You know how sometimes you hear a song and it gets lodged so deep in your brain that it starts to feel like it's playing on a constant loop no matter what you're doing? That's what's been happening with me and Militarie Gun's "Big Disappointment," the lead-off track on the band's recent EP, All Roads Lead to the Gun II. I wake up, and I hear "Big Disappointment." I get in the shower, and I hear "Big Disappointment." I'm trying to get work done and I find myself playing the drum beat to "Big Disappointment" on my laptop. It has literally consumed me, and I don't mind it one bit.
If the name Militarie Gun is familiar to you, it's because it's the new-ish band from Ian Shelton of Regional Justice Center, who I interviewed way back in February. We touched on Militarie Gun a bit in that interview, and I was already in the bag for that project based on the lone seven-inch they had out at that point. But with the All Roads Lead to the Gun EPs, Ian has absolutely leveled up his songwriting in a way that feels almost criminal. Songs that get played predominantly at hardcore shows shouldn't be this exceedingly hooky. And yet, here we are, with perhaps the catchiest song I've heard this entire calendar year coming courtesy of a dude who straight up barks at you while kids stagedive on your head.
Don't just take my word for it, though. The Recording Academy—you know, the people behind the Grammys—just had the band do an in-studio performance of "Big Disappointment" that, and I say this with all due respect, somehow improves upon the original recording.
In the spirit of essentially making this the Former Clarity clip show, I also want to reach back to the newsletter I wrote about Dan Ozzi's hit new book, SELLOUT for a minute. As I said then, people keep comparing SELLOUT to Our Band Could Be Your Life, the book that documents the rise of trailblazing bands from the 1980s that ended up shaping much of what could be considered indie music culture. What does this have to Militarie Gun? Well, in essence, I've not seen a band that's embodied the spirit of the bands in Our Band Could Be Your Life as much as Militarie Gun in years.
After a string of EPs, the band embarked on their first U.S. tour. It was nearly two months long. Generally speaking, when bands go on their first tour, it's a little weekender, or maybe a couple-week jaunt at the absolute most. Instead, Militarie Gun booked the most aggressive tour possible, quite literally getting in the van and just hoping people would show up all across the country. To really drive home how insane this whole venture was, I saw them in Chicago in week two of the tour and then again almost a month later when they hopped on a Fiddlehead show at the last minute. Both times, I got chills watching them perform. The band sounded absolutely massive, like they'd been playing together for years instead of a handful of months, and people went absolutely nuts for them. And if you don't believe me, well, thankfully we live in the internet age and people filmed both sets, so go ahead and give them a look if you want to experience it all secondhand.
Back in the '80s, you either went to see bands play giant arenas or local bands at your neighborhood club and that was, more or less, the extent of your options when it came to live music. It wasn't until hardcore bands went out and played the worst shows imaginable all over the country that independent touring became a real thing, and we've all been enjoying the fruits of that labor ever since. Touring has largely gotten easier since the wild west days of the '80s, and I think I speak for everyone involved in music—from bands, to fans, and beyond— that we're all thankful for that. Bands don't need to carry a trucker's atlas with them and hope that Jim in Dubuque actually promoted the show—or actually booked the show and didn't just make you drive six hours for nothing. With streaming data in the mix, it's even easier to figure out where your listeners are, so booking a tour that hits all the markets that want you there is an actual possibility for young bands.
It's why seeing Militarie Gun throw caution to the wind and just go out on tour like it's 1984 feel so thrilling. At a time when everything in the world—and especially the music world—is optimized for peak performance and maximum engagement, it's exciting to see a band decide to go literally anywhere that will have them, with no proven track record, and just see what happens. It's an approach that's completely out of step with the way things work now and, perhaps I'm a bit of a romantic, I can't help but love that. Better yet, by all accounts it's a gambit that paid off.
I guess all roads really do lead to the gun.