Some Army emerges from corps of Triangle veterans
Originally conceived as a recording project by The Honored Guests frontman Russell Baggett, Some Army has quickly racked up rave responses to its shows and releases, including well-received performances at the Hopscotch Music Festival in September. With Baggett flanked by a corps of Triangle scene vets in bands such as Aminal and JKutchma & the Five Fifths, Some Army has thrived on the ebb and flow of its members and their instruments. Brad Porter replaced Cameron Weeks on drums shortly after the Hopscotch gig. Lap-steel guitarist Rusty Sutton plays around his travel schedule as sound tech for Lost In The Trees. And Elysse Thebner and Patrick O’Neill swap keys, guitars and hand percussion.
That flexible approach and presentation, however, has led to a mastery of nuanced and sophisticated indie rock. The band’s self-titled EP follows a limited-edition 7-inch from January with seven songs that boast the best attributes of Some Army’s members’ other projects. Baggett’s vocals are serene yet compelling, evoking Kurt Vile’s ethereal dynamism and he and Thebner build swooping guitar melodies that create deliberate crescendos with just enough restraint. Within each track there’s a similar progression: “Servant Tires” follows Baggett’s vocal lead from unassuming to insistent while “Fall On Your Sword” begins with steady drumming and, though the cadence remains consistent, culminates with thick atmospheric swells that complement subtle in-album shifts from shoegaze to space rock. Some Army is never frenetic but rife with a paradoxical urgency that’s nearly frustrating in its effectiveness — it’s demurely demanding in its push for constant replay. Shuffle’s Hannah Levinson exchanged e-mails with Baggett to learn more about his vision for Some Army.
Shuffle: You’re a new band made up of veteran musicians. How helpful was that in launching Some Army? Do the songs and arrangements come together pretty quickly?
Russell Baggett: Pretty helpful, I suppose. We’ve all been around each other quite a bit in the last few years between Aminal and Honored Guests, and some of us lived together for a while. It wasn’t like re-inventing the wheel with this band the way it was when I was 23 and starting out with Honored Guests. Back then it was very much the kind of thing where we were really figuring out how to play and record as a band as we went along. We’re obviously still learning, but sure, we had a better sense of how to do those things from the start with this group just because we’ve been doing them for so long now.
Shuffle: Most everyone in Some Army is involved with other bands. What level of commitment will this project require? Do you see Some Army eclipsing any of those other projects?
RB: Well, scheduling is definitely a little tough sometimes, but that’s sort of the price you pay for playing with people who are good at what they do. Everyone’s been really cool about setting aside time for this band when we’ve really needed to stay busy. I don’t think any of us are worried about eclipsing other projects – ultimately what’s good for those other bands is good for us and vice versa.
Shuffle: Will the commitment allow other the other musicians to keep things at the same level with their other bands?
RB: I think so. I mean, I have a job that I like right now, so it’s not like I can just take off and go on tour for months on end. We’ll be fairly busy for the rest of the year (by our standards, at least) and we’re starting to think about what we want to do early next year. The trick with scheduling this band is figuring out what we want to do as far in advance as possible, which, unfortunately, is not how I normally do much of anything. But I’m getting better at it. Elysse is really helpful with that stuff.
Shuffle: Your biggest gig thus far was Hopscotch in September. How was it? Any printable highlights?
RB: It was really awesome. I was convinced we’d play to about 10 people at both the day party and the festival show just because of all the other stuff going on, but there were really good crowds for us at both. It’s just such a fun festival. I live really close to downtown Raleigh now, so my wife and I have ridden our bikes downtown the last couple of years…gets a little tricky on the way home, but we’ve seen and discovered a lot of stuff that we probably never would have otherwise. Patrick and Elysse played three sets with two different bands in about a seven-hour span on Thursday this year, so that was pretty impressive.
Shuffle: You guys have built publicity pretty quickly. How much do you think that matters?
RB: I have no idea. We’ve just done what we’ve always done with other bands – record some songs, put something out into the world, and send it to some publications/blogs that will hopefully write about it and help us get our music to new people. Some places that I’ve sent albums to for years with no response are writing us back now, so that seems like a good thing. But it’s not like we’re all quitting our day jobs and buying sports cars or whatever.
Shuffle: If Some Army catches traction, what’s next? Touring outside the Triangle or the Southeast? An LP?
RB: There’s another EP’s worth of songs that we haven’t really played as a band yet that we’ll be working on for the next couple of months. I’m not crazy about the idea of recording a full-length, just because I know it will take a long time to finish, but I think we’ll start on the next thing early in 2013 – could be five songs, could be longer. We’ll start touring to more places if it makes sense for us to do that, but we’re trying to keep things close to home for now because it’s just a lot more affordable that way and it’s a little easier to get press to promote the shows when you’re at least semi-local.
Shuffle: I read somewhere that you’re purveyors of “dark sarcasm in the classroom.” Have you left a point of entry for students who earnestly want to listen and learn?
RB: Ha…Patrick did say that somewhere, didn’t he? Well, in case it’s not obvious, we like Pink Floyd – probably not a bad point of entry for some people.