How Militarie Gun came to carry the torch for Californian punk

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How Militarie Gun came to carry the torch for Californian punk

Militarie Gun
Photo: Daniel Topete
Words by Andrew Handley

A year after releasing their assured debut album Life Under the Gun, Californian alt-rockers Militarie Gun continue their rapid-fire ascent. 

Their melodic hardcore laden with addictive hooks has found them slots at major festivals and a growing fanbase. The final leg of their tricontinental six-week tour will conclude in Australia in July. 

The band began as a solo project for singer Ian Shelton, who wrote the songs while honing his guitar skills during the pandemic. He is more acquainted behind the kit, having drummed for various hardcore bands before Militarie Gun – including his own Region Justice Center (RJC). 

Militarie Gun Melbourne Shows

  • July 2 – The Gasometer
  • July 5 – Margaret Court Arena (with Hockey Dad)
  • Tickets are on sale now

 Keep up with the latest music news, features, festivals, interviews and reviews here.

Sonically, the two bands have little in common. RJC is dizzyingly heavy powerviolence – a subgenre of hardcore punk propelled by assaults of blast beats with equally ferocious vocals with songs often clocking under a minute. 

Just before pulling into Indianapolis, Shelton speaks from the tour bus after an eight-hour day of travelling. “When I got into powerviolence and grindcore, the scene of friends that I had, we also liked Modest Mouse and random ska music and emo,” he says with a mid-tour rasp. “While I was developing that taste, I was developing other tastes.” 

“It never seemed crazy to do Regional Justice Center and Militaire Gun at the same time because nobody listens to one type of music,” he reasons. “If they do, either they’re completely stupid or they’re blind.”

Though he makes the music for both bands concurrently there is little overlap in the songwriting process. “RJC is very instrumental based – it’s about the instruments being hard, and then making something so aggressive on top of it,” Shelton says of the vocals, which he also takes care of. “Whereas the instruments in Militaire Gun are about making a palette for a vocal melody to go over the top, so it’s more vocal-centric.” 

By focusing on more traditional songwriting in Militarie Gun, Shelton has tapped into a deep well of hooky riffs and anthemic choruses. “I guess I’ve always loved big choruses,” he posits. “It’s about raising the stakes, so when you’re in a part of a song you’re like ‘How do I elevate in the next part of the song?’ The goal is always elevation – lyrically and in the melodies.”

Shelton is making the most of writing outside the confines of RJC. “We wrote a record that’s going to be released soon, but it’s not the all-consuming thing that Militarie Gun is,” he admits.

“There’s so much more to explore within the palette of Militarie Gun because it’s less formal, so it’s easier to be more obsessed with it. Anything can be a song for us, versus having to be blast beats and aggressive.” 

The band’s songwriting evolution can be heard on the soon-to-be-released single I Thought You Were Waving. “The song is about not knowing how to ask for help but trying to invert it into the third-person perspective,” describes Shelton. “In the second verse it’s like, ‘I saw you living in a burning house/ but I just thought you lived there/ so I shut my mouth.’”

“It’s trying to make it comedic, but also paints a picture of someone who’s in trouble and not getting the help they need,” he continues. “The Militarie Gun goal is always trying to make these concepts digestible by either making them ludicrous or catchy, and I feel like we did that across the board on this one.” 

Shelton is also an accomplished music video director. He was pursuing this line of work when he moved to LA before Militarie Gun took off. “The goal for me currently is to be able to set aside enough time for me to direct all the videos for the next album,” he proposes.

“I really like having the ability to impart my vision onto the song and have it be a continuation of the creation of the song. I really, really love directing… it’s not just a marketing tool, it is a piece of art.”

The overwhelmingly positive critic and fan reaction to their debut album is unlike anything Shelton has experienced. “I’ve written so many other records and hoped people would like them, and there’s always a little bit of growth, but this record has been such a life changer,” he says.

“We’re coming to Australia for the first time, I’ve never done that before, and that’s because of Life Under the Gun. We’re all really appreciative that it went to plan to some degree.” 

The band has been invited to support Hockey Dad on their national tour, along with separate headline shows. In Victoria, they’ve asked Geld to join them who are more akin to RJC in speed and ferocity.  “I remember when Geld first started dropping stuff on [record label] Iron Lung and I loved it,” recalls Shelton. “We’re very different bands so the idea that they were down to play with us is awesome.” 

Catch Militarie Gun on their Australian tour. More information and tickets are available here