Argus began in the summer of 1997. While visiting a local coffee house, Erich and Jay took in the music that was filling the air. After deciding the music left quite a bit to be desired, Jay asked the owner of the coffee shop what it took to play there. The gentleman simply told him to drop by sometime and play a few songs. Once Jay returned to the table, the idea of Argus actually becoming a band was created. However, the Argus concept had been around for quite some time.
You see, Argus had already been spawned in some form or manner during the high school years of the band members. Erich, Brian and Greg all were guitar enthusiasts, always looking for an excuse to strum a chord. Many of the hanging out sessions with friends would consist of the guys all playing their guitars ... now generally it was never in sync, but that is beside the point. The three of them continued playing, honing their skills in hopes of being able to play that new hit Hootie song for some poor girl to swoon over.
Over spring break during their sophomore year of college, Jay and Erich spent some time driving up to Mount Airy. On their way back from a late night visit to a friends house, they listened to "Running on Ice," the most recent release of Vertical Horizon. Both being big fans of the group, they listened and sang the songs the entire way back to their hometown of Winston-Salem. While driving, Erich gave some positive feedback to Jay, telling him he had a good voice. From that moment on, it became Jay's desire to start writing lyrics.
With spring break long gone, Jay returned to college and began writing. While Erich, Greg and Brian had been writing all this time with the availability of a guitar to help create their songs, Jay simply wrote. He wrote in his fraternity house, he wrote in his entomology class, he wrote on the bus. He kept this up, and it all started to come together after that night at the coffee house.
With a great deal of excitement brewing, Jay and Erich went to Brian with the idea of trying to play an actual show. They crammed together, music equipment and all, into Erich's room and stayed there for several nights as they worked on cover songs and even a few originals. After a week or so of hard practice, they settled on a small set list for the coffee shop audition.
Richard, the then-owner of the Horse's Mouth Cafe invited the boys over one afternoon to play a few songs. The guys felt most comfortable with covers, so they began the audition with the Vertical Horizon tune, "Trying to Find Purpose." Once they finished the tune, Richard asked for something a little faster pace, to see what kind of range they had. The fellas then played another Vertical tune, "On The Sea." For whatever reason, they picked the correct second song. Once the wrapped it up, and after the applause died down from the late afternoon coffee goers, Richard came over to the guys and said they were welcome to play there anytime.
August 2nd, 1997 was the fateful night. After practicing religiously for weeks, it was time for the official debut of Argus. Sure the guys had been practicing, and sure they had been playing in front of small groups of friends, but nothing prepared them for what they saw as they took the stage: a room full of over 100 people, with more waiting to get inside. This large crowd became apparent to the guys, as they sped through their first song, Jackopierce's "Rain" in about 2 minutes flat. The boys calmed down and as the night went on, they bellowed out 15 covers and five original tunes. It was a success, a small one, but still a success nonetheless.
With their junior years approaching, the guys decided they wanted to attempt to continue playing. Another Horse's Mouth show would take place in December of that year. This time, their good friend Greg paid close attention. The show consisted of mostly covers, but more originals were added. After the show, Greg decided something was missing. He decided that 1998 would be the year Argus got a bassist.
So after a nice Christmas present was received, Greg began working on bass lines for the popular covers Argus played, as well as the originals that had been written. What makes this story all the more interesting is the fact that three different universities separated these friends. Greg was at Virginia, Erich and Brian at North Carolina and Jay at Georgia. Each continued practicing in their own way. Jay continued writing songs and singing. Erich and Brian would practice guitar while still writing songs. Greg, while continuing to write his own material on guitar, worked diligently with his new instrument.
The group would finally all play together for the first time in March of 1998 at the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house in Athens, Ga. The show was rather last minute, but more and more people began to show up and listen to the band as they had finally added a much-needed missing piece. The sounds pouring out of the room, echoed all of their influences: Eddie From Ohio, Vertical Horizon, Jackopierce, Hootie and the Blowfish, Jump Little Children, Edwin McCain, Guster. After that night, it was decided that the guys were going to move to Chapel Hill for the summer of 1998, to work on an album and better their sound.
After hitting up shows in Charlottesville, Va. and Athens, Ga., Chapel Hill came calling. With Brian and Erich already there for summer school, Jay and Greg took up residency in the town. Despite not playing many shows over the summer, the results were positive. The guys became closer friends and wrote better music. It all culminated with the first ever Argus CD, entitled "So Okay." There is truth to the rumor that this was originally only released on tape. Yes, tapes were still being produced in 1998, but after one summer show at the Skylight Exchange, the tapes were no more. CDs were finally produced, and the band had officially reached Indie status.
The rest of 1998 was filled with lots of decision. It was the senior year of college for the guys, so much of the time was filled with the question, "What next"? After not playing live for several months, Argus jammed out for a close group of friends and family during late December. The boys wouldn't play live again until April of 1999, when they played shows in Charlottesville and Athens in back to back weekends, the Charlottesville show being the first ever with a drummer.
After those shows, and the graduation of our musical heroes, Argus decided it was time to part ways. Jay was headed to grad school, while Brian, Erich and Greg all went into the work force. This break up lasted seven months. Erich and Jay still continued to write when they could, lending the song "Reach Me," to a Vertical Horizon tribute album that Jay co-produced.
As per usual, the fellas returned home to Winston-Salem for holidays. This time, the Christmas holiday would bring more than just sleigh's filled with lots of goodies. Vertical Horizon played back-to-back nights at Ziggy's during the holiday break in support of their latest album. The fellas took in both nights, and afterwards decided that they weren't ready to give Argus up. They each dedicated themselves to improving the band, improving the sound and being happy with what they were creating.
After several months of practice, Argus resurfaced at the Phi Psi house again in April of 2000. This time, things were really different. For the first time, Argus welcomed a regular drummer. Donovan was added to the mix, via a friend of Jay's. Donovan was given a copy of "So Okay," about two weeks before the show, and was asked to generate some drumbeats for the songs.
With two days before the show, all the guys crowded into Jay's apartment and began hashing out the new Argus sound. Drums filled the air, as the bass lines finally had something to accompany them. Rhythm guitar chords hummed, as the electric guitar became an important new addition. The boys took the stage to a packed house, and the crowd wanted more. They played constantly for over two hours, and each of the other four members realized Donovan is who they had been waiting for to take them to the next level.
More shows in Athens came calling, including the first ever Argus show at the famous 40 Watt Music Club - of which some songs would become their second album, a live EP entitled "SOUND | CHECK | THIS". Argus took the stage where so many greats, so many of their influences had already tread. The show was a success and led to a return date in July. The July show gave them their best crowd at the time, as over 180 people filed into the club to listen to the Argus sound.
So what was next? Greg, Brian and Erich were still working. Jay finished grad school and began work as well. The guys continued pumping out new songs and new material, continued playing shows, continued visiting the 40 Watt, Charlottesville, Chapel Hill, Winston. But as our musical heroes found out, the real world and music sometimes don't always work out.
After several successful shows in a year and a half, it was decision time. Greg moved to Virginia Beach. Brian moved back to Chapel Hill. Donovan was still in school at UGA. Although Jay and Erich remained in Winston-Salem, there was a small hint that the Argus days could be dwindling. But not before their last sound.
After recording drum tracks from Donovan in May of 2001, work began on what will be the final Argus album. Currently still in progress, the unnamed disc will consist of 10 studio-recorded songs with drums, and one acoustic track. The final album will be what every member wants it to be; a glimpse into what Argus could have been, while also becoming a memory of what they were.
It's been twelve years now since Argus was born. The story doesn't seem to have an end in sight. The guys played a gig at Blue Sky Court in Nashville, TN in 2004, a few shows in Winston-Salem and one in Virginia Beach in August of 2005.
No one knows if we've seen the last of Argus, as there are always discussions of "one more show." Regardless, don't expect the memory or the music to fade. It will always be there, like a good friend who hasn't lost the time.