Talk Talk: Justin Kennedy of Army Navy (Part 1)

Talk Talk: Justin Kennedy of Army Navy (Part 1)
Travis Schneider

Really, it's almost embarrassing how much I like LA-based pop band Army Navy. After seeing them open up for the Shys last October at Detroit Bar, I pushed their self-titled record (released on their own label, Fever Zone Records) on anyone that would listen. Songs like "Slight of Hand" and "Saints" are simply way too much fun not to be shared.

I'm pretty giddy that they're coming back into town this week--Thursday, June 25 at the Yost Theater in Santa Ana, in a show sponsored by UC Irvine-based community radio station KUCI--and even more giddy that I got a chance to talk over the phone with lead singer Justin Kennedy for the latest installment of our blog-exclusive Talk Talk Q&As. The Yost show tomorrow is $8, and Army Navy play at 10:45 p.m., with OC acts the Jakes and the Colourist and Long Beach's Valley Arena also on the bill.

Here's the first part of the Q&A, with part two up bright and early tomorrow!

Q: I'm psyched to see you guys again. I saw you back in October at Detroit Bar in Costa Mesa with the Shys, who are from here.

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A: That was our first gig with them. We had just met them, and we were about to go out and tour with them a week and a half later. That was super fun. Those guys are hilarious. They're the nicest guys. We've definitely kept up that friendship since the tour ended.

Q: And you haven't been back to Orange County since, right?

A: I think maybe we played...we played the last date at that tour at, oh man, it's where the Shys are from.

Q: San Juan Capistrano? [Albert note: I think the Shys are actually from San Clemente, but close enough.]

A: Yeah, down there. There's this crazy bar, it looks like a country-western place. Everybody sits aorund...the Coach House! We played down there, but we haven't played Orange County since then. That Yost Theater sounds pretty cool.

Q: It's big, too.

A: Yeah. We're just happy to be playing all-ages gigs. We always have such a cool time playing for the kids, they always get so excited. It seems that they're having a much better time than the 21 and older crowds. I don't think I've ever even been to Santa Ana before. We love exploring new spots, so it'll be fun. We'll go soundcheck, cruise around, find some place to eat.

Q: Lots of Mexican joints around there.

A: Love that! Though it's not always the best thing to eat before a show. Like a giant burrito, after that you just want a long nap.

Q: This is a really cliche thing to ask about, but what are some of the bands that have helped shape your sound? It seems that in press, Army Navy is almost defined by who you sound like, or at least who people think you sound like--Zombies, Teenage Fanclub, Posies all get thrown around a lot. Is that pretty right on?

A: It's funny, some of the bands that we get compared to, I had never even really heard before, or even listened to. There's a band, the dBs that people have compared us to. Some of the '80s pop bands, I've looked up since, and kinda hear it, but I can't always hear the comparison. But bands like Teenage Fanclub and the Posies were huge influences when I was growing up. Teenage Fanclub is one of my favorite bands of all time. I'm from the Pacific northwest, and the Posies, were one of the best pop bands to come out of the area. In the '90s, they were doing their own power-pop thing, a Big Star kind of vibe. But the Pixies, too, Dinosaur Jr. I also listen to a lot of Britpop, Suede, Pulp, Blur. Jesus and Mary Chain. I'm always just looking for great tunes, that aren't particularly trendy-sounding but have a lot of lasting potential in the songwriting and the sounds they use. Bands like the Smiths. The songs are strong, with strong content. Some of the stuff starts to sound a bit dated, but good-sounding guitars and melodies go a long way, and last. That's the kind of music I really get into.

Q: It's remarkable how well a lot of those Smiths songs hold up.

A: They had good engineers on their sound, and they weren't trying to be some sort of '80s pop band that was kind of all about the moment. I think they were definitely looking farther down the road. I still lke Morrissey solo stuff as well. The first couple of solo Morrissey records I think are pretty amazing.

Q: And Suede is a band that, unfortunately, you don't hear brought up a lot these days.

A: They were super-original sounding. It had that glam element, but the sound was really good. Brett Anderson's Bowie-esque singing voice... but it wasn't fully retro, which was great. They were doing hteir own thing. Stone Roses, too. Their debut record was a classic.

Q: And you were on a Cure tribute album [Perfect as Cats; Army Navy covered "Jumping Someone's Else's Train]...

A: All of us are big Cure fans. I got the chance to see them at the Troubador at a private MySpace show a couple months ago. Blew my mind! I just lucked out going the day of the show. There was a line a mile-long. They didn't even fill the Troubador up, there must have been 250, 300 people. It gives you hope seeing a band that's been around 30+ years, really, really psyched to be playing. Obviously they don't get the opportunity to play for small crowds very often, so you can tell Robert Smith was giddy and really enjoying playing at a club. It was inspiring to see the Cure, still sounding awesome. They just have so many hits! They played for like two hours, and every single song was a total hit. That guy's a good pop songwriter--even though it's so dark and weird and unique, it's definitely good pop songs.

Read part two here!


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