Having performed at Sonisphere Festival just days before, Californian sextet Army of Freshmen round off their short headlining mini-tour with a show at Birmingham Academy 3. Room Thirteen spoke to singer Chris Jay [CJ] to find out how their festival slot went, why people are able to pay whatever they want for the new EP and also who he would like to take on in a wrestling match!

R13: Firstly, welcome back to the UK!
CJ: Thank you very much, it's good to be back!

R13: We understand that you were sharing your flight over here to the United Kingdom with some celebrities?
CJ: We were! Nikki Sixx and Kat Von D were on our plane. It was crazy walking through first class and thinking; "holy shit, that's Nikki Sixx!" When the plane landed, we went up to him and got a picture. He was super cool, which was awesome!

R13: The main reason you have returned to the UK was for your slot at Sonisphere Festival. How did it go?
CJ: It was a total surprise as to how successful it was, because that thing is just SO metal! We were scared! I love metal, but when I was walking around, I thought "no one is gonna come see us". But it was great that the tent we were in was absolutely packed. There were a lot of nice people, it was a well-run festival and it exceeded my expectations.

R13: Around your appearance at Sonisphere, you've organised a mini-tour of England, of which tonight's show at Birmingham is the last. Presumably you're just making the most of your time here?
CJ: Yeah, when you play those festivals, they don't necessarily let you do a big tour. So we said, "let's just do a couple of shows and let the people that like us know that we're still alive". It was just a little something that will hopefully lead to another opportunity. The whole goal of this was to hopefully lead to something else.

R13: Last year you toured China, playing festivals including a headline slot at the Beijing MIDI festival. How do places like China differ from the UK and the United States?
CJ: In comparison to the US, the fans in the UK are a little more into it and a little more passionate; it's a bit more of a lifestyle. China is a completely different bag of tricks. They've only had rock 'n' roll for, like, twenty years. It's still very, very new to them. The majority of the people aren't even into it, but the people that are, they are WAY into it. I still think the UK is the best place to play. They love you here; they really love you. They're also going to understand more, as we share a language. Whereas in Asia (and don't get me wrong, they go NUTS!), they're not able to even sing the words back. But it's great to play anywhere that people like you. There's something about the energy of the British, though. For example, tonight: it's smaller, it's packed to the brim, it's still sunny out and people are rocking out! In America, I don't think people even think about rocking out until the sun goes down!

R13: You've toured the UK many times; what's your favourite memory?
CJ: Oh man, we have so many. This is our eighth trip; we've done eight trips, nine tours and three festivals. It would be impossible to pick just one. I could give you a favourite memory of every DAY! This trip has been sensational. We've been here for one week, but I could stay here for another two weeks, no doubt. Every night the show's been good. Every night the people have been cool.

R13: Army of Freshmen recently released the 'Close Encounter' EP; what made you choose to adopt the increasingly popular pay-what-you-want-for-it approach?
CJ: We wanted people to get it. We didn't want it be that the people that really like us get it and no one else hears it. Plus right now, the music industry is so fucked up that we wanted to try something different instead of: "here we go, let's make a whole record". People aren't buying records and you have to be able to accept that. We're not even sure what our next step is. We may do a couple of EPs, we may do another full record. I love records and I've always loved them. To me they're a story, they're a connection. But people now aren't looking at records like that; they're just not investing that much time.

R13: When you were about to release the EP, you claimed that there would be another album on the way soon. Is this now not the case then?
CJ: We're leaning a little more towards the EP. I'd love to see a new three-song-EP every three months with an accompanying video. Then it just keeps people slowly into it, instead of: "hey, there's your record. OK, so you liked it for two weeks and then you forget about us for two years". Then we're constantly giving people something. So there are a couple of ideas on the table, but of course it takes a little bit of backing and little bit of money to pull them off. I may have to be in violent personal debt and personal anguish to pull these things off, but I'm happy to say that it has been totally worth it.

R13: You've had quite a few guest stars on your tracks over the years, including Jaret Reddick [Bowling for Soup], Steve Klein [New Found Glory] and Brendan Brown [Wheatus]. Is there anyone that you would love to contribute to a future AOF song?
CJ: Oh my god, there are so many people! They Might Be Giants are one of my favourite bands of all time and I would adore the opportunity to work with them in any capacity. The first band I ever saw as a kid was called The Hooters; I would love to work with someone from that band. Then it would be great to involve people from our type of genre, such as Mark Hoppus producing a track or something.

R13: Your music videos have always been quite comedic; they must have also been good fun to shoot?
CJ: I had a lot of fun shooting 'Juliet' because of the sport aspect. It was fun to run around and just throw dodgeballs at everybody. That was a really good one!

R13: Both yourself and Aaron [Goldberg, Army of Freshmen guitarist] have a growing involvement with life the other side of the recording process as producers. What's that like for you?
CJ: Well, it's the same and it's different. It's different in the fact that you have to recognise that it's not your band. They have their own vision, they have their own style and they have their own direction. Sometimes you may want to lean it a little more towards what you do, but you have to understand that it's your job to make what they're doing better. You don't have to make them be like you and that's the key thing. But I really enjoy it. It's a hell of a way to make a living if you can. I'd love to do that full-time and I'd be completely content if I could produce, do Army of Freshmen and record.

R13: Along with Aaron and Kai [Dodson, Army of Freshmen bassist], you were in a movie called 'The Telling'. That must have been a good experience?
CJ: Yeah, the guy that produced one of our videos ended up producing a movie that two of the Playboy girls were in. He said, "hey man, I can get you in as extras for this film I'm doing". We responded by saying that we didn't really want to be extras. He then said that it was at the Playboy Mansion. "WE WOULD LOVE TO BE EXTRAS IN THE MOVIE!" we quickly replied! So we went and got to hang out all day at the mansion. At the beginning of the film you see us for about two seconds, but we're actually in the film and you can see us hanging out at the Playboy Mansion. Not only did I get to hang out at the Playboy Mansion, but I got to be in a movie hanging out at the Playboy Mansion!

R13: You're quite a big wrestling fan; if you could choose a team of wrestlers (past or present) for the Army of Freshmen to face in a tag-team match, who would you pick?
CJ: OK, well I'm just going to pick some of my favourite wrestlers and put them together. The late, great Rocco Rock, who wrestled under the name of 'The Cheetah Kid'. He was one of the best high-flyers I saw when I was a kid. Of course wrestlers like Andre the Giant, Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair. I love Roddy Piper and would love to do a one-on-one promo battle with him. Also, Sabu because he'd do some really crazy stuff, but not forgetting Dusty Rhodes; I like the old guys!

R13: 2010 marks the 13th anniversary of the band (and on behalf of all of us at Room Thirteen, congratulations!); any celebrations to acknowledge the progression into your teenage years?
CJ: You're right, the first time I played with other people under the name of 'Army of Freshmen' was thirteen years ago, which is pretty unbelievable. When we hit the decade mark, we were in Scotland and it was the first night of the Get Happy Tour and we were so busy that we didn't get to do anything. We didn't do anything this year, I'd like to do something. Hopefully thirteen is a lucky, and not unlucky, number for us.

R13: Finally, what's lined up for the future of Army of Freshmen?
CJ: Basically, the EP stuff that we talked about and getting back here to the UK, using this opportunity as a leap-board and keeping it going. Returning this past week lets me know how much I really do love doing this!

R13: Thanks for your time, Chris!
CJ: Thank you! Always a pleasure!

The Close Encounter EP is available for download from Army Of Freshman's Offical website.