The Armchairs’ first show and final show were similar beasts: both took place at Johnny Brenda’s, on a Friday the 13th, and both involved Easter egg hunts. Between filling plastic eggs with jelly beans, sipping beer, and building moats, the four members of The Armchairs took the time to (sort of) give an interview about their four memorable years in the Philly music scene. As they frequently interrupted, or simply talked over each other, it became clear The Armchairs’ break-up isn’t the stuff of celebrity gossip rags; it resembles something closer to “mutual.” Similarly, for their final interview, the guys swear they took it easy on me, but the constant digressions tell a different, more illuminating, story.
When and how did The Armchairs initially form?
Michael Chadwick (keyboard, vocals): I was going to nursing school in Chicago. That was in 2005…
Mike Harkness (drums): It was 1992 I thought.
Chadwick: 2005. And I met Andy, he was…
Andy Moholt (lead guitar, vocals): So Chadwick was in nursing school and I was his mock patient, it was through my temp agency. The situation was that I pretended I was sick for him, but he knew I wasn’t really sick. You could tell I wasn’t really sick right off the bat. I was going to acting school at the time. And that’s inevitably why I quit acting school, was because Chadwick knew.
Chadwick: Basically we started talking and found out we both played music. And then I dropped out of nursing school and started going to art school.
Moholt: We actually went to art school together. We were roommates. We wrote one of our songs using magnetic poetry at the time. Then Chadwick walked into my room one day, woke me up around 5 pm and said, “wanna a band called The Armchairs?” and I said yes. Pretty simple.
Chadwick: That was pretty much it… Then I moved to Philadelphia like a year and a half later. And that’s it.
Moholt: Yeah I’m from here. But I was living in Chicago at Columbia College, it’s called.
Chadwick: Not to be confused with Columbia University. The actual school.
Moholt: The only reason Chadwick or I got into Columbia was because of their open admissions policy. Our high school grades didn’t matter.
Harkness: So then they both dropped out of college.
Chadwick: And here I am a successful, wealthy, driven, motivated, handsome-
Moholt: Nursing student.
Chadwick: Entrepreneur that I am.
Marty (manager): You are handsome at least.
So when The Armchairs started, what did you see the band becoming?
Moholt: It’s when I went back to Chicago for a month and we jammed a bunch. We lived together for a month and wrote like ten songs in a month were like “fuck, we really have to do this.” But I was in a band in Philly and had to stay here. He was like “alright I’ll move to Philly.” The honest-to-goodness reason I moved to Fishtown is because of this place, because of Johnny Brenda’s, cause I knew it was a cool spot. And I was like “I want to play there one day.” That worked out.
Genre-wise, where were you guys trying to head with The Armchairs?
Chadwick: It’s just what naturally sorta came out of our-
Chadwick: -fucked-up, inebriated mindholes.
Outside of music, what are your influences?
Harkness: I’m really into traffic flow and how they have like timed lights.
Moholt: I can never write songs with my socks on. When I’m writing songs my socks always have to be off.
Andrew Morris (bass): We call it ‘socks off, songs on.’
Harkness: It’s how he counts.
Moholt: My foot flow has be to free. It’s all about root chakra. So there are some of our influences. And we used to live in a house together, expect for this one (point to Morris), he’s an outcast.
Marty, what’s your role with The Armchairs?
Marty: Well I tell them what the weather’s going to be, for the most part. I make sure that their shoes are tied. If they’re tying ties, a lot of them trying to roll with the half-Windsor and I really need to see the full Windsor out of them a little more often, so I’m coaching them on that.
How have you seen the Philly music scene change since the band’s formation to now?
Moholt: There are more duos. And people with like synthesizer and drums or synthesizer and guitar. People standing up and playing drums.
Harkness: Yea standing and playing drums is a new thing. Yea I tried it in NYC a couple times… I kinda think I like it.
Moholt: There’s more good venues. When I got here Kung Fu Necktie was called The Penalty Box, it was a shady neighborhood hockey bar. That I never went to.
Morris: People have different haircuts in the music scene.
Chadwick: Seeing a lot more Houndstooth.
Morris: Seeing a Monkey Tail Beard.
That’s not a thing.
Morris: Google it! You’ve never heard of the monkey tail beard? Google it. It wraps around your mouth. It sucks. It’s not here at all (gesturing). And you can dye it with stripes.
Chadwick: Where is it popular?
Morris: Here. Chadwick No no no no, you’re full of shit.
Morris: Google it. You’re going to find some awesome pictures.
Chadwick: Marty’s on it.
Harkness: Marty googles all the crap we don’t know.
Chadwick: It’s like one guy for all of the pictures…
Moholt: That guy probably gets so much action.
On the eve of your final show, can you tell me about some of your favorite memories from The Armchairs’ history?
Moholt: Two of my favorite moments were playing with Dean Wean and Danny Tamberelli in the same week. Danny Tamberilli’s Little Pete. Yeah. He’s like my friend. Did I tell you guys that he e-mailed me? He was like ‘hey you wanna play another show?’ and I was ‘well, we don’t do that anymore.’
Chadwick: We could come back for Danny Tamberelli.
Moholt: I’d say if Danny Tamberelli and older Pete, who I don’t know what his name is, if they played a show with us, both of them, that would do it.
Chadwick: We’d come out of retirement.
Morris: I didn’t enjoy any of it. Well, my runner-up was Little Pete. So it was either none of it or Little Pete… Making an album was fun, I guess.
Chadwick: For me, it was probably stomping in my own puke… We had an album design contest: four designs, one for each of us.
Moholt: It was an idea I had as a joke… and they ran with it.
Chadwick: The idea was whoever sold most albums of their design won the contest, and the other people three lost. And the losers had to chug a gallon of milk and a gallon of orange juice at the same time, in a display of shame and vomit.
Harkness: And I won. So I got fanned by everybody’s girlfriend. And fed grapes. That was the best moment of probably my life.
Moholt: The Creamsicle Challenge.
Chadwick: Specifically my favorite moment was when there was like a puddle of vomit in front of me and I just started stomping. And all the people in front of me were like, ‘why are you doing that? Stop! Why are you doing that?’ And I was like, ‘why are you watching me?’
Harkness: Then we picked up the tarp and put it in the yard.
Chadwick: It probably weighed like 10 pounds, the vomit in the middle of this tarp.
Marty: My favorite memory also involves Chadwick being nauseous and like on his death bed… Outside of PiLam. I don’t think he was inebriated on anything, other than biological sickness. He started this chant… Basically I don’t know why Chadwick decided it was a good idea to start chanting to random people in West Philadelphia’s streets (all chime in) “Let Mason Go. He didn’t do it. He got other people to do it. He served his time. Let Mason Go…”
So, why is it over now?
Chadwick: Because I quit.
Morris: Harkness is an idiot. It’s all Harkness’s fault.
Chadwick: We all had to take aptitude tests to remain in the band and, well, Harkness didn’t pass. So we decided to disband… and do different things.
Morris: We had enough fun.
Harkness: How much more fun could we possibly have? We hit max capacity.
Chadwick: If we could somehow have some sort of ceremonial defecting at City Hall… that would be fun.
Where are the members going from here?
Harkness: Well we gotta play a show in a little bit.
Chadwick: Then I’m riding my bike and going to go home.
Morris: I’m going to pull my lip over my head and swallow.
Harkness: I’m in Arrah and the Ferns. She’s Arrah and we’re the Ferns. I was playing in both bands for a while. So I’m just sticking with that band.
Moholt: I am playing in a band called Netherfriends. They’re from Chicago.
Chadwick: I’m doing a project of disco revival performance art.
Harkness: Is that what it’s called? That’s advertising.
Chadwick: If I want to sound better than it is… What am I going to call myself an idiot in a unitard?
Moholt: That sounds pretty accurate. If someone said on a flyer, ‘come see an idiot in a unitard,’ I’d be there.
Chadwick: An idiot in a unitard. Featuring Gold Boy.
Harkness: And an iPod.
Chadwick: So make sure to look out for that… I am calling myself Jawn Jeremy.
Any final thoughts? Shout-outs?
Moholt: wwwwwwwww.jodi.org. Just go to it. You’ll know. You can post it as my ultimate message to the world, well not my message.
Harkness: You can also put this.
Moholt: You’re going to give it away? We never give that away… Those are two really core websites.
Morris: You can put that under influences… The E-husbandry Challenge is a good website.
Moholt: Oh yeah! The Armchair’s E-husbandry Challenge.
Harkness: Andrew made a computer game for the band, a really simple flash game for the site. Just google ‘The Armchair’s E-husbandry Challenge.’
Any other parting words for the people of Philly?
Morris: Most of the things I have to say can be expressed about in Yearbook acronyms… KAGS. KID.
Moholt: Buy our album.
Harkness: Yeah, yea, buy some stuff. That’s our final message to the people of Philly: buy our album. Or just donate, now that we’re starving and poor. And not super stars.
Moholt: … I’m tired.
Harkness: Let’s just call this whole thing off.
Moholt: Let’s take a nap on stage tonight- we’ve never done that before.
Morris: Maybe you’ve never done that.
Moholt: Let’s play like five songs and then all try to fall asleep for as long as possible… until people start leaving. I don’t know… what’s our final message to the world? So long and thanks for all the fish.
The Armchair’s album ‘Science & Advice’ and various other memorabilia are available on thearmchairs.com.