At the age of 3, Owen had his first piano instruction. Moving to Ventura in 1984, he continued with various training in both classical and overall theory. At the age of 12, Owen performed at the Oxnard Civic Auditorium in front of a full house for the Dave and Bob Talent Show. From the age of 13-18 he was instructed by Master teacher Peter Yazbeck (UCSB). While attending Ventura College, Owen joined Army of Freshmen (AOF) in the late 90's. For 20 years, Owen has been an integral songwriter in the project, releasing 4 full length records and 2 EP's, and has performed all over the world with his best friends. In the early 2000s, the Calamity was born. This piano power pop outfit has released two full length album (Songs From the Gold Coast//2009) and (A Ghost Of These Moments//2013). Owen has lent his talent to several recording sessions in vocal arrangement and piano/organ/synth performance. Currently, Owen is available for solo piano/vocal performances and session work.
Army Of Freshmen has performed over 1,500 shows in 43 states and 13 countries. They’ve appeared at music festivals around the world like Japan’s Summersonic Festival and England’s Download and Sonisphere Festivals sharing the bill with artists like Radiohead, Kiss and Iron Maiden. They can count among their fans everyone from hip hop legend, Chuck D from Public Enemy, who has joined the band on stage, to former WWE world champion and bestselling author, Mick Foley. They’ve been slapped with a multimillion dollar lawsuit by The Beach Boy’s, Mike Love, which found the band being deposed alongside Brian Wilson in a true story that has more twists and turns than a movie. They’ve broken down international barriers when they were the only American band to perform at China’s massive Midi Festival. Their fiercely loyal fan base has even tattooed lyrics and logos on themselves and spends hours every day discussing the band’s music online.
You would think a band with such diverse accomplishments and ardent supporters would have to at some point have had the backing a high powered record label or management company, but, when it comes to Army of Freshmen, long before it was fashionable or necessary, they’ve done it all on their own.
Now, as the six piece Ventura, California rock band prepares to celebrate their 15th anniversary, and the release of what has already been called “a career defining record,” the appropriately titled, Happy To Be Alive, Army of Freshmen are out to prove that slow and steady really does win the race.
Started by lead singer, Chris Jay, who moved as a teenager by himself to California from his hometown of Cape May, New Jersey, and met fellow AOF members, Aaron Goldberg, Owen Bucey, Dan Clark and Kai Dodson at a local coffeehouse where he was performing, the band first made a name for themselves in the Ventura County area. Local success led to their own self booked regional and national tours along with dates on the Warped Tour and slots opening for a who’s who of acts in the rock, pop and punk world.
Their growing following and reputation as a hardworking, energetic and spontaneous live band, led to Army of Freshmen traveling overseas, first to Japan, a country where the band enjoyed massive success. From Asia, the band’s international touring spread to England and mainland Europe, where the band played everywhere from major festivals to the smallest pubs, playing each show with the same intensity no matter the size, making one fan at a time no matter the language or cultural difference.
From handstands on keyboards, to diving off balconies, to spontaneous freestyle songs, to staying outside of the venue long into the night never turning down a picture or autograph, to sending personalized postcards from abroad to fans, to speaking and performing for free at public school music programs, and even impromptu visits to fans in the hospital, Army of Freshmen defined themselves as a band that clearly cared about their audience just much as their audience cared about them.
As the music industry changed dramatically over the course of their career, Army of Freshmen held steady, year after year. Releasing 4 full length albums and 2 EPs of hook and harmony filled upbeat rock with the band’s signature sound of dueling piano and Moog and Chris Jay’s unique and story filled lyrics, the band also released a series of fun and comedic videos that became mainstays on Japanese and United Kingdom music channels.
“We’ve had a front row seat for the dramatic changes that happened in the music industry,” explains front man, Chris Jay. “When we started, the definition of success was to be on a major label and selling music was how bands made a living. We watched so many bands around us throw in the towel when things became too difficult or when they were no longer on a label. With Army of Freshmen never having known that support structure, we didn’t really know any difference. We just kept plugging along. Working a day job between tours was always the norm for us. We just always wanted to put on a great show and improve as songwriters.”
Improving as songwriters might be an understatement as their new record can attest to. While the songs on Happy To Be Alive, produced by longtime friend of the Freshmen, noted metal and hard rock producer, Jay Ruston (Anthrax, Stone Sour, Steel Panther), still maintain the hooks and harmonies the band is known for, the subject material tackles some serious issues, such as the struggle of a recovering alcoholic in the driving, “Paperweight”, dealing with the loss of a loved one in the anthem worthy, “We’ll Always Have Forever” and the pain that comes at the end of a long term relationship in the haunting ballad, “Skyscrapers”. The band hasn’t abandoned the positive and energetic sound they’re known for though as songs like the record’s single, “Ava”, “Cape May Diamond Ring” and “Devotion” are destined to be fan favorites with their undeniably pop perfect choruses.
“There’s a lot of real life on the new record,” says Jay. “We’ve been through a lot personally and professionally. I think it’s natural that as artists we’re going reflect that but our band’s story is one of hope, devotion and believing in dreams, sometimes maybe a little too much, and that’s always going to come across in the music. We’re not grumpy old men just yet. We’re still having a lot of fun.”
So out of curiosity sake, 15 years in, what would happen if the new record is finally the one that breaks Army of Freshmen to an audience larger than their already devoted following?
“Well, it would be nice to finally make a living doing what we’ve spent our whole life doing,” laughs Jay. “But we’re rich in experience. We’re still best friends and we get to travel to some amazing places. I’d put our fan’s loyalty and passion up against any band’s fans in the world and after 15 years of blood, sweat and tears, I think we’ve made the best record of our career. The title of the record really sums up how we feel as a band… we’re happy to be alive.”
the Calamity is:
Owen Bucey — lead vocals, keys
Kai Dodson — lead/rhythm guitars, vocals
Baltazar Cano — bass
Aaron Goldberg — drums, percussion
Phil Tibbs -- lead/rhythm guitars
the Calamity is an American piano/pop/alternative/country band that was formed in Ventura, CA in 2005 by members of the power pop group Army Of Freshmen (AOF) including: Aaron Goldberg (drums, percussion), Kai Dodson (lead/rhythm guitar, vocals) and Owen Bucey (lead vocals, keys). The origin of the band goes back to an intoxicated night in Cape May, NJ in the practice room of Mr. J's Music Shop while on tour with AOF in the summer of 2004.
Baltazar Cano (bass) joined the project in late fall 2008.
Phil Tibbs (lead/rhythm guitars) joined the project in late 2010.
Various demos and recordings took place between fall 2005 and spring 2008. Notably, a session with Jay Ruston from TRS West studios in Studio City, CA with the result of 2 tracks (One Of These Days/Waiting For July) off the upcoming debut release, “Songs From The Gold Coast.”
The debut album, “Songs From The Gold Coast,” out on Missing Words Records July 28th, 2009, was written by the Calamity and produced by the Calamity, Jay Ruston and Paul Miner. It was recorded in two sessions. Spring of 2006 with Ruston @ TRS West studios in Studio City, CA; and winter of 2008 with Miner @ Buzzbomb Sound Labs in Orange, CA. All photography for “Songs From The Gold Coast” was done by Baltazar Cano. Layout and design courtesy Matt Martin (www.blasterbolts.com).
Track listing is as follows:
1 Waiting For July
2 Yesterday's Tragedy
3 Whiskey Sour
4 Wrapped Up (In The Melody)
6 Walk Down
9 One Of These Days
11 Take Some Time
Songs From The Gold Coast is a collection of melodic piano pop songs with a dash of country flare and a touch of bitterness.
Dry 7" recorded in Ventura in late 2010.
For fans of: Counting Crows, Ben Folds, Old 97’s, Maroon 5, Something Corporate
Dry - 7" Vinyl
Side A: Dry
Side B: We Descend
Hand-numbered limited edition of 300, the first 100 pressed on blue vinyl and 200 on marble vinyl. Includes digital download.
A Ghost Of These Moments - Album - Released winter 2013
Mandex is comprised of members from some of area’s most popular original bands. The Dex, as referred to by their fans, came together for fun to play the songs they grew up on for a one-time only show. However, the response was so overwhelming that a full time tribute band was born. Dressed head to toe in vintage 80’s glam band glory, from wigs to spandex, the band’s live show is a non-stop party. Covering anthems by bands such as Poison, Bon Jovi, Motley Crue, Ratt, Skid Row, Guns N Roses and more, a Mandex show is like taking a time machine back to the glory days of the Sunset Strip!