Militarie Gun interview: “We want our shows to be a communal and reciprocal experience.”

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Militarie Gun made one of 2023's best rock records by not caring if you  think they're cool

On October 3rd, California punk rock band Militaire Gun will play Montreal’s La Sala Rossa along with rising stars, Scowl, MSPAINT and Spite House.


Since forming in 2020, the group has been prolific in touring and releasing music. Life Under The Gun reflects a culmination of hard-earned momentum yet also mirrors the catharsis of lead vocalist Ian Shelton’s past of growing up in a household with family members struggling with addiction. The challenges of his home life were only exacerbated by living in Enumclaw, WA, a sparsely populated rural suburb where Shelton spent his formative years longing for a way out. As he began to pick up instruments, play in bands, and write his own songs, music quickly became a vital outlet for self-expression, but Shelton couldn’t shake the idea that it was also a literal escape route. Engineered by Taylor Young at The Pit Recording Studio, the album’s 12 tracks take all of the best parts of Militarie Gun’s earlier work and amps them up to the highest possible degree. While Shelton’s singular vision is evident in the songwriting and lyrical themes, collaboration is essential to Militarie Gun. Be it band members or outside sources like Young and James Goodson of Dazy, who sings harmonies on much of the album.

We caught up with frontman Ian Shelton ahead of the show to talk about what makes a perfect live performance, how the band got started and what music he’s been listening to.

You’re out on tour; it’s a good little lineup you’ve got going on there. How’s it been?

Tour has been amazing. I mean, every night has been so rowdy and fun. I couldn’t ask for a better situation. A lot of the shows have been selling out; it’s been amazing.

Last time I saw you on tour with Touché Amoré. And I think that was about the time that I discovered your band, pretty much. But it’s still a new thing for you, right? It only started during COVID.

Yeah, yeah, it started basically the day that COVID shut everything down. Then it became my main focus in life. I’d say it’s still quite new.

It feels like things are happening really quickly for you guys. As I say, I discovered you on the Touché Amoré tour. Since then, you’ve released this album, which I have to say is one of my favourite albums of the year. And now I’m hearing you on the radio. I just heard you on the Zane Lowe show on Apple Music.

Oh, amazing, amazing. 

So does it feel like it’s happening fast for you?

For us, I mean, it’s complicated because we’ve been working on it at a suicidal pace for… Since we possibly could. You know, like we had band practice for over a year before. We’ve just been pouring so much of ourselves into this that it’s difficult to see it as happening fast because we’ve set out a plan and have been just like chipping away at the plan for quite a while. Also when you’re inside of it, I don’t think you see the outside perception as much. Like it doesn’t feel all too different to us. We’re just doing the same things that we’ve been through.

You’re on tour a lot. You’ve got this tour and then you go to Europe. So it’s a hard slug for you right now, right?

Yeah, yeah. We’re just keeping the momentum moving. You know, we’ve also been recording new music and just trying to keep that momentum and not lose anything while we have it.

Is this new music you’re writing on the road then?

Not a ton of writing on the road, but you know, we had one month off between tours, and I had to finish a record that we’ll be announcing soon during that time.

You say the shows have been great so far. What actually makes a good show for you?

A great show to me is the energy being reciprocated from us as performers and then, you know, being handed back to us by the audience through people singing along and jumping up and down and stage diving. You know, it’s like we want our shows to be a very communal and reciprocal experience, you know, and we want to do things that make each performance as special as we can. Like we had this person come up and play trombone for a couple songs for us. It was like, why not? You know, like let’s make each live performance as special as we can. And we try to have guests come on, you know, if we have friends in a city, have them come sing with us and try to do as much as we can to make each show its own experience. 

Do you have friends in Montreal?

We do, yes.

Did you have one band before this one, or how many bands were you before this?

Oh, I mean, I’ve had a million, million bands before this one. But I mean, the ones that kind of led here was I played in a band called Self Defense Family and then I played in a band called Regional Justice Center. And those were kind of the things that got me the momentum towards Militarie Gun.

Okay, so having said that, what were your goals for Militarie Gun when you started? 

I mean, when I started, it was just to write songs and make a new type of song that I hadn’t created before and try to learn how to use my voice in a new way. And then really, it ended up just being that I put out the songs and it kind of had a better reception than a lot of things that I had done in the past. So it was about kind of, one, engaging my own interest in developing this new way of writing songs, but then at the same time, having that reciprocated by people being more enthusiastic about it than other projects that I had done.

So where did music start for you? What was the moment in your life that you kind of fell in love with music?

I mean, as long as I can remember, I’ve just been obsessively listening to music. Even when I was a little kid, I just would get songs stuck in my head all day, and I would just watch music videos nonstop, music videos every day before school, every come home, watch music videos. TRL was a big thing for me at a certain point. Yeah, just kind of the culture surrounding music always had the desire to perform too. I would always make up songs and jump on the bed and pretend it was a stage. So it’s really just been there as long as I can remember. 

What bands were you listening to when you were a kid?

The first things I ever was obsessed with were Elton John and Garth Brooks. And then eventually, when I started finding my own music, one of the first things before I got into mainstream punk rock at the time was Pink Floyd. And then it led to Blink-182 and Sum 41 and Slipknot. And then eventually I started going more towards underground punk music, like The Casualties and listening to older ’77 songs like the Addicts and the Ramones. And I just was kind of starting that journey of just delving as deeply as I could into the various sub-genres of punk music. 

If I gave you 10 seconds to decide, do you have a favourite album of all time? 

Abbey Road by the Beatles is the one I go back to the most often and find new things to be obsessed about. As far as punk records, it’s really hard to pick because it’s not an all-encompassing genre that you can listen to at any moment. It’s like, oh, I’m in the mood for this type of thing instead of that. It’s not the type of thing I could turn on at any single moment. So it’s hard to pin any favourite of all time to just one punk record.

It’s interesting listening to you talk about artists like the Beatles and Elton John because even though you are a punk rock band, your music has a lot of melody, like the song structure and pop influences in the way you write the songs, I think. Would you agree with that?

I love pop music. My ultimate goal is to have a song that gets stuck in my head, you know, and that’s what I look for in other people’s music. Therefore, it’s also what I look for in my own music. I want to be able to write a song and then forget I wrote it and then have it get stuck in my head because then I know it’s worth people hearing.

What music have you been listening to on the road?

I was listening to Let It Be last night. I’ve been listening to Bully a lot. I really love the most recent Bully record. The new Spiritual Cramp music that’s been coming out. I’ve been on a huge Elliott Smith kick lately, listening to Unwound the other day, which led me into some Fugazi. I love Lana Del Rey. That’s one of my most common listens. If I don’t know what to turn on, I generally turn on Lana Del Rey or the Beatles. I’ve also been listening to a lot of NoFx, The War on Errorism. I’ve been spending a lot of time with that record again. I recently covered a song off of that record, so I’ve been revisiting it a lot.

Are you playing covers on these shows?

No, our set is too short to accommodate covers. I don’t really care about doing covers live. I love doing a recorded cover, but during a live performance, it feels like a waste of time when we could be playing a song that we wrote.

How long are you playing?

We get 30 minutes. We gotta keep it concise, you know. So we gotta get all the bangers that we can in.

If somebody had never heard your band, which song would you want them to start with?

I guess I would start with Do It Faster. I think it’s a great entry point to the band. It’s got the trademark ooh-ooh in it. It kind of fits all of the things that I hope to accomplish with the band. And it’s one of our most catchy. So, I think I would start with Do It Faster.

One thing we like to play on this channel is Fantasy Rock Band. So it’s like fantasy football, but you can pick a singer, a bass player, a guitarist, whatever you want. They can be alive or dead.

Okay, this is a difficult one. At this point, it’s gonna be John, Paul, Ringo and George. I want them back. I don’t know. That’s a difficult one because I really believe in the leadership of a single musician. So if I could do anything, I would just resurrect Elliott Smith. Elliott Smith could write a couple more songs because I just got into Elliott Smith and it’s a bummer to know that the road is ending in front of me. There’s no more records.

Well, we’re looking forward to seeing you on Tuesday. It’s actually my wedding anniversary that day. So have you got an excuse that I can give my wife?

That is the show of the year. You can’t miss the show of the year. Come on!

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