Good point.

My newfound knowledge of bands and their dislike for groupies wasn’t the only thing I learned on tour. I never realized how grueling touring could be and how it’s a lot less glamorous than I had previously imagined — it’s not all sex, drugs and rock & roll. Often it’s five guys in a hotel room sharing beds or having to push a broken down van to a nearby repair shop. While at points life on tour is rough, the good outweighs the bad and when I asked each member what they’d be doing if it wasn’t for music, they didn’t have an answer. In the end, it’s all about the music. Army of Me frontman Vince Scheuerman explained it as being all he wants to do right now. “This is my life, this is what I do. I play music and I believe in my music. As long as I feel that way I’m going to keep doing it. The day I wake up and I’m like, ‘I don’t want to do this anymore,’ I’ll figure something out.”

To read more of my interviews on tour with Army of Me and The Used click on the links for both bands on the right under Exclusive Interviews or read You Sing, I Write’s May archives.

Concert Reviews

Army of Me Frontman Opens Up at Acoustic New York Set

Taking the stage solo, Army of Me frontman Vince Scheuerman played to a standing room only crowd Wednesday night at the Living Room.

For me, life came full circle as I realized that it was just around this time last year that I first met Vince for Army of Me’s show at Union Hall in Brooklyn. My third “official” band interview for the blog, I remember walking away in awe of the pure honesty and amount that he revealed himself to me, a mere music journalist. Then I was struck with the immediate, “I HAVE to do this for the rest of my life” realization.

A few months later I was fortunate enough to go on tour with the band during the “Get a Life” tour with The Used, Straylight Run, Street Drum Corps and Lights Resolve — all great bands you should definitely check out if you haven’t yet. I spent two days touring with Army of Me; interviewing the guys and getting a feel for the real touring lifestyle. Let me tell you, it’s not as glamorous as it may seem.

Wednesday night at the Living Room, Vince reminded me of why small venues are my favorite. The intimacy. The onstage banter. The feeling that you’re having a conversation with the musician onstage.

Performing songs from Army of Me’s amazing debut album, Citizen (pick it up on iTunes, easily my most listened to album of the year) as well as a few new songs, Vince showed the audience his true colors as he told many of the stories behind his songs. Take “Perfect,” a solid song played on acoustic guitar of which he said was written “at the end of a six-year relationship where I realized I was the worst boyfriend ever and was so wrapped up with myself.” With light guitar picking, never overpowering the emotion of the song, Vince had the room paying attention to every lyric sung.

Having been off tour for a few months, Vince told the audience he’s been at home writing and debuted a few new numbers. Some still untitled, he told the room his tentative song titles throughout the night. Not a huge deviation from his debut album, the newer songs sounded a bit more personal and fit the acoustic, intimate atmosphere of the venue extremely well.

Heading over to the piano, he told the crowd, “If I had my way, I’d play piano 80% of the time and guitar 20% of the time. But, I’m not good at piano,” which seemingly presents a problem in that wish. Despite his lack of confidence in his piano playing, piano based “Better Run” continues to be my favorite song of theirs played live. Slowing down the night, you can feel the emotion throughout the lyrics as Vince sings, “If you find that your life would be better off without me/If you’re running full speed and it feels good to be free/If you know it in your soul, though it’s hard to let it go/You better run, you better run.”

Another song from Citizen, “2 into 1” he asked, “If you love someone, is there anything you can’t forgive?” before telling the crowd, “That’s the idea of this song.” The rest of the night included more of a behind-the-scenes look at each song performed as well as a few personalized dedications to long-time fans in the crowd.

As the year draws to a close, Wednesday night’s set reminded me of why I began this blog just over a year ago. Showcasing musicians like Vince that I probably would never have stumbled upon years ago and seeing their progress as a band over the years is so inspiring. I’m excited to see where Vince and the rest of the guys from Army of Me will be up to in the next few years!

Vince will be playing another acoustic set in Arlington, Virginia this Thursday, so if you’re in the area be sure to catch it! For more on Army of Me and future tour dates, check out their MySpace. And, if you haven’t read my interview with Vince from last year yet, click here.

Photo courtesy of Wendy Hu.


Colbie Caillat, Army of Me Featured on Team USA Olympic Soundtrack

I’m so excited to report (as I’m currently watching the USA men’s volleyball team destroy Argentina) that two of the artists I’ve covered and interviewed earlier on my blog have songs featured on the Team USA SoundtrackColbie Caillat and Army of Me. These songs include Caillat’s light and airy “Somethin’ Special,” written exclusively for the soundtrack as well as Army of Me’s acoustic version of “Perfect” from their debut album, Citizen. Other artists on the album include Sheryl Crow, Goo Goo Dolls, Taylor Swift and Queen Latifah.

By checking out AT&T;’s Website you can watch the music video for each artist’s song as well as two interviews where they explain the inspiration behind the song chosen as well as their favorite Olympic moment, among other topics. You really get to know more about each musician as they talk about what the Olympics mean to them, the similarities between athletes and musicians and how inspiring others through their music affects them.

To check out Army of Me’s page on AT&T; click here.
For Colbie Caillat, click here.
And, to view the other artists featured on the album check out the AT&T; Website‘s artist lineup on the right side of the page. If you like the tracks, be sure to download them as a ringtone before the ceremony ends on August 24!

If you recognize the Army of Me photo from previous posts, it was taken by my friend Wendy Hu and it’s also featured on the AT&T; Website!

Michael Phelps in 30 minutes! You think he can beat the all-time record? I don’t doubt it for a second.


Audio Interview with Vince Scheuerman of Army of Me

Editing down these interviews has taken a lot longer than I had previously expected. I’m hoping to get more of my interviews up in audio format from the “Get A Life” tour soon . . . can’t make any immediate promises though. Here is my interview with Vince broken down into two segments, each about 10-minutes long for your listening pleasure. Let me know if this is a good length, I know everyone has busy lives and you don’t really have time to sit down and listen to a 40-minute interview, so I tried to cut it down to the most interesting parts. Enjoy!

Click here to listen to Vince talk about how Army of Me prepares for tour, what they do on their days off and how their new pre-show ritual came about.

Click here for more from Vince on how the audience’s vibe impacts his performance, getting dropped when jumping into the crowd to crowd-surf, the struggles of being in a band and more.


Q&A with Dennis Manuel of Army of Me

This is my third of four interviews featured from the guys of D.C. based band Army of Me. I’m hoping to post my last interview as well as get some audio formats of the interviews up soon. If you haven’t yet, be sure to check out Army of Me and catch a show! They’ll be playing Bowery Ballroom in NYC next Thursday, May 29! Below is my interview with drummer Dennis Manuel. One of the founding members of Army of Me, Dennis chatted with me during the “Get A Life” tour about the arduous task of naming a band, how he came to be a part of Army of Me and signing his first autograph.

Tell me a little bit about how Army of Me began.
We just kind of met through mutual friends, me and Vince. I wasn’t really playing any instruments yet. I was screwing around enough to keep a beat. We got together in a buddy of our’s basement. I think we jammed like once and then I moved to New York for two years and I was still kind of playing. When I moved back we got together again. I don’t think we were taking it seriously. I don’t think we’re taking it seriously now, it just kind of snowballed slowly and slowly and slowly and then we got into songs and what’s best for the songs and it got serious. It’s kind of weird because this is my first band and to have come as far as we have. Normally, it’s the third band.

What were you doing in New York?
I was 19 and I basically wanted to get out of my mom’s house. Instead of college, I went to New York and I went to a trade school for recording. I didn’t really know what I was doing. I just was going up there to see what it was like, working in the studio. My friend got married and me and his cousin went up there, had one drunken night on a roof top and decided to form a band and take over the world. That didn’t really work out, but it did get us to move to New York, which was fun. That wasn’t really serious; I think we got together once a month. I moved back because I was tired of being broke and Vince called me up, two years after that one jam we had, and he had written a few songs. We just started there, song after song.

You guys went by different band names.
We started as a three-piece and we were trying to come up with a name and we had all these lists. It was such a painful process. I had this basement apartment where we rehearsed all the time and Vince’s girlfriend at the time came downstairs and we were throwing names at her. And she was like, “What about Lioness.” After everyone had said like a hundred no’s, we were like, “That sounds cool. Where did you come up with that?” And she said, “It’s on your wall.” I had this hook and knot that my first babysitter made for me. They look like rugs, but it’s a picture. And it was of Lioness from Charlie Brown. So that was our first name. I actually have a Yoda hook and knot in my kit drum. It’s for the force. So Lioness was our first name and then there was another Lioness and we had to change the name.

One of your names was Cactus Patch?
I think it was actually Catus Hatch, which I don’t know how we came up with. It was really an awful name. But, again, with the lists, the endless freakin’ lists. It’s impossible. On one of Vince’s lists, I saw catus, and I thought it had a ring to it. I was like, “What is it?” Vince is a fly fisherman and catus is a certain larvae from a fly and when they come out of the eggs and come to the surface, the larvae, all the bass come to the surface. So it’s a particular fly, and it was catus and I thought, “What about Catus Hatch?” It seemed brilliant at the time. And then everyone we told the name to were like, “What? Cactus Patch?” And it basically became Cactus Patch. It was so ridiculous at one point I wanted to make a T-shirt with Cractus Catch, Cactus Patch, Catus Hatch, Lemon Snatch. Basically, we’re called whatever you want us to be called. That happened and then we had a couple of EPs, actually we had a full-length under Cactus Patch, which I’m afraid to even think about listening to.

And then you became Army of Me?
Well, by that time we became a three-piece for a while, but then we wanted to change it up and get a bigger sound, so we got another guitarist. We were coming out with a new EP and we had management at the time, and they were like, “Well, if you want to change the name.” I remember the end of Cactus Patch. We played this place called Palomas in Baltimore, which doesn’t exist anymore because it was so sketchy. They had the radio on over the loudspeaker while we were setting up and the commercial was like, “Come to Palomas tonight for a night of country and zydeco with Cactus Patch.” And we were like, “Did they listen to the demo at all?” So we were like, “Okay, we sound like we’re a jam band from Arizona with the name Cactus Patch.” So we had to change it. Our manager at the time told us to write down album titles and song titles of artists we love. Like, Radiohead was the “Talking Heads” song, stuff like that. So, Vince wrote “Army of Me” because it was a Bjork song and thought I’d like it. That’s the arduous task of naming a band. The rest is the future.

Do you have a favorite show from this tour, favorite venue or favorite crowd?
It’s kind of impossible to have a favorite crowd because they’re always different, you can’t keep track. I’d say favorite venue is 9:30 [Club, in D.C.] of course, The Knitting Factory upstairs is always good and Bowery always sounds really good onstage. Favorite shows, I don’t know if I ever come off stage satisfied. There are very few times that I’m like, “Yeah, that was cool.” It’s usually when I feel like I’m in control. When I feel like I’m playing like somebody else, it’s like “That wasn’t me.”

When you travel is there a certain crowd that’s more enthusiastic?
I think there was a weird thing that happened for at least a little bit, where it was freakin’ kind of weird. It was like that thing where you go to Europe and you have no idea how you’re being taken over there. When we hit the west coast it was right at the time that KROQ picked up our single and they were playing it in heavy rotation and at the same time we had a video on MTV and all this mainstream with this huge umbrella of reach was happening. Everybody on the east coast were like, “Finally!” and everyone on the west coast were like, “Who the fuck are these guys?” We were playing all these outdoor venues and people were calling you sir and shit. It was really weird to have that because we hadn’t really played the west coast. And then we do, we had all this stuff hitting at all different angles. It was like, “Wow, can I borrow $50,000 from you? You must be rich.” Or, “Woah, who are you? You’re amazing.” It was definitely, kind of eye opening. I wish it were like that every day, just to be treated slightly differently, like a king. I just thought it was funny. We played the HF Festival in 2001 and this little kid came up to me with the booklet for the festival and a sharpie opened to our page. And I was like, “What?” I was totally clueless. That was my first autograph. I’m not a dumb person, but I had no idea.

How is it being away from your girlfriend on tour?
I think it’s different for everybody, obviously. As long as she has something to do and you’re both busy doing your own thing, it helps to where you’re not concentrating. She’s a stable manager so she’s responsible for a lot of stuff, a lot of horses. It definitely keeps your mind occupied. We’re both very independent people. I’d call her and we’ll basically say five words, we’re kind of used to it. When you get to the three week period, it sucks.

Is it possible to make it work?
Oh, yeah. It’s just a certain kind of person.

How would you explain the band’s dynamic?
Sings: “Well I’m a little bit country and he’s a little bit rock ‘n’ roll.” I think we just all come from . . . like, aside from Dave with us playing, because he hasn’t really written any songs with us. Brad’s definitely a country, folk queen. I’m probably the indie guy. I like weird stuff. I like Jon Spencer and stuff like that. Vince wants to take over the world. We’re very different people. It’s weird, I feel like a lot of people say we’re about the music and stuff like that. But, I feel like we’re just into writing really good songs and we could really do without jumping around and whatnot. It’s about how interesting a core progression is, whether or not one part’s stepping on another. We’re just trying to write smart, good songs and it’s weird because I feel like the world doesn’t want that right now. Vince was talking about last night, they’re [the crowd] like, “Am I aloud to like this? I don’t know what to do. No one else has told me this is cool, so I don’t know what to think.” It’s not like we’re going to quit. What else are we going to do? Become investment bankers? Become mortgage brokers?

What is the writing process for you guys?
Vince will do the lyrics, that mainly comes with the melody. Essentially, a song we’ll screw with the arrangement of it and the vibe of it and then we’ll start arguing about it and then we’ll finally settle on something.

How do you know when a song sounds right?
It’s kind of hard. If I hear a live version of something, where it’s a song that we haven’t recorded, even some songs that we recorded I’m like, “Why did I do it that way?” Being in the studio is definitely different, it’s like part writing. The only way to really hear your parts is to not be playing it while you’re playing it. If you can step back, it’s a little easier to edit. Sometimes you don’t even realize how stupid something is until you hear it played back to you. Even a lot of stuff on the album I don’t play the same way. I was in there [the studio] for two days and I was done and then they went to war with guitars, so they were there for another two months. There are three songs on the album that are pre-production tracks which are just while we’re working on the song they decided to keep the drum parts. I didn’t really have a chance to think about it. But now that I have, the songs have evolved and I’ll go back and listen to the recording to get some of my original idea and then, kind of marry the two. I’ve been playing it for a year and a half and then go to what was the initial feeling. That’s what I usually like. There’s a lot of energy, but you can hear the thinking going on and there is still flow. When that happens it’s pretty cool. But there are some things that I don’t like that I did and I’ll change them. Especially after you get a chance to hear it, it’s definitely a lot easier to edit.


Q&A with Brad Tursi of Army of Me

Army of Me guitarist Brad Tursi took some time out to chat with me after their performance on the “Get a Life” tour. He filled me in on how he came to join the band, what made him pick up guitar and (for the ladies) how it IS possible to maintain a relationship while being on tour. For all you skeptics out there, Brad shed some light on how he makes it work. Now whoever said dating a guy in a band is a bad idea?

How did you get involved in Army of Me?
I was in a band called Ki: Theory before this, from Virginia, and we were on a couple bills together. I got to talking with Vince and our band was in the process of breaking up. Vince had contacted me a few weeks before I left Ki: Theory and he asked what I was doing. They lost their guitar player, and he asked if I would be interested in playing with them. I said, “I’d love to help you out, but I’m in this other band.” I loved them [Army of Me] I thought they were awesome. Before I was in this band I bought their CD and I was totally rocking out to it before I was even in the band.

I just said, “I’d love to help you out, but I can’t do full time.” And he said, “Well, we’re looking for someone more full time.” So I said, “Okay, if you ever need anything give me a call.” Right after we had our meeting for Ki: Theory I kind of decided it wasn’t happening anymore. I checked my email right after that and there was a message from Vince saying, “Call me up, I want to talk to you.” So I called him up directly after and then I went up there and did a little audition for them. I practiced their songs to their CD and I went up to D.C. that week and played with Vince. I went straight from one band into the next. I’ve been with them almost five years now.

How would you describe the band dynamic?
There’s a difference. Sometimes you’re in a band with your high school buddies and you’re friends first and then you’re in a band. In this case, I met the guys in Army of Me, I didn’t know who they were. It was music first and then you figure out who everyone is. They’re all great friends of mine. Obviously we get on each others nerves. You spend 24 hours a day with someone, sleep in the same bed as them, you’re bound to know everything about them and they know everything about you. I think we kind of went through a very volatile sort of time. I feel like now, we don’t really go there that often, but even when we do it’s just like, forget about it afterwards. If you hold a grudge you’re going to be miserable. You can’t get away from them. You just learn to respect everyone’s space and get along as best as you can.

What made you decide to pick up a guitar?
I think it was Slash from Guns N’ Roses. I used to have little pictures cut out of Hit Parader and all those magazines pasted up all over my walls of Guns N’ Roses. That was my first concert. I went with the church youth group to a Guns N’ Roses concert. I don’t think the priest really knew what he was getting himself into. It opened up with “Welcome to the Jungle.” “Do you know where you fuckin’ are? You’re in the jungle!” The priest was like, “Uh-oh, what did I do?” They were definitely a big influence.

I found an acoustic guitar in the attic, it was my dad’s who actually played in a band, I came to find out later, with Steven Tyler from Aerosmith when they were in high school. I don’t think any of the original people in Aerosmith were with them at all. They just played in high school together. Maybe there’s some rock in my roots there somewhere. It was just one of those things where once I picked it up, I never stopped playing it. I never got bored of it. I’d just play it all day, every day. Something about it just stuck with me.

Is it possible to have a relationship while on the road?
It is possible. It’s definitely difficult and there needs to be a certain, sort of girl. They have to be, number one, confident in themselves and confident with you that you’ll be faithful to them. If they’re not confident in themself then they’ll always be looking for reasons that you may be doing something to get away from them. And just someone that’s understanding and also someone that has their own life. You can’t have a girl that’s just sitting home, missing you and not doing anything because most likely, she won’t be able to handle it. You also have to love each other a lot and you have to be sensitive to their needs. I don’t want to lose my girlfriend because of this band. So, certain times, you have to make a decision to see her and not play a show. Just be conscientious and hopefully it works.

Do you change up your guitar solo every night?
I try to switch it up. I think inevitably, when we first started extending that section in “Perfect” it was fresh, it was really, truly I was improvising because I hadn’t done that song many times. After you do something enough times you start to fall into some sort of repetition. I sometimes struggle with that because the bands I used to play in, we improvised a lot, so there was always a freshness to the songs. With this sort of style, a lot of times we’re playing the same songs. It’s good because it makes the set polished and the people that are at the show every night, they don’t know that you played it just like that the night before. I’m just trying to get used to that. Even though it’s the same show, you put on the best show you can every night because the crowd is hearing it for the first time, even though you’ve heard it a thousand times.

Do you ever get tired of playing any songs?
Right now I’m getting tired of playing that guitar solo. I want to try something else. Like, “Still Believe in You” we started extending the end of that. And there’s this little guitar thing that I’m really digging on playing that right now. It’s still fresh to me. There will be something else that we do and it’ll be new and then it’ll get old and we’ll think of something else. Its a cycle.

What are your hopes for the next few years?
I’d like to make a new record and I’d just like to be in a place where we can support ourselves doing this. My childhood dreams of fame and fortune are over. Fortune would be nice [laughs]. I just want to be able to play music that we want to play and hopefully be able to make some sort of living doing it. Maybe I’m getting old, I don’t know.

Do you have another job back home when you’re not touring?
Yeah, you just try to do whatever you can. I’ve helped friends paint houses or put in windows. I helped my dad with his car business, I work temp jobs, stand on the street and beg. No, I don’t do that [laughs]. You know, you just do anything you can. You just gotta find a way to make some money. I haven’t paid rent in four years. That’s pretty impressive for a guy who’s 28 years old. I’ve been fortunate, I’ve stayed at Vince’s for a while. A friend of mine let me stay at her place for a while. I’ve been staying with my father for the past few months. We’re gone for so long, I’m just throwing money down the drain if I’m paying rent. It’s just not normal existence.

Do you have a favorite show or venue you?
??ve performed at?
here have been obviously a lot of good shows and I’m sure a lot of good shows that I just don’t remember that were great. The one that always sticks out in my head was a Blue October show, it was an outdoor show in either Tampa or St. Petersburg, Florida. It was the winter time, we were in Florida and it was 75 degrees so it was nice to be outside. To me, that was the best the band has ever sounded. Just really a great show, great crowd, good energy. The sound was amazing, the band was really in a great grove and it felt good. I felt excited to play. The connection was made with the crowd and the people in the band. All the intangible stuff came together.


Army of Me

I thought it might be cool to read parts of the interviews with the guys of Army of Me together, to see each member’s thoughts on life on the road, groupies, playing to unenthusiastic crowds etc. So you better know who is answering, the guys are frontman Vince Scheuerman, drummer Dennis Manuel, guitarist Brad Tursi and bass player Dave Cullen.

What is your favorite aspect of touring?
Vince: There’s so much about tour that’s cool. Traveling around the country. Sometimes you take it for granted, but the fact that we don’t have to be sitting at a desk from 9 to 5, we’re really lucky to be doing what we do. It’s great, we meet so many cool people and we can have this affect on people. It’s a cool thing where people come up to us and are like, “I really love your music. Your song made me cry.” To see that is really cool and just being around all these people, we have a lot of fun. Everyone on the tour is really cool, all the bands, the crew. I like hanging out with my band, these guys are my friends.
Brad: I think one of my favorite parts about touring is meeting the different people that we tour with. You’re kind of thrown into constant contact with people that you don’t know. But, you usually bond pretty easily because you’re all doing the same thing and it’s the same sort of frame of mind. That’s what really makes it enjoyable because I don’t want to hang out with my own band while I’m on tour. We’ve met a lot of great people on this tour, from the crew to the bands. It’s probably my favorite part about touring. Oh yeah, and playing the shows and all that stuff too. [laughs]
Dennis: It’s just fuckin’ awesome to play. It definitely gets me up in the morning. There’s a party every night, if you want it. All the people you meet and all the bands we’re touring with are really nice.

What do you think you’d be doing if you weren’t involved in the band?
Dave: Atrophy. I would lie in bed, use none of my muscles and it would suck ass. I don’t know! I could remember doing impressions of Michael Jackson when I was five. It’s just been music, music all the way. I have no idea. What would I be doing instead of music? I would die.
Vince: That’s a good question, I don’t know. Working at McDonalds? [laughs] I don’t know if I have any other skills. I got a degree in Mechanical Engineering. Maybe I’d do something like that.
Dennis: Probably be doing live sound or starting a studio, which is my day job. I’ve been doing live sound for the last 12 years as my only job. If I get a house gig somewhere, all I have to do is give myself a number of subs to work for me while I’m gone, so I just schedule who works for me and it’s still my job when I come home. It’s not going to put the kids through college, but it’s something to keep me above water.
Brad: That’s a good question. I ask myself that sometimes and I don’t know the answer. I have other dreams that are romanticized I’m sure. Traveling. I’ve always been into boats. I always thought maybe I could do something with boats, whether it be crew on a sailboat. I really like sailboats. I’d like to sail across the Atlantic or something cool like that. I’ve done some sailing in the British Virgin Islands, a lot in the Long Island Sound. I’m from Connecticut so my family has had a few different boats. I’m not like, “I’d be an Accountant.” Anything I’d do doesn’t seem make a lot of money, I need to pick something that makes a lot of money. I think I would do something way different. I don’t really see myself being a tour manager or anything. I’m either going to play or I’m going to do something else.

What are the cons to being on tour?
Dave: Well, you’ve seen them. In actuality, there are zero cons. None, zip, absolutely zero. What’s bad about touring? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. It outweighs it to the bajillionth degree. Sometimes it’s fun to sit there and complain and pick out what actually blows, and what actually blows is the things that keeps everybody from trying. And that’s just fine by everyone who tours. It’s not for everyone. If you’re not young and spirited and you don’t think anything is funny, then you shouldn’t do it. Vans that are small and stink and have lots of trash in them suck, sleeping with five guys in a hotel rooms sucks, none of that stuff is fun, it’s certainly not something that you want to do, but it’s completely outweighed by being out here and it’s so great, it’s the best life. Everybody on this tour loves touring and you can tell. Even on a shitty night, it’s not that shitty.
Brad: It’s impossible to have a normal existence especially when you have other people in your life that have normal existences. It’s really hard to balance this world and the other world. You’re always disappointing your girlfriend or someone by saying you’ll be here and you can’t. You don’t spend as much time with people as you might want to. In the end, we really can’t complain because we’re hanging out with our friends, playing music.
Vince: Tour definitely beats you up a little bit because you don’t get much sleep, a lot of times you’re driving really long hours just to get to the next city. If you let it get to you it can wear you down. I’ve definitely been on tours where I was sick the entire time I was on the road. One time I was on tour and I got a cold and it turned into bronchitis. I got antibiotics and you know how you take antibiotics for 10 days? Well, before the tenth day I was getting sick with something else. Who gets sick while there on antibiotics? To me, that’s probably hardest part. Some people miss family members or girlfriend’s back home. I’m solo at the moment so I’m just happy to be out there playing every night. I don’t have too much to worry about. Trying to pay the bills is always a concern. Being on the road, we as a band don’t make that much money, so trying to make ends meet is difficult. There’s a lot of sacrifices you make being on the road, because as fun as it is to be traveling all over the place, it’s hard to never be in one place more than a day. That’s the price you pay for rock ‘n’ roll.
Dennis: You can’t really work if you need to. And now, me, Brad and Dave have girlfriends. It’s hard on that front to be away for so long. This is a good week for me because we’ve been home like three times this week. Getting in a van every day is not fun. Especially the way we’re doing it, with no trailer. You get used to it.

Everyone wants to know about the groupies and the girls.
Vince: No one wants to come on the 15 passenger van for a tour. Nobody cares about little, old Army of Me. You meet a lot of girls. Girls like guys in bands. When I meet a girl, and if she’d be like, “What are you doing? You wanna hang out?” I’d be like, “I don’t even know you. You don’t even know me.” I feel like I’d be taking advantage of someone and I’d feel weird about it. That’s not my thing. Not to be some great, moral expert. They don’t care about the van anyway; they just want to meet The Used.
Even if we have any
groupies, if they make it far enough backstage and then out to the back of the club, and they see what we’re in it kind of kills the mood. There really isn’t much affect of groupies for me. I’m more looking for a beer.
Dave: Are there really even any groupies? I’ve only seen them once in a while.

Do you remember the first time you heard your song on the radio?
Vince: It’s been a long time. It might have been “These Hands” which is an old song, before we were even Army of Me. I was probably in my car and I probably knew it was coming on because it was a Sunday night where they play local bands and they tell you ahead of time and you tune in, waiting for 9 ‘o’ clock to come.
Brad: I remember hearing “Come Down to D.C.” on the radio in D.C. I also remember hearing “Going Through Changes” out in L.A. when it was on KROQ. That was a pretty big deal, to get out at a gas station, we were out there touring, and to hear that on the radio was pretty cool. I had some friends in California that heard it all the time. I’ve definitely had more calls from friends who heard it then me hearing it. I never have seen our video on MTV or MTV2. I’ve never seen our video on television, I’ve never heard it any of the video games.
Dennis: Probably my car driving home from work. I think it was “These Hands.” If it’s something you’re working toward, it doesn’t really surprise you. I think I had gotten a phone call that it was going to happen. It was more me sitting there as an engineer thinking, “How does that sound on the radio as opposed to the record?” because everything on the radio is squashed. I’m more analyzing it then actually enjoying it. It’s definitely cool to see people that you don’t know, say on the west coast, singing the words. That’s cooler to me then hearing it for the first time. Its like, “Wow, we used to be this band from D.C. These kids know who we are.” It’s crazy even if it is just that one song.

What do you think about when you’re playing onstage?
Brad: Sometimes it’s just nothing. Sometimes you’re thinking about trying to sing in tune, make sure you’re playing the right notes. You’re not thinking about a castle in the sky. Sometimes, especially in sections that are musical and more improvising, you try to just close your eyes and not think about anything, just be in that moment and let the music take you somewhere. That’s the best parts.
Vince: There’s a lot of stuff going through your mind, like what’s happening onstage, if I can hear my voice, what the other people around me are playing, what it sounds like, also thinking about what the audience is doing, how they’re reacting, just noticing people in the crowd, but also thinking about the music, the songs, the lyrics, what I’m saying and singing. I get into the music and the words and find something in there to latch onto and sing that helps me connect with the emotions of the song. Sometimes I’m thinking about what the hell am I’m going to say between the next song.
Dennis: I’m pretty much between zoning out and being very analytical about what I do. I’m trying to go for it and play right. I wouldn’t call it autopilot. Dave’s kind of frustrated because I don’t make eye contact with him. When I’m up there I’m in my own world. I basically hear it when you play a bad note, that’s when I notice that you’re even there. I see pictures of myself when I wish I didn’t make those faces, but it’s just naturally what happens.

How much does the audience’s vibe impact your performance?
Dave: I try not to look into the crowd. Somebody told me a long time ago, like a little secret, to look above the people, so you’re not looking at anybody specifically, but it looks like you’re looking at them. That’s what I try to do. To be honest, if I was singing, that’d be a different story, that’s your thing. How do you fight that? I don’t know, that’s tough. I’m a bass player; I’m a tough guy, I try to tough through it. It’s harder in front of so many more people. I feel like you can win over a small crowd a lot more easily then you can win over a big crowd.
Vince: If the crowd is really into the music, you feel real good about what you’re doing and you get more into it. If people are giving good feedback, it makes you a little more free and you feel more comfortable on stage. When we’re on stage, we’re still vulnerable people, we’re standing up playing our songs and wondering, “Do these people think that we suck? Do these people like us? Do these people want to throw things at us?” All these things are going through your mind as well as playing your songs and trying to get across what you’re trying to say. If people seem to be enjoying themselves, it takes a little bit off your mind so you can get more into the music. If people look like they just don’t care at all, they don’t give a shit, it’s kind of a bum out. We’re kind of taking a little bit of a different approach, which is to go full on, no matter what’s happening, just try to show people that we care, and hopefully when we do that, they’ll care. It’s weird because we’ll go to one place and a crowd will be totally psyched, and then we’ll go to another place in a different city and they’ll be like staring at a blank wall. I don’t know what the difference is, if it’s the night of week or the amount of alcohol.
Brad: It’s not supposed to, but it does. Nobody wants to play music for people who don’t want to hear it. That gets discouraging sometimes. You just have to believe in your music. For the people that stare at the wall while you’re playing, there’s always people that come up to you after the show and did enjoy it. I’m just happy to play in front of as many people as we are right now and just try to win over as many fans as we can.
Dennis: All that shit used to affect me. Like, “How many people are here? Are we responsible for it, is it on our heads?” If there wasn’t a lot of people and it was our show it used to freak me out, but I don’t even see them anymore. Just kind of do what you do and if they like it, they like it. What else can you do? It’s almost like I have my eyes closed and my eyes open. Vince is trying to engage them and jump on them.

Do you have a favorite song to play every night?
Brad: Different songs react differently each night. I really enjoy “2 Into 1.”
Dennis: Probably “Perfect” because of the whole experimental part, break down we have going on. It’s always exciting.
Dave: “Still Believe in You” is a great track, the bass line kicks ass. That’s a lot of fun to play. “Perfect” is always great because there’s so much improvisation. We get a chance to rehearse it all the time. Improvisation, in a live setting in front of that many kids, if Brad does something great or Dennis does something great or I do something great, it gets the next guy. It’s cool and you laugh and you smile. When you are just killing it musically, you can’t help but laugh. Music definitely enforces laughter and it’s really cool when you’re improvising onstage like that, it happens a lot.

As always, if you like what you read, let me know! And be sure to check out Army of Me either on their website or MySpace.