Chris Schulz Published

Local Band Returns To Music After Almost Two Decades 

A group of men stand behind a computer bank. They are all looking at a Mac desktop computer.
Members of Morgantown band The Argument work on their latest single. They are Brent Bunner, left, Matt Warder, Chris Russell and audio engineer Brian Spragg. Scott Simons is seated at the computer.
The Argument/Facebook

West Virginia has a rich musical history, and in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Morgantown-based band The Argument was a proud part of that tradition. But after almost a decade of touring and a few appearances on Mountain Stage, the band went their separate ways.

Now, after close to 20 years of inactivity and most of the members moving away from the state, The Argument is releasing new music.

Reporter Chris Schulz sat down with The Argument’s Chris Russell and Scott Simons to discuss collaborating online and Morgantown’s enduring impact on their music.

This interview has been lightly edited for clarity. 

Schulz: So Chris, first off, can you tell me what is The Argument?

Russell: The Argument started playing 1997 in Morgantown. Had a really nice run of 10 years of touring the country back and forth and recording music. Scott, you want to take over from there?

Simons: We were like 19, 20, 21 and we just started playing. We didn’t have a plan, we had no idea what we were doing, and then I don’t know, it just ended up lasting 10 years. We really had no idea what we were doing. It just kind of kept, in a good way, snowballing and we just sort of followed it and tried to keep up.

Schulz: And how exactly would you categorize the band’s sound?

Simons: We’ve kind of fallen into power-pop, I guess, would be the genre, somewhere like in the pop-rock world. Then by the time we broke up we were kind of, admittedly maybe chasing trends of the mid-2000s. We had certain elements to our songwriting that we liked, but the sound changed a lot over time. I’d say now, we’ve kind of just gone back to what we liked doing the most, which was the power-pop stuff, the second record.

Schulz: Chris, do you have anything to add to that? 

Russell: I really enjoy making music now. I kind of feel like with the first few releases and songs that we really got to put out and finish, I kind of felt like we pressed pause, and for a really long time, and then just unpaused it. These next couple are just sort of the fun of revisiting, the fun of those days of being together.

Schulz: Tell me a little bit more about how you all ended up coming back together, what the motivation was there.

Simons: Maybe we didn’t realize it at the time or fully realize that at the time, but we were so lucky that our 20s were spent in a van for five days a week with three of our best friends. I think we’ve also seen other bands that we’d love to hear again, and not have a chance, the bands that we came up with. 

With the way technology is and the pandemic forced us into a way of using technology that maybe we didn’t know what we were capable of. It just felt like a perfect storm of, if we have the songs, why don’t we just do it? Let’s just figure it out.

Schulz: Chris, what’s in it for you? What made you want to start making music with the band again?

Russell: Scott has been the main songwriter for The Argument since the beginning, and has always been really good about bringing it in and putting our little spin on stuff. He brought in songs that just fit. It immediately got us talking again. The chat messages, four way messages going off 50 in a row because somebody’s excited about stuff. Getting back together was a no-brainer if we could make it work. It’s always been an issue, 17 years of moving sometimes further apart. But with technology, it’s been really great being able to demo some songs and things like that.

Schulz: Scott, what about you?

Simons: What Chris said. It really comes down to songs. And there was such a specific way of writing when we were together that I guess was hard to find again. You know it’s different when you’re writing stuff when you’re 26, now I’m 46. It was trying to figure out, “What did we used to do and how do we just do that and have fun?” I think the biggest difference between the two things is now we just want to be together. We want to write fun music. We want to tell good stories, and we love just seeing people online have that nostalgia for the sound.

Schulz: What role does Morgantown and West Virginia continue to play in your music, despite the fact that a few of you have moved on?

Russell: We left Morgantown two years ago for North Carolina, but Morgantown for us, for me, has been since the ’90s my home. It’s been, even though I’m from another place in West Virginia, I consider it home. And it’s so awesome to go back to a place where you had so many roots put down for so many years, and still see a lot of the same people and then their kids.

Simons: There was no other town that we could have done what we did. We got to be in this vibrant college town in the middle of nowhere in the middle of everything at the same time. We could get to New York City in one trip in six hours and we could get to Charlotte in six or seven hours. We could get to Chicago in eight to 10 hours and we could get to Nashville in 10 hours. We were in the middle of everything with low overhead, teaching lessons and being involved in the community. We got to educate kids there at the time through private lessons, some of us in schools. Now those kids are killing it, and so we get to see that happen, which is incredible. 

We took pride at the time being from Morgantown and being from West Virginia and busting stereotypes. Now for us, all our memories and everything emotional about the band centers around our time being in Morgantown. You can’t, I mean, there’s no way to separate The Argument from Morgantown, even if the members move out. That’s part of who we are.

Schulz: Before you moved away Chris, you started a local music school here in Morgantown called Pop Shop. And between that and the band, I was curious to know what you think about your legacy locally.

Russell: In The Argument, we started Pop Shop. Can we teach the younger generation, high school students about vocal blending? Or can we talk about songwriting or the business of what we do and how we stay on the road? It’s amazing to see the bands that have come from that program, and how they’re sort of populating a lot of the bands around there. The word I hear over and over again is, “I wish this was around when I was young.”

Simons: I wish it was around when I was young.

Russell: Same. You know, I really do but you know, we found our own way somehow, and then we can help others to find a way. And the people that we employ in Pop Shop are musicians.

Simons: I’m really proud of the legacy we left with our music and our community involvement. And I’m really happy that we get to somehow still touch that nerve and exercise those muscles and do it again.


The Argument’s single “Drag” is out now with more music on the way.