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Arts and Entertainment

LAist Band Interview: Army Navy

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Although they've been playing the LA music scene for nearly two years and released an eponymous EP, Army Navy are probably most recognized for being featured on Fox's hit show, the OC. They also have a strong fan base in Seattle, thanks to KEXP. With influences ranging from British pop to Pacific Northwest post-grunge, Army Navy strikes that enviable balance of being both instantly familiar and unique. This particular editor thinks (or at least hopes) the band is on the verge of breaking... so check them out locally while you can. You'll have bragging rights later.

Army Navy are: Justin Kennedy (vocals, rhythm guitar), Ben Gaffin (bass), Louie Schultz (keyboards, lead guitar and backup vocals) and Josh Zetumer (drums).

Upcoming shows:

  • Sunday November 6th at 3 of Clubs with Rum Diary from San Francisco
  • Monday November 7th at Silverlake Lounge with Little One and Fielding
  • Monday November 14th at Detroit Bar with The Color Turning
  • Friday November 18th at Spaceland with The Tyde and Arctic Monkeys from the UK
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Continue reading to find out what the band does when they aren't performing, to hear their pet peeves surrounding the LA music scene and why they love Barry Gibb. Scroll to the end of the article to listen to a free MP3, "Snakes of Hawaii," courtesy of the band.
LAist: How long have you been performing together as Army Navy?

Band: Two years this January.

LAist: Are any of you LA Natives?

Justin: I'm from Washington, Josh is from San Diego, Louie is like an army brat, though his family is from Alabama, and Ben is from Oregon.

LAist: How did you pick the name?

Justin: We used to be called "The Fever Zone." I'd done a couple of demos and kind of just named the band after this Tom Jones record (of the same name). Once the band got solidified, everybody sort of hated the name. It was sort of funny, but we didn't want a funny name. We went through the whole roster of names. We tried so many... like Jacuzzi (but it's a trademark), Plaza, and a bunch of terrible names. We were just desperate to find something. Then I was working, and had to go to the Army Navy store. I had [Army Navy] written down on a piece of paper and was just looking at it, thinking it really had a nice look to it... And that's it... we all sort of liked it.

Ben: [Just to clarify] We're definitely not pro-war.

LAist: How would you define your sound?

Justin: It's hard to classify... It's sort of melody-driven guitar pop, with several layers on top... we don't have one particular sound, but the vocal melody is consistent in all the songs.

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Ben: And overall, we pay attention to the integrity of the song. We're all musicians, but we're really playing to the song. Justin's songs, to me, are very reminiscent of early 90s Brit songs with a sort of Pacific Northwest sound, too... smashed together.

Justin: That's where I'm from, so it makes sense... I lived through the whole grunge thing.

LAist: Describe your creative process for writing composing the music.

Justin: It's music first. Before the band got gelled together, I used to do demos at home and kind of lay down parts and work them out with the band. But now, for a long time now, I'll kind of come up with the song and a vocal melody... maybe a lyric or two (but usually not too much with the lyrics, they usually come last). Usually I'll just bring the song into practice with an idea of what it will be like and then we just play with it. Then it usually transforms into something completely different than I would have in my head. Then lyrics are the last and hardest... and always kill me.

LAist: Your current EP is out of print. When can fans expect another CD or EP?

Band: We've been in the studio making another EP and we're in the process of getting the tracks mixed. We're in the process of deciding if we want to put something together for a small indie label as well.

LAist: How does the LA music scene compare to other cities?

Justin: We played New York (CMJ) a month and a half ago for our West Coast tour. We also have a big following up in Seattle because the program director at KEXP (John Richards) has been a fan for a long time... So when we went up there, we nearly sold out one of the big venues in town.

It's good in LA but I don't think they're as hungry for music here. In Seattle [fans] know so much about what's going on in music. Everyone goes to see bands all the time and it's so much more a part of the culture than it is down here.

Ben: I think people are less willing to take a risk on a band here. It has to do with how far everything is and, you know, people would rather stay in and watch a movie.

LAist: What's the biggest challenge for a new band in the LA music scene?

Justin: We've actually had a pretty decent time finding good shows... we're kind of getting to that next level: finding management, a label, etc. It's all sort of happening now... We haven't been playing that long, so we're [anxious] to get things going and get our music out there to as many people as possible.

Ben: It hasn't been that much of a struggle. A lot of people have latched on to it. Like, we got featured on the OC and we got some radio play.

LAist: Silvery Sleds caught our attention... what was the inspiration for this track?

Justin: That song is roughly about growing up in my dreary little naval town... I was kind of reminiscing about playing music and kind of being a kid. For some reason that song felt like that time to me.

LAist: What's your favorite song to perform live?

Justin: We play a different set every night, but we generally play the same group of core songs. We usually tend to close with "Snakes of Hawaii" because it's a really fast, hard, punky little song. They kind of go nuts.

Ben: It's always such a chore when we have to do a shorter set. Because it's like, "what song do we cut?" We really love playing just about every one of them.

Justin: It's a good problem to have. We don't feel that there's a lot of "throw aways." We've worked really hard for that. It's about making good music. It seems like a lot of albums today are one or two good songs and a lot of filler.

LAist: What other interesting jobs have you had besides being musicians?

Justin: We all have day jobs. One of the cool things about LA is that everyone has a goal that they're working towards. So it's great because everyone can sort of root one another on.

To answer your question, I'm a wardrobe stylist.

Ben: I work a music label, Josh is a screenwriter and Louie is a composer (for TV shows)... he also had this job where this old lady paid him to play a video game for him. There were these secret levels to unlock.

Justin: She didn't want to actually do the work to get to the secret levels.

LAist: If you could give one piece of advice to an aspiring musician, what would it be?

Ben: Get a good drummer.

Justin: Don't try to sound like the bands that are popular at the moment. They won't be popular in another six months. Just play what you want to play. Don't play what you feel like you have to play.... it's always changing.

Ben: Find your own voice and follow it.

LAist: What is your favorite venue here in LA and why?

Justin: The Troubadour - it has great history to it. The Echo is really great too. They've updated their sound system.

LAist: Are you satisfied with the venue selection? How would you improve them?

Ben: There are only a couple of all-ages venues. They're either sterile or impractical. We sort of hate to play Sunset Blvd. because it's too hard to park, too expensive, etc.

LAist: Who is your biggest influence and why?

Justin: Teenage Fanclub, Dinosaur Jr, Wilco, Pixies, Stone Roses.

Ben: I think we all have different music tastes that sort of overlap on the British stuff, like Stone Roses, the Pixies, Wilco.

LAist: With whom would you most like to collaborate as a band (local or otherwise) on your next project?

Justin: We've definitely talked about producers... although now I'm thinking I don't want to have a producer on our first record. I just want a really, really good engineer. I love getting in the studio and the process of layering stuff... But [to answer your question] it would be great to have a producer like Toni Visconti, but Morrissey has him.

Ben: We talked about how awesome it would be to get Jeff Lynne (ELO) to produce something.

LAist: When you're not performing, what's your favorite thing to do in LA?

Justin: I travel as much as possible.

Ben: I'm going Cuba to an unnamed Communist country with a leader's whose name rhymes with "astro."

LAist: What's your favorite song about California and why?

Justin: I really like "Free Fallin'" by Tom Petty. It's a great every guy's song about coming to LA. Tom Petty is incredible. His production always sounds good. He's one of those people that just writes great pop songs that have good melodies... and he can do it forever.

LAist: Where do you see yourselves in 5 years?

Ben: World tour... Oasis opening for us. (joking)

Justin: Us opening for Neil Diamond or the Bee-Gees. I have this really great Bee-Gees album named Odessa. It has a red velvet record sleeve with gold lettering. It's a double-record with amazing production. You asked about a producer earlier—Barry Gibb is talented. To think that they can go from that to Chicago funk to disco is amazing. Even the disco stuff is incredible, if you listen to what they're doing with their voices and the songs.

Further Listening:

Photos are © and courtesy of and Piper Ferguson.

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