10 reasons why you need Militarie Gun in your life

Militarie Gun’s name has fast become one of the most talked-about in hardcore. Having started over lockdown, the U.S. quintet are unexpectedly giving things a shot of energy and creativity. Frontman Ian Shelton steers us round his band to get you up to speed. Shoot…

10 reasons why you need Militarie Gun in your life
Sam Coare
Kevin Allen

Ian Shelton is out walking in Los Angeles as he talks to Kerrang! – and stumbles across a severed squirrel head.

“Wow, someone has done something fucking dark over here,” he laughs nervously, breaking his train of thought. “Sorry, what were we saying?”

Brutalised wildlife isn’t the only thing that’s got Ian in a spin. Militarie Gun, the banner under which the affable, fast-talking frontman stands onstage, have gone from lockdown boredom-killer during The Times Of Which We Do Not Speak to one of the most talked-about names in modern hardcore’s ever-blossoming – and ever-diversifying – renaissance. That they’ve done so in a few short years is down to a debut full-length, Life Under The Gun, that’s as viscerally thrilling as it is lyrically compelling, a live show that captures lightning in a bottle night after night, and a work ethic that could best be summed up as ‘never settle, never rest’.

Here’s why you need to ensure you find yourself in the firing line…

1They’re the only good thing to come from COVID

Militarie Gun are living proof that while the powers that be were laughing all the way to the bank as COVID turned the world upside-down, they won’t laugh last…

Ian Shelton (vocals): “Militarie Gun came from the restlessness of the inability to move the way that I was used to normally moving – hopping from a tour into a recording session, or making music videos for other bands. Once it was obvious that was going to disappear for a long time, I had to find a way to channel that energy, and when you’re sitting on your hands there’s no better time to try that thing you’ve been meaning to try. It simply kept snowballing into the next thing. I’ve never dealt with something that has ever felt quite as natural as the progression of Militarie Gun. It was constantly moving goalposts that I was setting by myself, because it was just me alone at first. Setting a new goal, and then figuring out how to achieve it – that’s still a huge part of this band.”

2Playing live is at the heart of everything they do

When Militarie Gun could finally see the light of day, they hit 50 towns in some 50-something days, and the tour bus wheels have turned relentlessly ever since. And life on the road teaches you the most valuable lessons of all…

Ian: “That tour was like, ‘Okay, how does this translate in the live setting?’ That element of learning what I had to do for Militarie Gun in the studio had to then be applied to live. Like, ‘How do I sound good live?’ And, honestly, I’m still trying to figure out how I can sound as good as possible. Touring is a constantly formative experience, because you’re always trying to figure out the flow of the set that communicates what you want it to. You’re constantly rearranging things in order to try to achieve the vision of the band and then improve upon that. Playing live needs just as much refinement as the studio and writing process.”

3They’re already proving to be a gateway band

Be it kids discovering hardcore for the first time, or the hardcore community being turned on to Militarie Gun’s pop-leaning influences, Ian is focused only on introducing people to one unifying thing: good music.

Ian: “Our sound is digestible to a lot of people, but we just try to make the best songs we can, which you hope reach as many people as possible, wherever they come from. There’s no real mission outside of that. If we’re going to be a gateway, I want it to be to the bands that we love, and that we support and that we are friends with, because we’re also here by the grace of others that helped prop us up. So if I want us to be a gateway to anything, it’s those bands.”

4…But they’re more concerned with creating a space to call their own

Where do you go when you feel like you don’t fit in? Nowhere – you create something entirely for yourself.

Ian: “We’re not really at home in any one place. I feel like we’re still trying to find our space. I think that there’s a schism coming within hardcore. While at this moment it’s been about bands elevating the sound and whatnot, it’s only a matter of time before it swings back towards traditionalism. We had a moment where it became really untraditional, and it became about trying something – and trying in general isn’t the hardcore and punk mode. That swing to traditionalism will leave bands like us and Scowl with a little bit less of a home within hardcore, in its traditional sense. We are discussing booking a headline tour right now, and the goal was one rock band, one emo band, one hardcore band, and then Militare Gun, because that encompasses all of what we come from and are inspired by, while trying to make something diverse and interesting, the way that we try to make diverse, interesting music.”

5They want to help break rock’s outdated confines

Be it noisy revolution or quiet evolution, the message for the progression is clear: rip it up and think differently, for the good of the music we all love.

Ian: “Watching the way that every other music scene works, it’s all way more collaborative than rock music is. Rock music specifically has been so stuck on one model for a really long time, which is saying, ‘I chose these four people to be in a band with, therefore I don’t make music with anyone else.’ Doesn’t that seem so boring? Justice Tripp [Angel Du$t singer] really turned me onto the mode of thinking: ‘How do I get involved in anything I’m interested in?’ Building a new community with people is super, super important to me. I want to figure out what that looks like. I want to find the limits of what that is. I want to find more and more unexpected people that I would have never thought I could have collaborated with. And I want to cross-pollinate all of these different things.”

6Life Under The Gun is connecting with people on a deeper emotional level

Whether nakedly addressing addiction, raking over past relationships or staring a lifetime of regrets in the face, Life Under The Gun has connected with people even harder than a stagediver’s DM to the jaw.

Ian: “It’s great, but it can be very heavy at times. Because I have put myself out there as somewhat of a heavy person, you get a lot of people sharing really, really personal stories with you, and how the music affects them. It’s super rewarding, but it’s also super heavy to hear people talk about their life and their difficulties, and the way our music plays a part. It sucks to hear how much people struggle. All the singles from the record are fun songs, they’re not weighty, they’re not the ones that are meant to have a huge impact on your life, necessarily. But even then, for people to understand the emotional content of the record, that means a lot.”

7…But it’s also one of the funnest ways you can spend 30 minutes

The band’s first full-length is marked by its collision of dark-edged lyrics with breezy riffs that led one review to label it an “emotional breakdown dressed up like a sugar rush”. It’s in that duality that it finds its unique power.

Ian: “The goal is that you write sad lyrics and you put them over a very fun song. And then you don’t realise that you’re getting those emotions out that way. It’s about creating something so positive out of a negative. Even if someone says something heavy to me after we play or when I meet them, at the same time it’s that same person who is jumping around, singing those depressing lyrics, and having an amazing time. You’re recontextualising all of these horrible things as something fun.”

8They prove that there’s serious power in simplicity

If you know anything about Militarie Gun, it’s inevitable you’ll know Very High’s standout lyric: ‘I’ve been feeling pretty down / So I get very high.’ Such strikingly simple turns of phrase are already becoming a trademark of the Gun.

Ian: “I think that simplicity comes somewhat from my resentment of the ‘cool guy’ nature of a lot of punk music to cover up meaning, and to be overly poetic, or to dance around what you’re trying to say. It was a big thing for me to be as direct as possible and not give myself any room to hide. People still come away with something that feels emotionally resonant to them personally, but I didn’t want them to go away not knowing what they feel at all. It’s really natural for me to be simple and direct – the hard part was not editing myself. A huge goal of the band from the very jump was writing with melodrama. I want everything to be as dramatic as possible, because I think that’s what people resonate with. Everything is meant to be dramatic and uncensored. Not editing myself was about trying to stay in that drama that I felt when I first wrote these songs.”

9Away from the band, Ian Shelton is a creative powerhouse

Militarie Gun’s frontman has given his life over to music, whether collaborating with Angel Du$t frontman Justice Tripp, directing music videos for Knuckle Puck and Spanish Love Songs, putting out music from MSPAINT, Supercrush and Self Defense Family through his Alternatives Label. And that’s before we mention his prodigious output with MG or Regional Justice Center. He’s not much of a fan of sleep, either…

Ian: “I guess it’s just that I enjoy my own taste, and I want more of my tastes out into the world so that I can listen to it. It’s probably very egotistical. But it’s also just a case of: ‘Well, what else can I think to do?’ I might wake up and decide, ‘I’m not going to do anything today,’ but of course the next thing I know I’m at the practice space, working on a song, or thinking of a music video idea, or helping on a friend’s record. It’s just really the only thing I can come up with. I don’t enjoy very many things outside of engaging my own creativity.”

10Whatever comes next, it’s coming along fast

Where do a band go when they’re based around being undefinable? Wherever the fuck they want, says Ian – and that’s what makes the future so exciting.

Ian: “Militarie Gun right now is a never-ending rollercoaster that we have to keep the wheels turning on, while also finding time between touring to make sure we don’t creatively stagnate. Life right now is about trying to find those moments of inspiration amongst all this, and trying to keep what’s special about the band there. I’m trying to nurture whatever created Life Under The Gun. That album was made out of a desire to do something different every time, and now it’s about getting back in the studio with that same goal…”

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