Ben Jorgensen- Vocals/Guitar
PJ DeCicco- Guitar
Anthony Dilonno- Bass
Nash Breen- Drums
Every band waits for their moment. They wait for that one moment where all of their talent and hard work suddenly pays off and they stand on the brink of something huge...at the precipice of great opportunity. This is where New Jersey foursome Armor For Sleep stands now, clutching in their collective possession a dynamic, compelling third addition to their ever-evolving catalogue of music. The record, Smile For Them, a vastly diverse assortment of 12 tracks, is the impetus propelling the group to take full advantage of the enormous possibility that lies ahead.
Sweat makes everything taste sweeter. After forming in the suburban utopia of northern NJ in 2002, catalyzed by singer/guitarist Ben Jorgensen's songwriting and desire to form a band centered around it, Armor For Sleep began slowly building the massive, supportive fanbase that they have today. The release of the group's debut, Dream To Make Believe, in 2003 on independent label Equal Vision Records, thrust them on tour where receptive listeners were attracted to the genuine, personable sensibility of the band and their music. But 2005's critically acclaimed concept-based follow-up, What To Do When You Are Dead, set them far apart from the other bands swimming in the deep sea of "emo" bands, and put them distinctly on the top of the bubbling genre. Selling over 220,000 records to date, the album solidified the bond between band and fan, and eventually peaked the interest of Warner Bros., and drew them to add Armor For Sleep to their roster in 2006. The band signed to Sire, home to many legendary bands including The Ramones, The Smiths, Depeche Mode The Pretenders, as well as Against Me! Tegan & Sara and Regina Spektor.
Now backed by a heavy-weight record label and driven by a sincere motivation to create something truly meaningful, the foursome set their sights on their major label debut- a memorable, layered disc that defies expectations and shatters generic barriers. Armed with what Jorgensen calls a "junkyard of ideas" compiled since the recording of What To Do, Armor For Sleep penned a record that grapples with the current state of reality and strives to ascend the band's sound to new levels, by, as Jorgensen says, "challenging ourselves more than we ever had."
Interview by hstisgod
It seems like eons ago that music meant something to its creators. Remember way back when artists cared less about their Billboard 200 status, record companies didn’t sign artists according to marketing reports, and making music was about sharing passion? Looking past genre categories, and platinum record expectations, Ben Jorgensen (vocals), PJ DeCicco (guitar), Anthony Dilonno (bass), and drummer Nash Breen of Armor For Sleep, have a unique mindset in this day and age of rockers and rollers. “Lyrically, musically we don’t write songs thinking, ‘Oh we already have this kind of song on the record,’” Ben says as he cracks open the nearest can of cold brew. “We write our songs ‘cause we get into it, and we want to make it the best it can be.” February 22, 2005 they’ll release, “What To Do When You Are Dead.”
So I sat down with them - Nash and Ben. The opening track and lead single “Car Underwater,” is a contagious layering of passion and melodies, with padded lyrical content to boot – ‘I'm in a car underwater with time to kill - thinking back I forgot to tell you this - I didn't care that you left and abandoned me - what hurts more is I would still die for you…’ Although these lyrics may seem like a juggled mess in black and white, they’re nicely tempered into the upbeat track with careful precision. Nash explained why “Car Underwater” was the best track to start off the record with. “Its so catchy…it’s a song you can get along to…” As Nash contemplates the rest of his sentence, and grabs some flame for his unlit cigarette, Ben finishes his thought like a band mate should. “I think we put that as the first song on the record for a reason…I just think it’s immediate. We don’t think ‘Oh, if we don’t scream here kids aren’t going to like it.’ We just wrote what sounded good to us, just not giving a f*ck about how we’re going to be perceived. I think we’re always going to write like that.”
With infectious harmonics, and beautifully honest lyrics, “Remember To Feel” is the perfect example of such nonchalant honesty. – ‘So here's the truth - You were right all along - They were never my friends - I was living a lie - But I wont fall for it next time…’ Produced by Machine (White Zombie, Vision of Disorder, Lamb Of God, Clutch), Ben was more than satisfied with what Armor For Sleep’s producer brought to the table. “I think it’s cool ‘cause he never produced a band from the scene before, so he wasn’t pulling out tricks. You know, ‘cause he hasn’t really been in our scene. He doesn’t really know much about bands like us. He was just trying to make us the best we could be, and make this album as good as possible.” Vocally, Ben figures in very strong with his barely scratchy, yet manly whine. Each note invariably welcomes your humanly instinct to sing along within the first two to three listens.
For instance, track five “Stay On The Ground,” he screams painfully in his most careful lung. ‘Holding your head up - Is hard when you just want - TO STAY ON THE GROUND! - TO STAY ON THE GROUND!’ Lyrically, this album seems almost therapeutic. So I asked Ben which was more emotionally therapeutic, the writing process or the recording process? “I think the writing process is therapeutic. I think recording is kind of mechanical. You have to recreate, really get yourself into place when you [record] them. Whenever I’m writing it, I feel it at the moment, and I know that I’ll be recording it in a couple of months. I love recording, but I think the writing itself is more therapeutic.” Quickly, he points out an example, “The last song (“The End Of A Fraud”) was the most therapeutic. It was kind of something different. We chose to do that song last. It was just like the big finale.” Ben searches his head for past scenarios as I ask, what comes first the chicken or the egg? (The lyrics or the music) “I think they both come first. I’ll just write sh*t down. Normally that doesn’t have to fit song format or whatever, and we’ll write a song or music that feels good. Once we have a song completed and recorded, I’ll look through a book of like random writings and take something that I’ve written that fits that music, and construct it to fit that format, and I just work the lyrics.” As Ben and Nash will tell you, this album is a lot more than just powerful chords and a big finale. Asked to describe the new LP in just one word, it didn’t take too long to coax an answer out of these two. “Progress,” Nash says with an evil grin. Ben quickly throws his choice phrase in the circle, “String Theory.”
After Armor For Sleep’s 2003 Equal Vision Records debut “Dream To Make Believe,” it was time for the awakening of these four New Jersey natives. I asked Ben if he felt some jitters going into the second record. “A little bit. I think a lot of people are expecting a lot from this. Our record label is expecting this to be a big release. Honestly, we’re going to record the records we’re going to record. But I don’t want to let other people down. You know a lot of people put their time and money into it.” Though his words were carefully chosen, Ben seemed more than confident in the band’s sophomore effort. “I’m really stoked about the album we made. I would be excited if it never came out and we just knew that we did something cool.” Pulling away from the predictability of this thing called Emo came easy to them. Tracks like six “Flying Above Everything,” and eight “Basement Ghost Singing,” were softly aggressive, laid back, techno dream feelers. Both Ben and Nash quickly straightened out my a*s-backwards theory that AFS may be headed for a more electronic feel in years to come. Said Nash, “This record was real. We weren’t trying to do anything. It just kind of came out of us.” Affirming this, Ben finished Nash’s thought process again, “We’re always going to make records and make complete records. I don’t think we’ll ever do this, but if that involves us going to Africa to make tribal beats, that’s what were going to do. [But] I don’t think we’re going to turn into an electronica band or anything like that.”
Even though many of us aspire to get on stage one day just like AFS, Nash, the newest member, talked a little about the emotions of playing live night after night. “I think the crowd is responsible for me feeling good, you know? Sometimes I might think a show sucks. But when people (the crowd) respond, that has everything to do with me having fun.” Whether you find yourself scanning racks of your fine local CD retailer, or clicking away on your favorite music store site, think about this before you purchase the next trend. “America is a scab… McDonalds is bullsh*t, Starbucks is bullsh*t and a lot of kids can see certain bands in the music scene are bullsh*t. They come out of a major label, and I don’t mean to talk sh*t, but there’s obviously certain bands that are trying to be in the scene, and trying to write sincere heartfelt songs but they’re not.” Ben vented a bit further. “People know its bullsh*t. There are kids out there that DON’T WANT your average f*cking rock radio imitation teenie band, you know? I wish we knew how to do that; we’d probably make a lot more money. But we don’t know how to do that.” Nash and Ben are currently enjoying the soothing sounds of artists like: Days Away Recover Something Corporate Mars Volta The Academy Is...