Ahead of the release of ‘Life Under The Gun’, Militarie Gun frontman Ian Shelton opens up on making the record, finding solace in music and pushing the boundaries of hardcore.
There’s a lot to be said for the phrase, ‘Find what you love and let it kill you’.
A somewhat nihilistic expression of staying true to your beliefs and living authentically, it’s an encouragement to pursue your passions no matter the cost – but also a warning against allowing obsession to consume you.
It’s a fine line to tread, and many spend their lives trying to strike the balance, including Militarie Gun frontman Ian Shelton. Growing up in the Bay Area, for him, that obsession had always been music.
“I was into the basic mainstream bands like Blink-182, Green Day, and Alkaline Trio, but the neighbour kids were into the real punk stuff,” he recalls.
“To the right of my house, there were kids that were into punk, and then to the left there were kids that were into rock. They showed me the Dead Kennedys, Misfits, Weezer, and Operation Ivy. They were all older than me, and I was inspired by all of them.”
With his family moving to a sparsely populated rural suburb in Washington during his formative years, as the only punk in his small town, Shelton looked to music as an escape. Growing up in a household with family members struggling from addiction, the community and open expression of music became his outlet.
Spending his teenage years putting on local shows, after high school he formed the pummelling hardcore outfit, Regional Justice Center. Releasing albums and touring the world whilst directing music videos for hardcore’s biggest breakthrough names, as time went on, the frontman began reconsidering his future.
Deeming a career in playing hardcore to be unsustainable, he moved to Los Angeles with plans to pursue filmmaking, but in 2020 – everything got derailed. Within five hours of being told that the pandemic had put his life on hold, Shelton had written the first Militarie Gun song, a collision of the unrelenting punk aggression and vibrant pop hooks that soundtracked his youth.
“There was no intention behind it. It was just one song written for fun in an hour to begin with, but I immediately went back to the practice space and wrote a second song. The next day, a third came, and the obsessiveness trickled in,” the frontman recalls.
“Before Regional Justice Center, I tried to start an indie rock band. I was bad at singing, but I was afraid to fully try. I wanted to learn to sing, so it was a conscious attempt to get comfortable with it. The more music I listened to in tandem with creating, the more I wanted to develop the melodic side of the band. That’s the music I’ve always been obsessed with.”
Though Militarie Gun’s sound is driven by an intuitive melody, it’s ultimately defined by Shelton’s intensely personal songwriting. Largely written as a stream of consciousness and carrying a distinct authenticity, the frontman is vocal about his experiences growing up within a difficult household.
“My mother is an alcoholic, but she was very big on telling me not to hide what was happening in our household. She told me to talk about it, and she would give me books and show me movies with alcoholic parents in them,” he recalls.
“She gave me this tool of looking at these really terrible things as a source of identity and creativity. I can reinterpret these terrible experiences into an art form and put them back into the world to connect with people. The most incredible thing anyone could do for you in that situation is to say, ‘Don’t hide this trauma, speak on it’. I want to pass on that motto because you need to talk about all the fucked-up things from your life.”
Crafting an energetic, hook-laden off-shoot of hardcore surging with immediacy, this message of authenticity sits at the core of Militarie Gun. An outlet for self-expression – and often a literal escape route for Shelton – the band has become a vessel for him to understand the inner wires of his brain, and as he works to untangle each knot – he hopes to find deeper connections.
“I want to reach people that are going through the things that I was,” he nods.
“It’s a really isolating thing to deal with. I want to help other people to not feel so alone, and I want to not feel alone myself. I’m hoping to unload it all and be able to view it in a different light. None of this is for pity, and I’m not looking for sympathy. I’m looking to say, ‘I beat the hell out of all of this’.”
It’s a sentiment that shines on Militarie Gun’s debut, ‘Life Under The Gun’, a thundering rock album recorded at Foo Fighters’ Studio 606. A culmination of the band’s recent hard-earned momentum, it’s a testament to battling through life’s toughest moments and coming out on top.
“When you look at Militarie Gun’s body of work so far, there is a large amount of positivity to it. That’s important to me because I don’t have a desire to be cynical,” Shelton nods.
“A huge part of hardcore is rooted in cynicism as a way to deflect from growth, and I want to address myself and others in a more productive way. I think the cool guy thing is being cynical, but when you’re cynical you’re not sharing what’s really inside of you. This is about sharing what’s inside and not filtering it at all, which is really difficult sometimes.”
Taking an unblinkingly candid approach to songwriting, Shelton is hoping that Militarie Gun can blossom into a vessel for understanding, connection, and collaboration. Refusing to be bound by sonic barriers, instead allowing the community spirit of hardcore to transcend into everything they do, this is musical catharsis in its purest form.
“I could care less about identifying with the sonics of what hardcore should or shouldn’t be. I’m going to write the songs that I want to write,” he finishes.
“This is about collaboration. We’ve been working hard enough to achieve eyes and ears behind our band, and I want to pass those on to other artists. I don’t view myself as the most talented or creative person, I’m just a really hardworking person. When I see people who are more creative than myself, I want to help them have a platform. That’s how this whole thing grows.”
‘Life Under The Gun’ is set for release on June 23.