The Armed is a hardcore collective out of Detroit, MI. Their new untitled record stretches the thin label of "hardcore" into different shapes and sizes, showing where the genre can move or go. It has the heaviest elements, most melodic breaks, and a real sense of self within the rest of the collective's discography. At first look, you might scoff at the idea of a group referring to themselves as a collective, rather than a band. It's only fitting for them to do such, due to each member's contribution to the bigger picture of the record. For example, Dan Stolarski's induction into the band introduced a new kind of electronic texture to the record, indicative of his past in projects like Marital Vows. So if you somehow didn't feel like you were going through a wall previously, you'll now feel like someone is throwing you through a broken stereo.
The song we premiered earlier on the site, "Paradise Day," has been made into a short film, featuring the band's buddy Trevor Naud takes the super intense, world burning track and sets it to a genuinely funny video. Humor and intensity collide, when Trevor takes the stage at a shitty bar and the room explodes into a riot. It's exactly the kind of reaction you'd want at one of their shows.
We talked to Dan about visual representation, and his favorite weirdos.
NOISEY: How’s Detroit?
Dan Stolarski: Well, it’s been smashed to smithereens and growing back from the cracks. It’s great, I’ve lived here my whole life so, um, you know, grew up in a neighborhood that eventually got pretty band and my folks retired and moved out and I lived in the same house pretty much the whole time, kinda been roaming around these parts ever since.
You ever run into some Detroit superstars like Kid Rock?
Well, it’s funny, I know people, just like audio folks, engineers and whatnot that have worked with him, I’ve seen, I’ve been in some of the studios, for instance Eminem has a place over kind of on the outskirts of Detroit and I’ve been in some of those spaces and seen them. Not actually have I personally seen them, no I haven’t, I have never. I remember when I was a teenager there was a the guitar shop down the street from my house and I went in there and this was early in the 90s somewhere, but do you remember Sponge? [laughs] I remember walking, I was in this guitar shop and I used to go in there all the time, and the singer Vinnie came in there and I was literally shaking, I couldn’t breathe. So that was one of the big ones for my life. I don’t see a lot of famous people, I don’t get out a heck of a lot. Especially now as I get older, I’m a recluse. It’s weird. And I’m not just saying that to be some sort of artsy guy or something, I don’t know I’m like afraid of things more. I don’t know why. And you know, I don’t know. There must be some sort of imbalance going on in my life. I gotta talk to somebody about it. I’ve got good friends and I’ve got good people around me, but maybe I’m just being lazy socially or something.
You like playing shows and stuff though, yeah?
I do. I mean, I used to throw up before shows a lot. And I’ve played in a lot of different projects and stuff. No one that’s really of note necessarily on some sort of national level but, or even local level I should say [laughs]. But I do like performing. I sort of just have to convince myself I’m not really who I am and just go out there. And I think in the capacity of The Armed I’m sort of a newer link in the whole thing and it was an odd experience first working within the group, or the collective, however they want to define themselves. I think I had to approach music in a way that I hadn’t prior and that is- I don’t have much of a punk background and I don’t have much of a so called hardcore background, but more just drone or ambient kind of stuff. I’m a big Bowie fan and a big Eno fan and even The Beach Boys or something. I’m into textural music. And It’s strange because once I started working in the band I realized there was a lot of weird beauty to what was going on. And I find it to be really, obviously challenging in just the composition but also in how I see myself fitting in and even peeking out of a lot of the music. I was brought in the be kind of a textural element and even live what I have done has tended to veer into almost just playing noise and body performance and stuff like that.
Body performance. What does that look like?
[Laughs] Yeah, well one time- this was in another band but I think it will give you an idea I think as the Armed starts playing in the days ahead and with me as well- I one time showed up to a performance and I had completely waxed my body and I was wearing a wig that I thought was pretty convincingly female and I basically looked like a woman and I shrouded my face so no one could really tell who I was and I sat in the audience for a while. And I watched as my band mates were panicking because they didn’t know where I was, and eventually I went up on stage and I started to move around equipment and do odd things and they were completely perplexed. And then I sort of whispered at one of them and said we’re going to do this, and they realized what was going on. It was sort of a gag on them but also gag on the audience too. Because as we started to play I was a person they were not expecting to see.
How did you get involved with the band in the first place?
Just being around. If there’s a story, I was contacted. There was a guy who was in the band formerly, he kind of contributes once in a while in some capacity. He had seen me play in a couple other groups and we had come up in similar neighborhoods and knew of each other. It’s kind of a small music community in Detroit in a way. I think it’s easier to find out about groups and about artists and people that are doing things by word of mouth or just by performance. I think they wanted to, not to sound arrogant, but it was a challenge to them and to myself to be in the group. Especially with this record. It’s very odd because I think at times they would intentionally throw me into songs and not give me much to work with in advance, and I think they were looking for a sort of improvisational flare to what I would bring.
What did you contribute specifically to the album in a pure technical sense?
Well, I have basically a kind of spartan keyboard setup. I have this keyboard, it was an old Casio and it broke and I had it when I was in high school and I met this guy who was a very eccentric fellow who used to play in this band who were idols of mine in high school. I later met him in person and he was living in the upstairs of this barn and he had this keyboard studio where he’d fix things and make keyboards. And I just brought him this really, not even worth the time of day, keyboard that I had. And I asked him to rebuild it and add some extra delays and switches and whatnot to it and he built this sort of plywood box around it. And I’ve had that ever since. I call it the Frankenstein. I use that with a lot of projects, and with The Armed especially because the thing can literally not translate keys to save its life. If I’m playing a melody or a sound it will inevitably backfire and do something sporadic and messy with that sound because of the way it’s wired. It’s prone to flaw and I think that’s sort of what my setup is, it’s basically I have a memory man delay it’s an electro-harmonix it is, probably by your average consumer, broken but if I push a knob a certain way it’s going to, again, sort of backfire. So I have all these elements that somehow are still working enough to make sound but they’re not consistent. And that’s what I like about it. There’s mistakes and errors and things. And I think that these sonics and textures, while I can play things in key, they wind up almost sounding like glitches and errors and things. And I think everything on this album from the bass to the drums to the guitars what I was bringing in was run through fuzz, as opposed to distortion. So you’re kind of already playing with an element that is different from what a lot of bands in a similar categories are using. So we wanted it to have sort of a different sound. Almost a pop sound, but playing with that and making it something that is aggressive and nasty.
So let's talk about "Paradise Day."
What’d you think of the video?
It's pretty perfect.. So who is Trevor Knod?
He’s a freaky guy. That whole portrayal of him is oddly truthful. The environments are fictionalized in the whole thing, but he’s kind of a friend, a guy who’s been in the Detroit music/art scene for a while. He does this graphic Bosch type, really kind of weird collages and whatnot. But he’s kind of an amorphous type guy. He’s sort of hard to pin down in a way. Sometimes people see him out and about and he’s preppy and then they’ll see him and he looks like he does in the video, like he’s really frumpy all his clothes are baggy. But then you’ll see him again and he’ll be wearing tight fitting clothes and be really trim and proper. I don’t know if he has some sort of personal distortion going on with him, and you know he plays in bands and stuff but he just seemed perfect for this video. We wanted someone who could perform, but we know was prone to acting in real life, because people feel like they don’t fully know exactly what he’s doing or what he’s about. And I think maybe that’s part of the joke of who he is when he goes out in public. Like he’ll go to a sports bar and dress like a bro just to watch people. Like there’s all these stories of him doing stuff like that. Or he’ll go to a golf course and he doesn’t know how to golf, but he’ll just kind of sip shandies and watch people. And people don’t necessarily recognize him. I mean, this is all stuff that I’ve heard of him doing. So, yeah he’s just kind of an oddball.
It seems that the band is really into music videos. I remember one of the editors put up the video for “Polarizer” with all the different music videos cut together. Who’s in charge of the video choice on the band’s part.
I would say that’s largely-uh. They don’t even want me to talk about that.
Yeah, really. I think we all had a hand in that one, I mean, at least with the Polarizer video because there were hundreds of hours of footage that was played with before and that was a group effort for sure. I don’t know if you met Tony. Tony is kind of a go-to guy with a lot of that. But I think you kind of get into this roundtable mentality. I would almost call people consultants or something like that. Where you have this collective mentality to publicity and dealing with things like that. It’s not about being cryptic or vague but it’s more about making these miniature statements with your media. And I think having a lot of videos is always helpful, because you have shorter attention spans yada, yada. Ultimately it’s easy consume stuff like this and it’s easy also to make a statement with stuff like this where you can sit back and watch it and observe it as opposed to you know reading a longform article which I would say am more a fan of reading longform articles but it think to get the maximum spread it’s easier to share a video than an article. In most cases.
If you were to give this record to someone who has never heard the band before what would you hope they got from it?
I think if you’re looking at it as a full package, you’re staring the the vinyl, you’re looking at the cover while you’re listening to the music I think it’s ultimately it’s about media and it’s about consumption and it’s about how we perceive music and artists and kind of living in a remix culture and it’s largely about appropriation and things of that sort. And not being necessarily menacing about it, but trying to observe the quality of the world we live in now which is kind of a lot about that. I wanted it to have impact, I wanted it to feel like I was listening to it for the first time which is hard to do, but I wanted to really feel pumped about it, and as pedestrian as it sounds I felt its kick, I felt its power a little more than I had before. It’s kind of like when you listen to MC5 or something and it kind of gives you a bit of a thrill. I mean, it’d be too much to ask for a young listener, or a listener who hasn’t heard a lot of this music before to have that same kind of kick that I did when I first saw “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” That kind of “what is going on?” and you keep listening to it, you differentiate the songs and understand where the chorus and bridges and quiet and loud parts are, you can appreciate it on a higher scale than you would most records coming out these days. I know that’s a big ask, but that’s what I would hope for.
Get their untitled new record for free right here.
Follow John Hill on Twitter.