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Army of Freshmen
Origin Ventura, California, U.S.
Genres Pop punk
Power pop
Years active 1997–present
Labels U.S.: Blue Hand Records
33rd Street Records
Japan: The Sonic Label
JVC Entertainment
Nutcase Entertainment
UK: Brand New Hero Records
Chris Jay
Aaron Goldberg
Owen Bucey
Dan Clark
Kai Dodson
Mike Milligan

Army of Freshmen is an independent 6 piece rock band based out of Ventura, California that has played over 1,000 shows in 43 states and 11 countries and are widely known as the co-founders of the annual Get Happy Tour, along with Bowling for Soup.




Early Years (1997-2001)

Following his graduation from Lower Cape May Regional High School in Cape May, New Jersey, Chris Jay left his native New Jersey for California in 1997 with the goal of starting a band. Jay soon befriended keyboardist Owen Bucey, trombonist Dan Clark, trumpeter Aaron Goldberg, original drummer Jonny Blackburn and original bassist One' Nielsen and percussion player Mike Rini at the Teltron Internet Cafe, a local coffeehouse where Jay was performing his original songs (he had written over 500 before the band even formed).[1]

Within months, Army of Freshmen made a name for themselves by garnering a strong local following in Ventura County, California. For the band's first 2 years of existence, Jay played guitar and Aaron Goldberg and Dan Clark were the band's horn section, but as their eclectic sound took on a pop rock quality, Goldberg took over on guitar and Clark added an additional keyboard to the band. In addition, Mike Rini took over for Jon Blackburn on drums. With no label, agent or management the band took their act on the road, booking their own tours.

Army of Freshmen (2001-2004)

In 2001, the band signed with a local label, Blue Hand Records, and released their self-titled debut which was produced by Jay Ferguson, a member of the popular 60's rock band Spirit.[2]

They toured that summer in support of the album on the Moto Music Madness Tour which found AOF playing on the Ernie Ball Mobile stage during the intermission of a freestyle motocross event. The tour played over 50 dates across the USA.

At the beginning of 2003, Nielsen left the band on good terms to pursue another career and was replaced by Kai Dodson, another Ventura County musician who was a long time friend of the band, and whose previous band, 19th Hole, had performed with Army of Freshmen in the past. Around the same time, the album was discovered by the Sonic Label, a record label in Japan, which led to Army of Freshmen being invited to play Summersonic, one of Japan's largest music festivals, in 2003.

In the fall of 2003, the band would first tour with Bowling For Soup. This led to a close friendship between both bands resulting in the creation of the Get Happy Tour in 2006.

Beg, Borrow, Steal (2004-2006)

The band entered the studio to record their second album, Beg, Borrow, Steal in late 2003. It was produced by Angus Cooke and was released on the label 33rd Street Records, which was owned by the now-defunct music store chain Tower Records. The album featured the single "Get Um Up," which was added to over 20 alternative radio stations and spent 5 weeks in the top 20 on the U.S. Alternative radio specialty charts.[3]

Following the release of Beg, Borrow, Steal in 2004, the band returned to Japan supporting The Living End, along with a co-headlining show with Sugarcult and Bowling For Soup in Sapporo, Japan where the band's record went to the top 10 in that city.

Returning from Japan, the band embarked on the entire Warped Tour in 2004. During the tour's stop in Toronto, Canada, drummer Mike Rini was asked to leave the band. Mike Milligan, a Chicago-based drummer who had played with AOF on several shows with his previous band, Short Arm Trick, relocated to Ventura and officially replaced Rini in December 2004.

Shortly after the Warped Tour, the band toured the United Kingdom for the first time with The Littlest Man Band and Suburban Legends.

Immediately after returning to the United States, the band finished their busiest year yet touring the country again with Lucky Boys Confusion.

In 2005 the band did a headlining summer tour still in support of Beg, Borrow, Steal and returned to the United Kingdom that fall for a sold out tour opening for Bowling For Soup. In support of the tour, they released an exclusive UK only EP, At the End Of the Day, which was recorded in Texas and produced by Jaret Reddick of Bowling For Soup.[4]

Under the Radar (2006-2007)

In 2006, the band released their third album, Under the Radar, which was produced by Jay Ruston and recorded in Los Angeles, CA. Originally set to be released by an upstart independent record label, American Blood, the label folded prior to the album's release and gave Army of Freshmen full rights to the record, which they released independently.

That spring, the band returned to Japan for the third time on the Nutcase Entertainment Tour which was the band's new Japanese label after Sonic Label folded.

In the summer of 2006, Army of Freshmen and Bowling For Soup created and appeared on the first Get Happy Tour, a package tour that covered the United States and featured fan interaction events and a family friendly show.

The Get Happy Tour then went to the United Kingdom in February 2007 where it sold out in advance. Army of Freshmen's energetic live show received glowing praise from such music publications as Kerrang Magazine. At the Birmingham date of the Get Happy Tour, organizers of the Download Festival caught the band's set, and a week later, Army of Freshmen was invited to appear at the 2007 Download Festival in England held in June.

In preparation for their debut United Kingdom festival appearance, Army of Freshmen co-headlined the Good to Go Tour in May in the United Kingdom with Wheatus and MC Lars. They also visited mainland Europe for the first time (Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands), then returned to the United Kingdom with Reel Big Fish in June prior to the 2007 Download Festival.

That summer, the Get Happy Tour's second year in the United States commenced. In addition to Army of Freshmen, the lineup included Bowling For Soup, Quietdrive and Melee. Then, in October, the Get Happy Tour went to mainland Europe for shows in France, the Netherlands and Germany. Immediately thereafter, the tour continued on to United Kingdom which saw Army of Freshmen playing to some of the largest crowds of their career, with the lineup of Army of Freshmen, Bowling For Soup, The Bloodhound Gang and Zebrahead.

Above The Atmosphere (2008-Present)

In April 2008, Army of Freshmen announced that recording was complete on their fourth album, Above the Atmosphere. The 10 song record was recorded in Los Angeles during February and March 2008 and was produced by Jay Ruston. The band’s website and YouTube channel posted several photo and video blogs during the recording process. During that time Army of Freshmen also appeared at the South by Southwest Festival in Austin, Texas for a Get Happy Tour showcase that included Bowling For Soup, Presidents of the United States of America, Wheatus and Ludo.

Above The Atmosphere was self-released in June and is currently available on all digital retail stores, at all AOF live shows and on the band’s website. The band also embarked on their first headlining tour of the United Kingdom in June, as well as making a return appearance at the 2008 Download Festival where the band once again drew positive reviews and a large crowd despite being one of the only non-metal bands on the festival. Their set received 4 Ks in Kerrang! Magazine, the second highest rating a band can receive.

Immediately after the UK tour in July 2008 the band went on a short 3 week headline tour in the United States that included a benefit show at Chris Jay’s high school in Cape May, New Jersey.

The video for the record’s single, “No One’s Famous” was released in the fall of 2008 and was a hit in the United Kingdom where it went to number 3 on Scuzz TV’s top 10 video show. It also reached number 7 on Kerrang TV’s top 20 video show.

The band then returned in November for another headline tour to support the new record and single.

In May 2009, the band toured China for the first time where they played to the biggest crowds of their career appearing at the Midi Festival and Zebra Festival where they were the only artist from the USA to perform. Their headlining set received rave reviews in the Chinese music press.


  • Chris Jay - vocals
  • Aaron Goldberg - guitar, vocals
  • Owen Bucey - keyboard, vocals
  • Dan Clark - keyboard, mini moog
  • Kai Dodson - bass
  • Mike Milligan - drums

Former Members

  • One Neilsen - bass
  • Mike Rini - drums
  • Jonathan Blackburn - drums



  • The Army of Freshmen (2001)
  • Beg, Borrow, Steal (2004)
  • At the End of the Day (2005) [UK only EP]
  • Under the Radar (2006)
  • Above The Atmosphere (2008)


1. Any Other Way 2. Calling Me Home 3. Center of Gravity 4. Condition Christine 5. Don't Fall Asleep Tonight 6. It Never Rains In Los Angeles 7. Leaves 8. Lost In a Crowd 9. No One's Famous 10. Turn It Up


In Army of Freshmen’s career they have toured with or opened for the following notable bands: AFI, Allister, Alkaline Trio, American Hi-Fi, The Ataris, The Aquabats, Billy Talent, Bloodhound Gang, Bowling For Soup, The Buzzcocks, Cherry Poppin' Daddies, Dogstar featuring Keanu Reeves, Fall Out Boy, Fenix TX, Fountains of Wayne, Good Charlotte, Halifax, Hellogoodbye, Home Grown, The Impossibles, Kottonmouth Kings, Lagwagon, John Linnell (of They Might Be Giants), The Living End, Lucky Boys Confusion, Ludo, The Matches, MC Lars, Melee, Mest, Midtown, MxPx, Nerf Herder, Ozma, Plain White Ts, The Presidents of the United States of America, Pulley, Punchline, Reel Big Fish, River City High, Rocket Summer, Royal Crown Revue, Rufio, Say Anything, The Stereo, Something Corporate, Son Of Dork, The Specials, The Starting Line, Sugarcult, Sum 41, Ultimate Fakebook, The Untouchables, Wheatus, Yellowcard, and Zebrahead.

Army of Freshmen have had several guest appearances from other artists on their records:

  • Parry Gripp, lead singer of Nerf Herder, contributed vocals to the song “Hard To Say” on Beg, Borrow, Steal.
  • Jaret Reddick, lead singer of Bowling For Soup, contributed vocals to the song, “At the End of the Day” on Under The Radar. He also contributed minor background vocals to the songs “Wrinkle In Time,” “Down at the Shore” and “Maybe in the Midwest”.
  • Marko 72, guitarist of Sugarcult, contributed a guitar solo to the song, “Groundbreaking Sound” on Under The Radar.
  • Ben Harper, formerly of Yellowcard, contributed a guitar solo to “Waiting on Me” on Under the Radar.
  • Steve Klein, lead guitarist of New Found Glory, co wrote the song, “Don’t Fall Asleep Tonight” on Above The Atmosphere.
  • Brendan Brown, lead singer of Wheatus, co-wrote the songs, “It Never Rains In Los Angeles” and “No One’s Famous” on Above The Atmosphere and contributed background vocals on the songs, “Any Other Way,” “Don’t Fall Asleep Tonight,” “Center of Gravity,” “No One’s Famous” and “It Never Rains In Los Angeles”.
  • Matt Nelson, singer for Nelson, contributed background vocals to “Any Other Way,” “Turn It Up” and “Lost In A Crowd” on Above The Atmopshere.
  • Ben Pringle, keyboardist for The Rentals, contributed some moog parts to “It Never Rains In Los Angeles” on Above The Atmosphere.
  • Russ Parrish, guitarist for the band Steel Panther (formerly Metal Skool), contributed guitar solos to the songs, “Any Other Way” and “No One’s Famous” on Above The Atmosphere.
  • Armand John Anthony, guitarist of the band, Le Meu Le Purr contributed guitar solos to the songs, “Center of Gravity” and “It Never Rains In Los Angeles” on Above The Atmosphere.

The band has a cameo in Bowling For Soup's video, "High School Never Ends." The video treatment/concept was written by Chris Jay.

AOF was name checked in the song "We Could've Had It All" by the singer songwriter, Phil Cody on his Big Slow Mover record. Cody was major influence on Chris Jay's songwriting and the two became friends when Jay moved to California.

Army of Freshmen appear and perform on Bowling For Soup’s live concert DVD, Live and Very Attractive, filmed during the Get Happy Tour’s 2007 date at the sold out Apollo Theater in Manchester, England. During the song, “Ohio,” Bowling For Soup hands over their instruments to Army of Freshmen who finish the song. Members of Army of Freshmen are also seen in some of the behind the scenes footage.

Members of Army of Freshmen are seen briefly in behind the scenes footage of The Living End’s DVD, From Here On In, during the sequences filmed in Japan.

Army of Freshmen’s song “Road Less Traveled” was quoted in the book High School Confidential written by Jeremy Iversen and published by Atria Books in 2006. Chris Jay and the band are also mentioned in the Thank You section.

Other Ventures

Army of Freshmen members have produced and played on several recording for other artists.

  • Chris Jay and Aaron Goldberg have produced two 3 song demos for New Jersey singer, Sarah Ashleigh. The first, in 2006, had a pop rock based sound and the second in the spring of 2008 was more acoustic oriented. The songs on each demo were written by Jay and Goldberg. Kai Dodson, Mike Milligan, Dan Clark and Goldberg played on the first demo while Dodson, Milligan, Owen Bucey and Goldberg played on the second demo. Jay discovered Ashleigh when he was a guest judge at American Idol type contest in his hometown of Cape May, New Jersey while on tour there in the summer of 2005. The songs are available at Ashleigh’s myspace page.
  • Chris Jay and Aaron Goldberg produced UK band Lost?'s EP in October 2008. The first track released 'Electric Eyes' features Aaron Goldberg singing and can be heard at .
  • Chris Jay and Aaron Goldberg also produced a 3 song demo in 2007 and a full length record in 2008, An Ordinary Tragedy for the New Jersey rock band, Exit 4. The songs on the demo and record were co-written with Jay and Goldberg. Mike Milligan and Kai Dodson played on the full length record and Bucey and Goldberg contributed vocals. The record was released in May 2008 and is available on iTunes.
  • Chris Jay and Aaron Goldberg most recently produced a 5 song ep in July 2008 for country singer songwriter, Michelle Dawn Mooney who is the lead news anchor for NBC 40 in Atlantic City. One of the songs on the demo, “On The Inside” was co written by Jay. Dodson, Milligan, Bucey and Goldberg all played on the demo. The demo is scheduled to be released in the fall of 2008.
  • In 2005, Aaron Goldberg produced the debut record for fellow Ventura band, Black List who have since changed their name to Dirty Words.
  • In the spring of 2008, Aaron Goldberg flew to the United Kingdom to produce the debut record for English band, Allbright. Their record is scheduled for a fall 2008 release.
  • In 2007, Mike Milligan produced and co-wrote the debut album All We've Got Is This from Chicago band Plunket. Chris Jay, Aaron Goldberg and Owen Bucey all contributed vocals to the record. The record is available on iTunes.

Chris Jay wrote a weekly music column for the VC Reporter, a weekly newspaper in Ventura County, California, from 1999 to 2001. He still contributes frequently to the paper and has interviewed hundreds of artists.[5] In 2003 he was sued for 10 million dollars by Mike Love of the Beach Boys over an article he wrote on Love and the current line up of the Beach Boys. The case never went to trial and was settled out of court, but all the members of Army of Freshmen had to give depositions during the discovery period of the case. Jay is reluctant to speak of the matter, and most Army of Freshmen fans and Beach Boy fans are unaware that the lawsuit ever existed.[6]


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