Ian Shelton is a busy guy. Earlier this year, the punk renaissance man released one of the best hardcore albums in a while with his powerviolence band Regional Justice Center, and now he's following it up with another project that's completely different sounding yet equally fantastic. The EP is called All Roads Lead to the Gun, and it's the second release from his new band Militarie Gun, who graced our Artists You Need to Know column last month.
What started as a pandemic-born solo project is now a bona fide band that features members of Drug Church and Modern Color, and between their 2020 EP, My Life is Over, and this new joint, they've quickly become one of the most compelling groups in post-hardcore— if you could even call them that. Shelton's gruff vocals keep them firmly planted in the world of punk, but by every other metric, Militarie Gun are an indie band who write mid-tempo pop-rock songs with a thorny exterior.
To boot, Shelton says that the songs on All Roads aren't influenced by the usual punk suspects, but by Nineties alt-rock bands like Blur and Modest Mouse, Sixties nostalgists like Guided By Voices and actual Sixties pop-rock gods like Paul McCartney and The Byrds. As he explains below in a track-by-track breakdown, the EP was as much an outlet for venting frustrations and reflecting on unglamorous situations — bad shroom experiences, petty spite toward other bands, literally falling on his head outside of a 7-Eleven — as it was a songwriting exercise for attaining pop-rock perfection.
Here's how each track came together.
"Ain't No Flowers"
This one is a total spite song. It started the same as most MG songs, just being a note in my phone that said "Ain't No Flowers." Originally, that was me making fun of how people from hardcore start playing in "softer bands" and suddenly everything is flower imagery. That sort of thing to me just drives in how most bands want to fit in and not stand out. It ended up being more about being happy for the failure of people I don't like — all around it's just pretty negative and toxic. Musically, I was trying to trace the simplicity of "Song 2" by Blur. The whole song ended up being some sort of fucked-up amalgamation of a song like "Cut-Out Witch" by Guided By Voices, some type of Modest Mouse bridge and the most simple version of Nineties mainstream alternative rock.
"Don't Pick Up the Phone"
Initially, I didn't think this song would make the record. I thought it was too soft and would go on the next project we worked on, but by the end of the sessions it was everyone's favorite song. The only thing I had written down when I went in to record the demo was, "don't pick up the phone when you're on drugs," because the week before I had picked up a bad news call while on mushrooms. The song just leans into paranoia and feeling like you want a good life, you want money and love, but something is standing in your way, someone is out to get you.
Once we released this, someone said it reminded them of "Girls of Wild Strawberries" by Guided By Voices and I could see it as a subliminal influence because that's one of my favorite tracks. For MG, I love to use what I call the "successful beat," which is the beat that seemingly everyone used from the Sixties to the Nineties with the snare on [beat] one, it's pretty much the entire song for this one. The balance of melody and abrasion on this song is something I want to explore more in the future.
"Fell On My Head"
The day before I recorded the demo for this, I was walking out of the 7-Eleven by my house and attempted to hop a three-foot wall with an arm full of snacks and cans of soda, resulting in me doing a front flip onto my head when my foot got caught. I wanted to write about the days where literally nothing goes right and concluding that it might be something [we] deserve. This is one of the first songs we are dropping that most of the band was involved in. It was the result of a jam with our bass player Max [Epstein] and drummer Vince [Nguyen]. I had the riffs but then Max came up with that killer bassline that set it off.
When we got into the studio to record, there was something I was trying to do on the choruses vocally that wasn't working at all. We tried a ton of things and concluded that I should basically sing the same note for the entire song, so Nick [Cogan, guitarist] came up with lead on the chorus on the spot so it would be lifted out of the same space as the verses. It's one of my favorite tracks between the two EPs and makes me want to pogo out of my skin.
"Stuck in a Spin"
The musical jumping off point for this one was trying to make a song with a discordant intro that lands into something bright and sunny. The Byrds' "Eight Miles High" and Modest Mouse's "I Came as a Rat" were huge influences on that, almost like a song that starts after the intro. Paul McCartney does that a lot, too. Lyrically, I just wanted to address my own ability to spiral out of control when I get set in a destructive cycle. Make one bad decision so you might as well make 10 more. Specifically, it was about a time I went through a break up, started living in my van and was just all-around in a bad place and I didn't do much to help myself out of it. I like placing dark subject matter over a song that sounds so happy. I think with MG some juxtaposition of melody, abrasiveness, happy and angry is always at play and hopefully forms a unique new thing.