An Evening with Thee Armada, Houston's Next Big Thing
This is a story 'bout some boys from Texas who know how to get down. And you know they'll be the life of the party, so let's get this started now.
So go the opening lines from Houston quintet Thee Armada's smash single "Rock, Shock, and Load," which has springboarded the rockers to the cusp of legitimacy — and even airplay on KRBE — carrying with them the hopes of Houston's oft-disregarded pop-rock constituency.
As "Rock, Shock, and Load" can now be seen and heard on MTV2, VH1.com and Spike TV, to name a few, the Houston Press was lucky to catch up with the touring Armadans — J-Cad (lead vocals), Brian (drums), Taylor (guitar/vocals), Mike (bass) and Bryan (guitar/vocals) — before success goes completely to their heads.
Houston Press: All of you guys aren't from Houston, right?
Mike: Pretty much. Me and Josh are the only two that aren't born-and-raised Texans. We're both from Southern California.
HP: So how'd you get to Texas?
M: I got dragged out to Sugar Land when I was a kid, kicking and screaming.
HP: Cali to Sugar Land? Ugh. That's pretty much geography's equivalent to a punch in the mouth.
M: Yeah, but I can't say that I don't love being here. I met the most amazing friends ever; I wouldn't be in this band if we didn't move.
J-Cad: I came down about two and a half years ago by myself because of another band I was in. We did a little tour and ended up staying out here.
HP: What happened to the other band?
JC: About 30 days after we lived out here, someone stole our trailer with all of our band equipment inside. They just drove away with it, like, "Boom! All right, cool."
HP: Yeah, we're kinda shitty like that.
J: The rest of the kids moved back home. I was stuck in the lease. Then a friend told me, "Hey, you should try out [on] vocals for this band, Thee Armada." I checked 'em out and it was cool.
HP: Were you all called "Thee Armada" before Josh got there?
HP: So how does a group come up with a band name?
M: That's the second hardest thing to do.
Bryan: It was kind of funny. We had a studio and a practice schedule because we wanted to be ready for when we got a singer. Every practice we'd go out on break and be like, "What about this?" "I don't like it. What about this?" "That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard! What about this?" And back and forth.
HP: So what are some names that you guys passed on?
Bryan: There was one that we were gonna use, but when I went to sign us up on MySpace, right on the front page was a band with the same name. It was the Clientele.
HP: That's very Denzel Washington-ish. So Josh, let us ask you this: When you're auditioning for the band, and these four already know they're in, does that feel weird? You're pretty much like a fraternity pledge or something.
J: Oh, I was nervous. But like, when I came in to try out, we were playing and cracking jokes. That eased it up. They were playing and I was listening for a while and was like, "Fuck it." I just got up and was like, [sings] waa-AHHHH-aaa. I wasn't even saying words, I was just doing shit.
M: He was hitting notes, which was something we hadn't heard anyone do. It was on from there.
HP: Tell us a little about the KRBE thing.
Bryan: One day Charles [of Latium Records], Alex [Charles's son] and I went up there on a whim. We showed the program director our stuff and she was like, "I really like it. What we could do is put it on our new music face-off thing."
So the next week, I think, I was driving home from picking up my then girlfriend and Brian was like, "Hey, it's almost 9. They might air it." I was like, "cool," so I put it on 104 and Britney Spears was on.
J: I was like, "No, they're not gonna play us after Britney Spears."
Bryan: I'm just listening and the guy says, "Next up, we've actually got a band from Houston." And as soon as he said that I was like, "Oh my God! They're gonna play our song!" And so we're going against Britney Spears, and she had won for like two weeks prior and we're all just, "Oh my gosh, dude!"
I just remember being in the car and they're like, "Thee Armada from Houston," and I'm calling people and texting people while I'm driving. I'm voting, everyone I called is voting, my then girlfriend is voting. So we're almost to her house and they're like, "We've tallied the votes," and I'm like, "Ugghhhh... let's hear it." And they said, "63 percent of the votes go to Thee Armada." And it was just like (claps hands).
HP: Apeshit, huh?
Bryan: Yeah, we went apeshit. It was cool, because every night we were on we won with at least 80 percent.
HP: Who else did you go up against?
M: Fall Out Boy and Timbaland, Rihanna, OneRepublic, Dutch techno or something — that was an easy win.
Brian: When it was the Fall Out Boy and Timbaland duet I was like, "Well, it was a good run."
J: And we ended up beating them with something like 90 percent of the vote. They ended up retiring us.
HP: Dope. So, just to clarify: You guys think Fall Out Boy, Timbaland, and Rihanna are awful and you guys rock the shit?
Bryan: Go ahead and quote me on that. That's "Bryan" with a Y.
HP: Do any of y'all have daytime jobs?
Bryan: Taylor and I are the official bums of the band, even though I was the only one in the band that had a car.
Brian: Funny story about our cars. One guy gets in a wreck, T-boned. I'm driving down the freeway after having a meeting with our label and my car, right past 610 getting onto I-10, decides to catch on fire. So I'm driving and people are flashing at me and I'm like, "What's going on?"
HP: You didn't know your car was on fire?
Brian: It started making a funny noise.
HP: Yeah, that's the sound of your car about to explode.
Brian: I was getting off to go check it out and this guy rolls down his window and was like, "YOUR CAR'S ON FIRE!" I stopped right there and sure enough, it's done.
HP: So you were just driving down the road. With your car on fire. Like it's normal.
Brian: Yeah, I was like Batman, with flames coming out the back and stuff.
HP: Perfect. So we've covered the band's inception, Josh's less-than-pleasant introduction to Houston's grand theft auto problem and flaming cars. Let's close on this: Ultimately, where do you see Thee Armada? What do you want to come from all this?
Bryan: You know, when we were in SXSW, I think I overheard someone talking about how they went to see this band and they really wanted to see some big, popular band. She said she remembered that show because he looked at her and pointed at her in the crowd and was like, "You'll remember that for the rest of your life."
And she kept talking about it and genuinely carried that with her. If we can do that with our music, then those people will be the ones that buy the albums or go to the shows. Making music that will appeal to those people is really where it's at.
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