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Redefining hardcore with Militarie Gun

20 June 2023, 10:00
Words by Craig Howieson

Original Photography by Noah Kentis & Daniel Topete

As Militarie Gun prepare to release Life Under The Gun, Ian Shelton speaks to Best Fit about how a lifetime of looking inwards has shaped his band's sincere debut.

A clamour of flailing arms, a mesh of bodies, a group chant sing-along, and amidst it all, Ian Shelton holding court. Equal parts pastor and instigator, as the band all around him crash into the chorus of their latest single, he is lost – preaching the gospel of Militarie Gun.

Those crammed into the sold-out show at London's The George Tavern are collectively bearing witness to what has become a familiar sight – an intense night with Militarie Gun as they tear across Europe and the UK on an anticipatory tour in support of their forthcoming debut album.

As an outfit, Militarie Gun are an entirely different concept to Shelton's other project; the brutally abrasive hardcore outfit Regional Justice Center, which, he stresses “is not over, it’s just kind of sitting on ice.” While retaining many of hardcore’s sensibilities, the group is altogether more melodic, something that has left many clamouring to define their sound. “We come from the hardcore scene, but as far as our actual sound, we definitely stick out,” agrees Shelton. “We're influenced by punk rock and indie rock and there is no real genre that actually sums up the two. I guess the closest would be post-hardcore, but that’s not even a good genre name.”

Subverting the expectations of hardcore like Fucked Up and Touche Amore before them, though sonically an outlier, Militarie Gun are something harder for the indie kid and an opportunity for the hardcore set to come up for air. Or, as Shelton puts it, “I basically say a rock band. I think that rock as a whole is fitting of what we've made here with this album, but I think it'll take a while for the press and the world to catch up.”


Sheltons love of punk and indie began to form early in life, long before he was able to immerse himself in a musical world of his own. Growing up in the Bay Area he describes how “there was not a scene. It was the other neighbourhood kids that were showing me aggressive music and things like Weezer and indie rock stuff. They were the scene for me up until I moved.”

The move Shelton refers to was to remote Enumclaw WA, a place not quite renowned for its music scene. But, as Shelton explains, he made it work. “I was 15 when I started going to shows actively,” he admits. “We'd have to drive an hour and a half to Seattle or Tacoma, WA to go to shows. Which was honestly the best thing ever, because being from a small town driving an hour and a half is like going on an adventure, and it felt like the world was just opening up.”

Shelton always identified with the ethos of punk and hardcore. And, in lieu of a stable home life, the lure of the community it offered filled a void, even if at first it wasn’t the most welcoming of worlds. “It was the message board era when I was coming into hardcore, which was a very toxic time,” he recalls. “There was a lot of tribalism from different areas in Washington that was really, really lame. But the music made it worth being there. And then you slowly build your own little scene and you kind of form your own tribalism against the other pretentious lame kids.”

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One common thread running through Shelton's projects is honesty; both with the listener and with himself. “I've always aspired to a transparency and an emotional vulnerability in the music,” he offers. But, for those surprised at his new musical direction, there will be fewer surprises in its content. “I've never pretended to be someone I'm not. I wasn't posturing as a callous, cool guy through that whole thing. It was still about sharing something emotional with the listener.”

Life Under The Gun comes with a self-awareness rarely heard in hardcore, or any other genre for that matter. Shelton always points a finger at himself first, owning up to his mistakes and shortcomings. “It's something I do focus on,” replies the frontman when asked if he actively practises a kind of self-awareness. Having grown up in a household where family members were struggling with addiction, Shelton’s childhood was shaped by intense experiences and underpinned by a lack of feeling secure. “One of my first memories was talking to a therapist doing play therapy,” he expands. “I think due to being registered as an at-risk youth at school, I was constantly put back into therapy and asked questions about how I feel and why I do what I do.”

“Another formative experience for me is that I grew up going to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings with my mother, and I had to witness people talk about their shortcomings at least once a week through many periods of my life. And with that, even if someone's experiences are really disparate from your own, you might have some commonality in the thinking pattern or the root of the mistake. So, as I was experiencing childhood trauma, at the same time I’m able to link A to B in my actions and figure out why I'm choosing to make certain decisions.”

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“I'm incredibly thankful that all that happened to me. I think as far as the question of why I'm here and why other people that I've known have had to deal with darker paths is almost completely due to this.”

His advocacy for therapy is now tinged with an exasperation at the current state of the industry though, particularly in America. “It's really impossible to get an in-person therapist post pandemic due to cost cutting,” he explains. “Right before the pandemic I had a therapist but I went on tour for too long and, because it was through a low low income company, I had to get dropped because I missed too many sessions. Since then I have not been in therapy and I very much desire it, but I don't desire the over-the-phone Zoom version of it because there's a different nature to it, it would feel like an interview.”

For the most part, Shelton's history with therapy has left him with a number of coping mechanisms he can fall back on, but it is in his altruistic acts of helping others access therapy that he really feels the gravity of the situation; finding help for those who have slipped through the cracks, and will continue to do so until things change.

“I just wish it was so much more accessible. If I ever achieve any sort of real success in the world I would use that platform to try and make this whole thing so much more accessible to low income people, people coming out of prison, people coming out of traumatic experiences, because it's near impossible.”

Sheltons experience with therapy and the way in which he can self-evaluate himself and his actions is baked into Life Under The Gun. Whether it is the guilt-ridden opening line of “Never Fucked Up Once” (“You said something that I don’t want to admit / I want to forget”), or the pain felt at not being able to help those around him in need on “My Friends Are Having A Hard Time” (“I can’t do anything / For anyone not me”), he is always digging deeper into the hows and whys.

“I seem to have a lens that maybe not everybody does, and I try to lean into it and exploit it for my own good, as a way to not make the same mistakes. The record was meant to be a self-aware record.”

Despite the recurrence of heavy themes within the lyrics, the music of Militarie Gun is defiantly optimistic. The songs are huge, stuffed with pop-punk power hooks and a deep knowledge of classic rock and punk. The video for “Very High” – the band's euphoric warning against the perils of addiction – is a Dawson's Creek-style opening credits parody, but it is not unfathomable to think that some astute musical director could easily place the music of Militarie Gun in a teen drama like Death Cab For Cutie and The Shins before them.

“We jokingly refer to the songs as teen movie end credit music,” laughs Shelton. “It would not bother us in the slightest. You just hope if something like that happened, that it would be something that resonates with people so that the song is able to reach an audience that should hear it that wouldn't otherwise.”


“The Tony Hawk Pro Skater generation is the generation I belong to, and that was our starting place. I bought Rancid’s Out Come The Wolves because I heard it on Dave Mirra BMX. Those opportunities, should they come, are what opens the world to your music and are a great democratiser.”

As the world continues to open up for Militarie Gun, the last line of the album's closing title track once again highlights Shelton's astuteness. As he sings “a life of pursuit ends up pursuing you,” he seems keenly aware that things can change very quickly. For a man who has a sideline as an in-demand music video director as well as another dormant (for now) project with Regional Justice Center, you get the feeling that he will defiantly be in charge of his own future.

“I would like to believe myself to have enough integrity to walk away if it no longer suited me,” he says towards the end of the chat. “I'm very much of the mindset that as time goes on there will be more directing and less music and it'll be whatever suits me at the time. I'm not good at lying and I think it'd be very clear if I was making music that was hollow.” With a smile, he suggests “I think what works so well about what we do is that it consumes my every moment,” affirming that for now his sole focus is Militarie Gun – and he is all in.

Life Under The Gun is out 23 June via Loma Vista Recordings

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