As Band Says Goodbye, Armor for Sleep Frontman Reflects on Teaneck Roots
Rock and pop-punk band's farewell tour includes New York City show July 14
Teaneck’s Armor for Sleep has reunited to say goodbye.
The emotionally charged, rock and pop-punk band led by township native Ben Jorgensen released three albums before going on hiatus in 2008 and quietly disbanding a year later.
Now, Armor for Sleep is giving itself and its fans a proper sendoff by playing a series of farewell shows, including a performance on Saturday, July 14, at Irving Plaza in Manhattan.
“We decided to give an ending to a chapter in all our lives that ended without fanfare,” said Jorgensen, 29, the band’s singer, rhythm guitarist and principle songwriter. “It’s a chance to say thank you and goodbye.”
Armor for Sleep initially came together to play one final show at the Bamboozle Festival in Asbury Park in May. Soon promoters from around the country began contacting Jorgensen.
“There were so many fans who weren’t going to be able to get to Bamboozle,” said Jorgensen, who now lives in New York. “There were promoters who said they were interested in having us in their areas.
“We thought it wouldn’t be fair to our fans not to do it. It’s cool to revisit all the songs and to see the fans singing along again.”
Jorgensen said Teaneck proved fertile ground for a budding musician. He attended his first concert, a pop-punk show, at the Teaneck American Legion Hall.
“I walked from my mom’s house,” Jorgensen recalled. “It was 1996 or 1997. I went to shows all the time. I owe my entire musical upbringing to Bergen County.”
Influenced by pop-punk, indie rock and emo bands such as New Brunswick’s Lifetime, Princeton’s Saves the Day and Floridians New Found Glory, Jorgensen formed the punk band Random Task with friends from Solomon Schechter Upper School in West Orange.
A drummer at the time, Jorgensen began teaching himself guitar. “Since my drum set was in my mom’s house, that’s where we rehearsed,” he said. “The other guys would leave their guitars at the house, so I’d try to figure out how to play them.
“There were a couple of record labels when we were seniors in high school that wanted to sign us to make a record,” he said, “but our parents were too scared at the time to let us do anything like that.”
Jorgensen would not have to wait long to create an album. He formed Armor for Sleep while at Rutgers University, and the band released its debut album, “Dream to Make Believe,” in 2003. The group also includes bassist Anthony Di Ionno of Madison, South Orange native PJ DeCicco on guitar and drummer Nash Breen of Maplewood.
Armor for Sleep is best-known for its sophomore effort, 2005’s “What to Do When You Are Dead.” The album explores the thoughts of a young man who has just died reflecting on his life. The record’s haunting melodies, passionate lyrics and sense of desperation resonated with fans and critics.
However, by the time the band finished touring for its third album, “Smile for Them,” Jorgensen had become disillusioned with the changes he saw in the pop-punk and indie rock genre that had inspired him.
“At that point in the scene everything was becoming so commercialized and watered down,” Jorgensen said. “It just seemed like it had taken a turn for the worse and was becoming a parody of itself.”
Jorgensen’s disappointment in the music industry did not blunt his passion for the art. In the past four years he formed the electronic music project God Loves a Challenge and released a solo album, “There is Nowhere Left to Go.”
Though he now resides across the Hudson River, Jorgensen said he visits Teaneck often and talked warmly about growing up in town.
“I really love Teaneck,” he said. “It’s a beautiful town. Going to Louie’s, hanging out on Cedar Lane and skateboarding, that was my childhood.
“And it’s really cool when I hear about other people that came from Teaneck. One of my favor television and movie writers is from Teaneck, Damon Lindelof, who produced “Lost.” I have a sense of pride when I hear about anyone creative who has come out of Teaneck.”
Jorgensen said he is not sure what the future holds following Armor for Sleep’s farewell tour, except that it will include expressing himself artistically.
“I don’t think I’ll ever be satisfied if I’m not creating,” Jorgensen said. “If I take a break there’s always an itch that I get to create and bring something new into the world.”
IF YOU GO: Armor for Sleep, with special guests Ashtree and Those Mockingbirds, 7 p.m. Saturday, July 14, Irving Plaza, 17 Irving Place, Manhattan. $26. More information: 212-777-6800 or www.irvingplaza.com.