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Emily's Army is green, just not Green Day Jr.

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Joey Armstrong, 17, is describing all the things he's learning about being on the road with his punk band Emily's Army.

"You know, instead of spending all your money on one sweet place [to stay] we're learning how to save our money and find food that's filling -- maybe not the best for you, but filling and cheap," Armstrong says from a stop in Boston. "The Taco Bell 12-pack. Dunkin' Donuts. We have a deck of cards we won a while ago. There's a hundred cards in it, from Chipotle, and every one of them is for a free burrito!"

Who was it that once sang questioningly about affording the rock and roll lifestyle?

Armstrong's intent on walking it like he talks it. He could probably splurge more than once for some nice eats. He's the son of Billie Joe Armstrong, leader of the mega-popular, punk-to-Broadway band Green Day.

In the beginning, he tried to keep that under wraps. Didn't work.

featuring Anti Flag, Emily's Army, Every Time I Die, New Found Glory, Senses Fail, Taking Back Sunday, the Used and more
• Gates open at 11:30 a.m. July 7
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"After our first show, the second band looked over and said, 'Give a round of applause for Green Day Jr.,'?" he says. "I was like, 'Are you kidding me?' I've been seeing less of that, which is cool. I can't not expect that. It's kind of a big deal."

Still, he says he takes great pleasure in knocking those chips of people's shoulders.

"A lot of people have judgments in mind and think, 'Oh, this is Lil' Green Day,' like we're not going to be very good. Then I see their faces while we play, and it's like, 'Oh ... wow.'"

Emily's Army, however, wasn't formed because the famous singer's son needed a gig. There's a much better story behind this band.

Emily is real, for starters. She's the cousin of brothers Max (bass) and Cole (guitar) Becker. (Guitarist Travis Nuemann is the fourth in this army. Armstrong plays drums.) In 1998, at age 15, she was diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis. In tribute, the band adopted the name Emily's Army, which also happens to be the moniker for a fundraising organization in their cousin's honor. They play a lot of benefit shows.

The quartet came together when the younger Armstrong was 12. The guys, who attend school together, had been inspired to form a band after seeing the film "School of Rock."

After Green Day's "21st Century Breakdown" tour, and before "American Idiot" was adapted into an acclaimed Broadway musical, Billie Joe Armstrong produced the debut album for Emily's Army, last year's "Don't Be a D---."

It's 14 tracks of punchy, positive pop-punk. Pretty Green Day-ish, but then early Green Day was pretty -ish of a lot of other stuff, too. And so the punk tradition carries on.

The song "I Wanna Be Remembered" rumbles in rolling Ramones fashion, singing, "Never gonna throw my life away / 'cause I wanna be remembered." (I asked Joey if he's named after the Ramone. "I asked my parents that," he says. "They say kind of, but it's also a family name.")

Emily's Army toured a couple of weeks on the East Coast last summer. This time back, they sold out New York City's Knitting Factory.

"I had no idea we could do that," Armstrong says, still amazed days later. "It's our second time ever being in New York, and it was one of the best shows we've ever played. The crowd loved it. But when I saw the line out the door as we were loading in, I was like, 'Oh my God, I can't believe this!'?"

Now the band heads back west via nine dates on the Vans Warped Tour, that stalwart annual package tour of punk bands that's been a summer staple since 1995.

Then they go to work on a second album.

"We've got 11 songs down now, and we're getting them tight at each show," Armstrong says. "We have to record the album before our bassist goes to college."

In the meantime, the band's GPS has Chipotle as a saved search.

"We've got about 80 cards left!"

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Thomas Conner

Thomas Conner covers pop music for the Chicago Sun-Times. Contact him via e-mail.


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This page contains a single entry by Thomas Conner published on July 5, 2012 9:00 AM.

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