Arsenal 88
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Arsenal 88

Miami, Florida, United States | SELF

Miami, Florida, United States | SELF
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"Mike Marsh of Dashboard Confessional Talks About The Agency's Reunion This Saturday at Transit Lounge"

If you were lucky enough to be in Miami in the mid to late '90s and of drinking age (okay, truth be told, anyone could get in anywhere back then), there's a good chance you know exactly what Arsenal 88 vocalist Andres Aguero means when he says, "I grew up singing along to The Agency during the golden days of Miami rock!"

The golden age he refers to is prior to techno's rule, when places like Fubar and Cheers regularly buzzed with the din of crowds coming to watch live rock bands. I still remember slipping into Society Hill when I was 15, with the help of a guitar teach I had who played in Fat Peter, and once inside, scoring a few Coronas from the bar with little more than a raised eyebrow from the bartender. Ah, the Golden Age.

The Agency was one of Miami's premier acts then. Comprised of Mike Marsh, Klaus Ketelhohn, Chris Drueke and, at different points later on, Chris Carraba, Joe Williams, and John Owens, The Agency itself was something of an incestuous little spring of SoFla rock talent, if you will. Marsh and Carraba both form part of Dashboard Confessional, as well as having lent their chops along with the other members, variously to Seville, Vacant Andys, and Arsenal 88.

The Agency more or less went inactive in 2001, at least in typical terms, though 2004 did see the beginning of a recording process that eventually resulted in Turn (realized in 2007). But it's always continued to exist in non-traditional terms, the band a loose accord between friends, and the project a happy place they could all reside, even if only for just a time. And this Saturday, The Agency will reunite onstage for the first time in a long time. "Basically the show was put together by me," explains Aguero (Ketelhohn is a bandmate in Arsenal), "because I wanted to celebrate my birthday in style!"

We recently got a chance to catch up with drummer Mike Marsh, and he told us all about the reunion, life with Dashboard Confessional, his solo work, and the rare treat The Agency is offering fans this Saturday.

New Times: You guys pretty much stopped in 2001 (though 2007, until the release of Turn). I know Mike has said that it'll "always be a band because of friendship," but what sparked this reunion now?

Mike Marsh: The Agency will always be alive in some way, shape, or form. We simply love playing music, but most importantly, we love playing our songs together. This reunion show came about as a request to play our friend Andres' birthday party. It started as an acoustic set and turned into a full-blown rock show.

Tell us about The Agency's sort of nonlinear timeline, and the way you guys have developed organically.

For me, it's been just that ... an organic process. I've learned so much from my years with Dashboard Confessional from all angles. Most of all from the producers. Understanding now what "less is more" really means, which I feel was my/our approach gearing up for Turn. And of course playing with other musicians with different ideas has been a big influence on all of us. For Klaus, Arsenal 88 has been a learning experience. For Chris, even though he's had his nose in a book for the past few years for his Engineering degree, I'm sure Seville was a big change and learning experience.

The Agency had something of a revolving cast, and tons of big talent among them, but the 3 originals have always been the backbone, and it's back down to you 3, huh?

As for our current line-up ... we're not exactly a true three piece. We are playing most of Saturday's set as a trio, but we will have special guests. One of which is my good friend Craig Schlensinger, who will play bass on my project Paper which I'm recording at The Dungeon in North Miami. Klaus is playing on my record as well.

How have things changed for you as individual musicians over the course of these years since The Agency?

We've all changed quite a bit. As I said before, I've been writing my own record. The process has been a long but important one for me. I've had to teach myself piano and guitar in order to actually write by myself as opposed to sitting with Chris and/or Klaus to write anything. I'd have lyrics written on paper and the melodies that go with them and because I couldn't play anything other than drums, I'd need Klaus or Chris to complete it.

What about as a band? How do you think things are different than when you guys last performed together?

In terms of where we're at as a band, we're always so happy to get together and play these songs. Because that doesn't happen very often, it seems fresh and has an almost youthful vibe to it. Also, we are always changing as fans of music. We always bring that to the table in rehearsal. In terms of what we can and can't do, I get exhausted rehearsing these songs by myself and an iPod, but when we get together it's always exciting, as if anything can happen.

- Miami New Times


"Show Review: Arsenal 88"

It's good to finally go to a show that doesn't require having to drive into one of the worst neighborhoods in Miami!

In the friendly, yet small, confines of Jada Coles on Coral Way, 4 bands got together and put on a local show right out of the 90's. The last time I went to a show that felt like this was in 1995, to see, of all bands, The Agency at Club Roses on South Beach.

For anyone not lucky enough to live through Miami's 90's music scene, The Agency was the local voice of Indie and Emo music - and this was a time when Rap-Rock and NuMetal was dominating the music airways. Of course, founding member Mike Marsh and one-time member Chris Carrabba have gone on to larger fame with their "other band" Dashboard Confessional, but I still think The Agency made an impact on their particular scene that is often times overlooked.

The reason I bring up The Agency is to not only reminisce warmly on my teenage years in the local Miami music scene, but because Arsenal 88 is the project of several members from incredibly important Miami bands: including Klaus Ketelhohn from The Agency, but also Andres Aguero and Joe Beraldi from Foolproof, Mike Battle from Portraits of Autumn and In Droves, and Rob Vespe from Going Nowhere. Our own Miami supergroup!

Arsenal 88 sounds like that early 2000's power pop sound that was a continuation of sound from bands like The Agency and Foolproof, but with less punk and more powerpop. I bought one of their $1 demos, I suggest you do too.


- REV Miami


"MP3 of the Day: Arsenal 88 - "Open Wound""

Arsenal 88 is one of these bands I've been seeing on flyers a lot lately, and I'm pleased to share this MP3 with you, our valued readers. Looking over their factsheet I'm impressed by the local pedigree the members bring. Andres Aguero, vocalist, sang for Foolproof; pianist / guitarist / vocalist Klaus Ketelhohn played guitar with the Agency; drummer Mike Batlle played for In Droves and Portraits of Autumn; second guitarist Joe Beraldi also strung for Foolproof; and bassist Rob Vespe played with Going Nowhere. That's about 16 years' experience of South Florida gigging that is not lost on the recording.
The levels are good and the nuances of guitar work spread through the recording give it a good feel, setting up the heavy moments and the breaks. I'm hearing a lot of the members' collective backgrounds here as well, as tones of arena-esque grandeur that would've been so at home within the intimate hallows of the late Cheers.... But that's just me getting nostalgic. It also helped that Mike Marsh (of The Agency/Dashboard Confessional fame) engineered and produced the recording.

Catch them this coming Saturday at the German-American club alongside Hit Play!, Audacity, Not From Concentrate, Your Favorite Franchise and Araka! where proceeds of the show will go to benefit the Sandor Wiener School of Opportunity, which does exceptional work for our special-needs students here in Miami-Dade County.

- Miami New Times By Abel Folgar


Discography

Still working on that hot first release.

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Bio

Arsenal 88 is a melodic rock band from Miami, Florida. The band emerged from former members of bands that have strongly influenced the south Florida music scene for over a decade. Long before they knew they wanted to make music together each member dedicated multiple years to their bands. Andres Aguero sang for the melodic punk outfit Foolproof , Klaus Ketelhöhn played guitar for the nationally recognized The Agency, Rob Vespe played bass for the punk driven Going Nowhere, Jim Miller played drums for the instrumental rock elite Vidavox and Alejandro Salazar played guitar for dance rock’s own Outereach.
In the spring of 2009 Klaus and Andres began writing songs about life’s highs and lows. They did not limit themselves to a specific genre of music but established that melody would be the main focus for the band. They recruited the rest of the band based on the diversity of their musical backgrounds and began practicing. During the summer of 2009, Arsenal 88 recorded a two-song demo featuring the tracks “Open Wound” and “Rocky” in Nashville, Tennessee. Mike Marsh, former drummer of The Agency and current drummer of Dashboard Confessional engineered and produced the recording. Arsenal 88 has been playing riveting shows in local Miami venues like Grand Central, Transit Lounge, and Churchill’s Pub while also reaching their fans throughout Florida. They are currently writing songs for their debut album expected to be released by the end of 2011.