- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 9, 2005

Like most young rock bands, Army of Me’s four members work day jobs to finance their concert tours and recording studio time.

But music takes precedence: The guys, says singer-guitarist Vince Scheuerman, spend “most of our working hours” writing songs, practicing, playing shows and talking with fans. The group opens for The Wrens tomorrow night at the Black Cat.

If Mr. Scheuerman has his way, he and his bandmates will spend much less time with their regular jobs in 2005. The group has scheduled a two-week tour in March, including a gig at the ultra-hip South By Southwest festival in Austin, Texas.

“SXSW,” as it’s widely known, is to up-and-coming musicians as the Sundance Film Festival is to talented independent filmmakers. The opportunity to play for music fans and record label scouts means that Army of Me is “becoming more established,” says Mr. Scheuerman, who grew up in Gaithersburg and now lives in Mount Pleasant.

He’ll travel to Austin with bassist and childhood friend John Hutchins, guitarist Brad Tursi and drummer Dennis Manuel.

The rest of the year could be equally demanding. “I’d like to get out there on the road as much as possible,” Mr. Scheuerman says. He also wants to record a full-length album, “one that we all love and sounds great.”

It’s an ambitious schedule, but a necessary one for a group that needs to expand its fan base and add to its recorded output. The group released its debut CD during the fall of 2001 and a follow-up EP at the beginning of 2003. Army of Me will release a five-song disc this month.

One of the new songs, “Come Down to D.C.,” is available to download from the band’s site, www.armyofmeonline.com. Mr. Scheuerman, his voice full of yearning and far more mature than his 23 years, invites his love to join him for what starts as an enchanted visit to the District. As the soothing blanket of sound gains volume, the lyrical tone shifts to a darker vision. “Let’s take a ride/Me and you/Crash the car/A suicide/Me and you/Arm and arm.”

Despite the allusions to death in “Come Down to D.C.” and earlier songs, Mr. Scheuerman says he strives to write lyrics that help people get through hard times. Incorporating grim and difficult situations adds realism and connects with the band’s primarily college-age listeners.

Ultimately, he wants Army of Me’s songs to deliver a positive message. He says most of his lyrics are “about being who you are, feeling good about the person that you are and not conforming to what other people want you to be.”

After each performance, Mr. Scheuerman hangs around the venue and talks with fans. These shared moments provide much of the inspiration for writing “music that might help somebody get through their day,” he says.

“I love meeting people. You cross paths with so many different kinds of people when you’re playing music,” he says.

Asked for his vision of a perfect 2005, Mr. Scheuerman energetically offers an answer that’s half-truth and half-fantasy: “I want to meet the pope and I want to meet [U2’s] Bono,” he says. “That would be a great year!”

• • •

Call it ‘80s nostalgia gone too far. Bowling for kids scored a hit last year with “1985,” an overstuffed reference-fest about a woman who is still obsessed with ‘80s pop singers (Madonna, Duran Duran) and movies (“Pretty In Pink” and “St. Elmo’s Fire”).

Now the slick pop-punk band, which doesn’t want to be known solely for a novelty tune, is touring to support its album, “A Hangover You Don’t Deserve.” American Hi-Fi, Riddlin’ Kids and MC Lars tag along during a Wednesday stop at the 9:30 Club.

• • •

Armed with laptop computers, electronic musicians from the mid-Atlantic region will square off in a series of ‘laptop battles’ on Saturday at DC 9.

“The laptop battle is electronic music’s punk rock,” writes Kris Moon in an e-mail interview. Mr. Moon is a member of Fourthcity, a group of multimedia artists based primarily in Seattle. Fourthcity sponsors the battles in cities throughout the United States. The DC 9 event is being organized by Negative Space, a local progressive arts and music collective.

“You’ve got original compositions, but only three minutes and a laptop to impress the judges and the crowd,” Mr. Moon writes. “Anyone who makes music using software on a laptop” can participate. The musical styles range from hip hop to dance hall to techno.

To encourage participation, Negative Space accepts submissions on its Web site, negativespace.org. The site lays out the challenge for anyone who’s willing to engage in the aural battle.

“Contestants are judged on sound quality, vibe, originality, crowd reaction and performance,” according to the rules page posted on the site.

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