Militarie Gun makes genre-bending hardcore that is constantly evolving
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For LA's Militarie Gun vocalist and chief songwriter Ian Shelton, making music has always been an obsessive process that's led him to release a prolific output of recorded material, and constantly reject doing anything casually. Formed in the midst of the pandemic, like many of us, Shelton felt restless during lockdown — especially when the live music industry that he had been a part of for nearly a decade came to a halt — and he felt the need to create. At the time, Shelton was performing as the lead vocalist and drummer for his powerviolence collective Regional Justice Center, penning songs of unbridled rage and frenetic instrumental intensity. While it seemed like he could rest on his laurels with an already beloved project, he found himself pulled in an entirely new direction.
Militarie Gun shows a different side of Shelton, along with his bandmates Nick Cogan (also of Drug Church), William Acuña, Max Epstein, and Vince Nguyen –– trading in the immediate, visceral intensity of classic hardcore and powerviolence for a more melodic, '90s alternative sound in the vein Pixies, Weezer, and Fugazi. Make no mistake, though: Militarie Gun have not forgotten their collective hardcore roots, still possessing an infectious dose of heavily distorted guitars, double-time drum beats, and Shelton's gravel-soaked vocals.
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In other words, Militarie Gun have cracked the code of genre-bending in hardcore, leading them to amass a following in a short matter of time and land a major record deal with Loma Vista Records. After releasing three beloved EPs (My Life Is Over, All Roads Lead To The Gun I & II) Militarie Gun officially put out their debut LP this past October, All Roads Lead To The Gun (Deluxe), re-releasing their two 2021 EPs and dropping four new songs to offer a glimpse of what's to come. We spoke to Shelton about the group's formation and constantly evolving creative spirit.
What was the genesis of Militarie Gun and what were your intentions behind starting this project specifically?
The original intention of the band was to have somewhere to put all of my restlessness that was coming with the beginning of the pandemic. I don’t like the pandemic narrative of the band, but it is why the band exists in the first place. I wrote the first song “Kept Talkin’,” and I used my voice in a different way than I had before where it was more melodic. I don’t know how to do anything casually, so after I wrote the first song, I took my friend to the airport and came back to the practice space to write a second song right away. The next day, I went back in and did another, and eventually created all of the songs for the first 7-inch My Life Is Over almost immediately.
It’s pretty wild that the band’s growth happened right off the bat in the middle of a global pandemic. When you started to see people responding positively, was it daunting to not be able to take the project on tour and perform the songs live?
It made the mental illness of it all very difficult. [Laughs.] All I know is work, and historically I create songs and try to force them in front of people at shows –– so not having that made me feel really out of control with the element of getting people to be aware of the band. Ultimately, not being able to play shows grew the band creatively more than anything. I think I would have written different songs if touring had been in the middle of the release cycles.
You have worked extensively with producer Taylor Young (God’s Hate, Suicide Silence, Twitching Tongues), who has cemented himself as one of the most influential producers in hardcore today. With both of you being such strong creative visionaries, what is your relationship and work dynamic like?
It’s a very supportive, creative relationship. Through most of the pandemic, Taylor and I actually lived together, so we would have coffee every morning and discuss our goals for the day. When it comes down to actually working together, we tend to argue, especially with All Roads Lead To The Gun. I wanted the vocals to be softer, but he pushed for the gruffness of the vocals and didn’t want the vocal takes to feel weak. Ultimately, that gruffness and intensity that he brought out in the songs are what people ended up responding to.
What are some lyrical themes that unify the material on All Roads Lead To The Gun (Deluxe)?
Inevitability is probably the biggest theme. It’s really about not being able to outrun yourself and [that], basically, it’s all going to catch up to you. I think a big part of Militarie Gun in its first form was having songs that were spiteful, like “Ain’t No Flowers,” whereas “Big Disappointment” is me trying to respond to that in an unconscious way that is the opposite of spite. The process of writing is meant to be a very subconscious one, so I don’t go in with premeditated concepts. Whatever words come out is what the song ends up being, which in turn helps me tap into something I didn’t know I wanted to say.
For your debut on your new record label Loma Vista, what made you decide to compile your previously released All Roads Lead To The Gun EPs into a deluxe edition package with new material?
Loma Vista wanted to do the deluxe edition and I thought it was great because, obviously, I had a ton of songs laying around. The four new songs were all written right before or just as we were finishing the [previous EPs], so it felt like the next chapter of the band and could help bridge the gap to show where we are headed creatively.
With your latest release being a bridge between what is coming next, what can we expect from the band sonically with the new LP that's due next year?
Sonically, the big forward movement is about me honing in my own tools and getting better. With that, there will be better vocal melodies, riffs, and just more interesting songs. I’m never going to be a pop singer — I have a gruff voice and, more or less, will continue to shout, as that is the defining trait of the band. No matter what, it will always sound like us.
Militarie Gun recently had the chance to tour with several prominent acts, such as Citizen and Touché Amoré, and performed at major festivals, like Sound and Fury. Were there any valuable learning experiences that happened along the way with these particular shows?
Our biggest learning curve was dealing with stiff audiences and not taking it as an affront or them hating us. We were very spoiled as a band where we had all of these great audiences, and with that, we have grown a very specific audience reaction with people pogoing and trying to make our shows look like our shows. Being on tour with Citizen is awesome because Matt [Kerekes], the singer, is someone who has grown his voice and has been able to maintain it. I’ve been looking to him for advice on how to not blow out my voice and better myself as a singer. Being on tour with other bands that are further along and more melodic than ourselves, I definitely look up to them and take it all in.