Militarie Gun Hit New Pop-Hardcore Heights
Just a few days on from the release of Militarie Gun’s thrilling, pop-and-hardcore-blurring debut full-length, Life Under the Gun — a strong contender for album of the year — their rise seems inevitable. The band’s origins, however, were much more accidental.
Vocalist Ian Patrick Shelton is a modern-day renaissance man. He’d spent the last several years drilling into blast beats and fully-screamed takedowns of the U.S. prison industrial complex in powerviolence force Regional Justice System, but uprooted himself from the Pacific Northwest to L.A. to flourish as a filmmaker, crafting surrealistically humorous music videos for Angel Du$t and Supercrush along the way. That all changed at the dawn of the pandemic, when RJC tours started getting canceled, and up-close-and-personal video shoots got yanked off the docket. To cope, Shelton started writing pop songs.
Militarie Gun’s trio of early EPs mixed the sugar-rush hooks of ‘90s-era alt-pop with the fist-in-the-face drive of hardcore. It caught on quick, with the band blowing up in d.i.y. circles, but also gaining fans in future tourmates Limp Bizkit.
Arriving last week through major label subsidiary Loma Vista, Life Under the Gun is Militarie Gun’s strongest statement yet. Recorded at Dave Grohl’s famed 606 studio, it’s a cross-genre landscape where the bubblegrunge appeal of Third Eye Blind (“Very High”) and Beatles-inspired lullabies (“I’ll See You Around”) can still co-mingle with the post-hardcore weirdness of Shudder to Think (“Sway Too”).
Below, Shelton details his Life Under the Gun, the literal interpretation of their “Very High,” keeping his throat healthy, and paying it forward to a new generation of hardcore hybridists.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
Northern Transmissions: There’s generally been a cross-pollination of influence in Militarie Gun’s music, but it feels like you’re pushing yourselves into some even wilder directions on Life Under the Gun. What can you tell us about the making of the record?
IAN PATRICK SHELTON: The record is just meant to be a culmination of what was happening in our lives at the time, and all the things you listen to surrounding your life events. A huge part of that was listening to classic rock — big guitar rock records — [but] also Jesus Lizard and Rollins Band. It’s trying to make things that are poppy [more] aggressive, [while also] trying to make the aggressive [influences] less aggressive. It all coalesces. I’m very proud of the cohesiveness, but that’s ultimately on others to decide whether or not we hit that mark.
NT: You bring up the prospect of getting high a few times on this record, and even right out the gate with “Do It Faster” and “Very High”. What’s that stemming from?
IPS: I mean, getting high became a big part of life during the pandemic. I was always too busy to ever be high, and then the world ceased to exist [as we knew it]. What used to slow down my brain was playing a show, or creating things, and that all went away. So, some new habits formed.
It’s one of those things I think a lot of people related to. Originally, I didn’t want to release a song like “Very High,” because I thought it might be too negative to put out in this world. Like, does this influence people to do drugs? Ultimately, it was just a genuine [feeling, presented] the right way. I’m not going to change the song. Fuck it. [laughs]
NT: You’re taking a stronger, melodic approach to your vocals on this record — I’m thinking about the lower, baritone side of your voice in the intro of “Will Logic,” but there are also some deep, three-or-four-part harmonies throughout the record, too. How do you see your personal evolution, from a vocal perspective.
IPS: [The baritone] was the type of thing I was attempting in private. The song “Pull It Out” on the All Roads Lead to the Gun deluxe has a feature from Woolworm [vocalist-guitarist Giles Roy and vocalist- bassist Heather Black] on it, but I sing the first verse [using baritone]; I did a song where someone else sang in the same register as a way to hide that I [was doing that] voice in public for the first time. And, you know, there are a lot more songs that I attempted it on that I never released. It just took a long time to develop and figure out how to do that. Even with demoing songs I’ll sing it in that lower register and then do kind of the “proper” Militarie Gun voice over top of it, afterwards. A huge part of this record was trying to figure out how to sing.
NT: Can we talk Pavlovian responses? I got supremely tripped out at the beginning of “See You Around,” because the tone and the pacing of that Mellotron in the intro sound like they’re influenced by “Strawberry Fields Forever”.
IPS: There is a mellotron on there. I feel like some people will take me to task, thinking it’s obvious to do such a thing, but at the same time I’m very inspired by the Beatles. And I think the Mellotron is one of the most beautiful instruments out there.
Something I really love doing is working with the Mellotron on the low setting, which is warping [a sample] further, because it slows it down until it’s an octave away from the original recording. I don’t know…I think it’s a very punk instrument, because it’s this very bizarre interpretation of something else. I feel like that’s kind of the whole process of punk and hardcore: interpreting something that is nice [by] degrading it, and creating more character out of it.
NT: Are there any other instances on Life Under the Gun where you’re subverting instrumentation?
IPS: It’s not subversion, [but] the goal [we] discussed was making a classic rock record. So, we only used classic rock instrumentation. It’s big, natural, organic drums that we recorded in Dave Grohl’s studio on the frickin’ Sound City board, through organic gear. We used Rhodes piano; we used a grand piano; we used a Hammond organ; and we used a Mellotron. It wasn’t meant to be subversive, [but] there’s not [a lot of] other people using those exact things within hardcore, at large. [Though] I think Turnstile probably uses a Rhodes a bit on [Glow On].
I was just in the mindset of making a classic rock record, so I only wanted to use older instruments. I didn’t want to use a synthesizer, or things that seemed more modern. I would rather use the classic rock arsenal.
NT: How did you end up recording at Dave Grohl’s studio?
IPS: Taylor [Young, producer] got us in there. It was a dream to record at 606. We were just privileged enough to get in there. That’s really the be-all, end-all. It’s a studio that not everyone can get into, so it feels great.
NT: Is Grohl aware of the Gun?
IPS: I don’t think Grohl is aware of the Gun, but I wish he was. We recorded at 606 the first week of January, 2022. COVID was shutting everything back down, so we were wearing masks through all of it; it wasn’t the environment where you go up and meet somebody.
[Foo Fighters] were in the other room mixing the movie that was about to come out, Studio 666, but we never met them. But…I am talking about it in interviews, so hopefully Dave Grohl will see headline that says “Militarie Gun” and “Dave Grohl,” and he’ll be like, “What the fuck?” [laughs].
NT: While earlier this year you went on tour with Spiritual Cramp and Supercrush — two other bandswith roots in the hardcore scene — 2022 saw Militarie Gun opening a string of shows for Limp Bizkit. What was it like to play in front of a less-explicitly hardcore audience?
IPS: It’s always great! The big hope is that we’ve created a combination of elements that’s not just reaching one type of person. So, we go and play every type of show we can. It’s also a good check to be like, “Are we actually achieving what we set out to do?” You never know if it’s a waste of time or something amazing, [but] as far as Southern California goes, we have people who come to every one of our shows now that say they first saw us at Bizkit. So, ok…we got two fans out of it, but those two fans are incredibly loyal!
And growing up at the time we did, obviously just being around a guy like Fred Durst and having him be like, “I like your band” …. how is that not a worthwhile experience? Like, that’s what life should be about. It’s all surreal. Hopefully one day we’ll make a movie or write a book about it.
NT: Have you been in touch with Fred since the tour?
IPS: We talk on TikTok occasionally. He comments on every one of our TikToks; he’s a very supportive guy. Incredibly kind.
NT: Somewhat on the idea of paying it forward, do you have any record production jobs on the books at the moment? You’d done that MSPAINT record [Post-American] that came out earlier in the year…
IPS: I just finished the Public Opinion record last week, that’s the next one up. They’re from Denver, Colorado. They started out as a little bit of a hardcore/Hives-y situation, but it’s been going more into the pop realm. Maybe a bit more of a blink-182 influence popping up. We’re just working on trying to set them up for success, with wherever that’s going to go.
NT: How much of Life Under the Gun has seen the stage, so far?
IPS: We play the three singles [“Do It Faster,” “Very High,” and “Will Logic”] and “Think Less,” currently. Our live show is so much about the reciprocated energy between us and the audience, so new songs really take a dip from that. We’re going to slowly add songs to the set, and try not to overdo it early.
[Also,] some of the songs do take more effort to achieve; they’re going to need a lot more rehearsal time to get stood up. A song like “Never Fucked Up Once” is an absolute bastard to sing, currently, because it’s so high-pitched. I kick myself for writing such a thing. So, now it’s about practicing and rehearsing, getting the songs where they need to be to be performed live.
NT: Do you have a vocal routine before a set?
IPS: I do a 10-15 minute warm up, and I’ve started to do cool-downs. I was having some vocal issues, [so now] I use a throat steamer before we play, [and] I spray this agave stuff down my throat while we’re performing. I[’m] very neurotic about [vocal maintenance] these days.
order Life Under The Gun by Militarie Gun HERE
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