October/November 2016

by Kethaki Masilamani

Armed In Advance: Stitched Up

by Kethaki Masilamani

Armed In Advance: Stitched Up

In a behind-the scenes video for lead single Same Old Story, JP Carroll, the singer and (left-handed) guitarist of Armed In Advance, reveals that it is the Auckland hard rock trio’s video debut. Kethaki Masilamani talked with JP and his bandmates Hugh Hokopaura and Ryan Thomas about their name revision and impressive debut album ’Change/Evolve’.

JP Carroll and Hugh Hokopaura are all smiles as they sit down for a chat, while we wait for drummer Ryan Thomas to finish work. Although the three had never met before forming Armed In Advance, similar tastes and humour bonds them.

“It fit automatically and felt natural right away, pretty serendipitous… and the dad jokes go on forever,” smiles JP.

While bassist Hugh says the guitar was part of his upbringing, the band’s frontman, JP Carroll, had an unconventional introduction to his music career. When his high school class were asked to decide their future professions, JP decided there wasn’t a course he wanted to do, he simply wanted to be a guitarist. Unfortunately his previous attempts at this hadn’t been promising.

“I was kind’a hopeless. My parents tried to get me to learn the guitar when I was five. My teacher tried to teach me right-handed guitar and I’m left-handed. Lots of people who are left-handed do play right-handed, so that wasn’t the issue.”

Adamant, he persisted, after his parents told him, ’You’re not going to get a job with skills you don’t have’. Six months before the end of high school JP taught himself enough to get into the foundation course at MAINZ.

“I lack the common sense or any of the skills to do anything else in life, and so ultimately I’m just lucky that I’m a little bit of an idiot!”

He’s evidently come along – these days JP teaches music.

Once known as Stitches, the band revamped their logo, name and deleted an album worth of music before deciding on their current sound and name. Armed in Advance comes from the adage ’to be forewarned is to be forearmed’.

“We chose the name because it sounds good, and after extensive googling to make sure no one else has got it,” reports Hugh.

Finding an original band name had become a necessity after discovering an American rapper going by the name Stitches. Their change however didn’t mean a change in identity. The trio say they were lucky in forming the new group early enough that die-hard fans kept up with it.

Amongst those fans evidently is Hugh’s nan.

“I told my Nan to go and ’like’ the Armed In Advance page on Facebook, but somehow she added the band as her employer instead,” he laughs.

With a new name and diligently working on a new sound, the band acknowledge they became more self-critical. Although they have a loyal fan base, getting radio play involves more than having a great song. They did succeed in getting video funding for Same Old Story from one of NZ On Air’s last Making Tracks rounds and more recently Running You Down received New Music Singles funding.

“Sometimes rock just isn’t going to make it even if you’ve got the best rock songs. If you haven’t got someone with that taste, you’re probably not in with a good shot… we just got lucky,” says Hugh.

“It’s not necessarily about if you’ve written a good or bad song,” he continues. “There are so many bands going after the same 20 or 30 funding slots… it really depends on what they’re looking for at the time. But it certainly helped that they’d seen our name popping up a lot and quite consistently on gig lists.”

The trio reckon the music industry is not as harsh as it’s painted out to be.

“It’s the same people you see at gigs and you’re almost surrounded with creative people consistently which has been good,” says JP. “There’s no lines of cocaine in the bathroom, just lines waiting for the bathroom.”

They also keep their rock star lifestyle realistic – JP has a bag of necessities for his voice he carries around with him for practices and shows.

“Some lemon juice, Manuka honey, lozenges with vitamins and herbs, some anti-inflammatories for when I get sick – and I can’t drink any beer before a show because my vocals just go bad.”

’Change/Evolve’ they describe as a collaborative effort.

“It was an organic thing where we would start jamming a tune and if we liked it, it would stick around. So without saying a word we agreed on what the direction of the album was going to be,” says JP.

The band wrote close to 80 song ideas, with the only focus being “good music”. Audience involvement was a driving factor in shaping the album. Although their signature heavy rock sound is still evident in the ballsy riffs, the attention-deficit disorderly rhythm section and JP’s screams, harmonies make the tracks catchy.

Zorran Mendonsa gets credits for second-to-last track Shallow but the album’s remaining nine songs were produced, engineered and mixed by James Alexander Boyd, with mastering handled by Ermin Hamidovic.

“James actually engineered it and co-produced, so in terms of tone selection, delivery and even looking at song structure,” says JP. “And he also mixed it… he’s a pretty genius guy.”

’Change/Evolve’ was released in early October and when we talk the band can’t wait for people to hear it.

“We hope they get amongst it and listen to the album, there’s nothing cooler than when people are screaming at you to hear their favourite songs,” enthuses JP. “And when they sing your lyrics back to you it’s pretty special.”