To call Philly’s the Armchairs a bunch of hooligans really wouldn’t be fair. After all, hooligans don’t create brilliantly crafted psych-pop songs (think Of Montreal meets the Zombies, only less gay) or throw crazy live shows complete with light projections, stand-up comedy bits and hot-dog costumes, do they?
Ok, so maybe they do.
But the Armchairs seem to do it especially well. The Philly foursome, who formed a few years ago when University of Chicago roommates Andy Molholt and Michael Chadwick met University of the Arts roommates Andrew Morris and Mike Harkness (yes, everyone in the band is named either Andrew or Michael), has been growing in popularity as of late, winning audiences with their catchy melodies and outrageous antics.
From clang-y chamber pop concoctions (“Lost in a dream”; “Little Sammy Ghets”) to laid-back psychedelic meanderings (“Solar puff”; “An encouraging shout to hunting hounds”), the Armchairs have taken a well-known Philly style (DIY-psych-pop) and made it their own, adding energy, passion and a healthy dose of tomfoolery.
I meet up with the guys at Fishtown’s Penn Treaty Park (their suggestion) to play Frisbee, hang near the water, and chat a little about their style and influences. It’s absolutely gorgeous out – 75 degrees, sunny and breezy. And what’s more…they bring watermelon!
“Uhhh, we bought you a watermelon,” says Harkness, carrying a fruit as big as his head. He also has a giant knife, wrapped in paper, which he unwraps and uses to cut the watermelon into giant slabs.
We eat it; it’s delicious. It also gets everywhere. Molholt hands out pages of Philly Weekly for us to wipe our mouths with, and Morris offers me his hand to shake, which is wet and sticky. They throw the rinds to the ducks. Very funny, these dudes!
I ask the guys where they find inspiration for their songs.
“Honestly,” says Molholt, mouth dripping fruit juice, “mostly it’s us just getting fucked up and sitting on our couch [Molholt, Chadwick and Harkness all live together in Fishtown] playing with all the weird shit we have lying around.” He smiles. “I have a huge costume collection that I’ve been adding to for years….”
“This one time someone left this boogie board shaped like a shark at our place—” interjects Morris. “We wrote the song ‘Shark’ that hour!”
The list of local bands they love is too long to list – the Extraordinaires, Toy Soldiers, Perkasie, Buffalo Stance, and Drink up Buttercup, for starters – and they describe the local scene as extremely supportive and cohesive.
“It definitely feels more connected here than in Chicago,” admits Chadwick. “Here, it seems like everyone has a band, and everyone knows each other, and there’s a lot of people making great music.”
The band regales me with tales from their first (and so far only) tour: epic fireworks battles with Quantine Rabbit, getting hit on by a large, intoxicated 65-year-old woman in Nashville (“the video’s on our Myspace! they add) – and insists I include a shout-out to their best friend Marty. “267-664-5834,” they tell me, making sure I write it down. “You HAVE to put that in.”
Of course, the Armchairs aren’t JUST crazy, stunt-loving goofballs – they definitely know how to work hard and play hard. At current, they’re putting the finishing touches on their debut LP, due out this fall (tentatively titled Fishtown Lock & Gun after a street sign in their neighborhood) and claim to have close to 150 songs in their repertoire.
“Really, we have enough for our second album too” says Morris. “Possibly a third. We’re very prolific.”
I continue chatting with the Armchairs for over an hour, amused and enraptured by their witty banter. Finally, I close with one final question – So is there anything else they want me to know?
They’re silent for about 10 seconds until Morris exclaims: “Chadwick’s a really fast crab-walker!” He jumps up, and punches Chadwick on the shoulder. “Come on, show us! Let’s have a crab-walk race!”
They take their places a few yards away, Molholt, Morris, and Chadwick in crab-walk position and Harkness on foot (for comparison).
“On your mark, get set –“
Chadwick is off like a speed demon, while Molhot and Morris struggle in comparison. He just loses out to Harkness, and crumbles in a heap.
I leave the park later that night with a huge smile on my face, my stomach filled with delicious watermelon. Hooligans or not, the Armchairs are so much fun to be around – I can’t wait to see them live!
Catch the Armchairs live TONIGHT, Friday, at the North Star Bar, along with the Panic Years, Cheers Elephant, Lohio, and Perkasie.