Millard Fillmore finally gets his due

A local group sings paeans to each and every U.S. president

Katrina Wilber

Some people have too much time on their hands.

Imagine a CD that takes 47 recording sessions during 2 1/2 months and a “record” button that’s pushed more than 3,000 times. And it’s all just for fun.

Army Defense’s new album, “Presidential,” contains more than two hours of music and barely fits on two CDs.

The five members of Army Defense met through a complicated series of college friends, other gigs and family members. And if marrying sisters of friends and then forming a band isn’t enough, just listen to how they got their name.

“Back in elementary school, around 1986, I used to copy G.I. Joe cartoons, but I called them ‘Army Defense,’ ” Dave Lehnen said. “We were going through a box of my stuff one night and found the cartoons, and somebody said, ‘That’d make a good band name.’ “

And the rest, as they say, is history, including “Presidential.”

“Presidential” has a song for every president of the United States, including two for former President Grover Cleveland, because he served two nonconcurrent terms. Each band member randomly drew his song topics, and off they went. They’d record the songs at home and send them to Lehnen, who played around with the accompaniments to create the final sound.

It’s difficult to see how a song can be put together one person at a time; it’s akin to doing a jigsaw puzzle by putting two pieces together and sending it to the next person. For the members of Army Defense, though, it’s the way they roll. The five men play enough instruments to put any orchestra to shame, from guitar and violin to saxophone and percussion.

“I’m not sure if our music is any certain style,” Jose Ferreira said, but he was quickly interrupted by Brandon Chitwood.

“You can call it a postmodern melange of various pop stylings,” Chitwood said. Then, after a beat, he said, “Can you make sure to use the term ‘melange’?”

Lehnen added, “And the music’s got some folk sensibilities.”

The band does exclusively concept albums, and its done an album a month since January 2004.

“So we end up with short songs on short albums, like The Beatles,” Chitwood said. “But it’s always a crapshoot with various degrees of talent and success.”

Army Defense isn’t out to make money. All its albums are free, so the members said they don’t feel bad about copyright infringement.

“I went online to the government’s site for taxes, and I lifted everything outlining my subject and made those the lyrics,” Ferreira said.

Shannon Roberts said, “And since the music’s free, we don’t have to worry about getting sued.”

The band meets every other Friday, because some members have full-time jobs and others are full-time students at the University. And the band members attribute their success to their attitude toward their music.

“We’re very impressed with ourselves,” Chitwood said. “And that’s the key to our success.”

Other than the occasional burst of self-esteem, Army Defense is down to earth.

“We’re just having fun,” Ferreira said.

If making 43 songs about this country’s big kahunas is fun, more power to them.