Artisan Guns are off with a bang

By Lydia Jenkin

Artisan Guns talk to Lydia Jenkin about the creation of their debut album.

Artisan Guns. Photo / Supplied.
Artisan Guns. Photo / Supplied.

Singer Matthew Hope and guitarist Jonathan Pearce are momentarily stuck when trying to recall how they came to be named Artisan Guns.

"I can't remember what was going through my head," Hope puzzles.

"I would never have approved 'guns' now. I would've been like 'guns' - what the hell? I'm not into guns," laughs Pearce.

"I think it's cool," Hope responds. "When I think of Artisan Guns I think of like a gold Glock or a street pistol."

Regardless of the origin, it is a name that has come to suit the Auckland four-piece - a bunch of talented young guns of indie-folk-pop-rock.

Having formed in 2006 in their last year of school at Macleans College, they released their first EP Bird & Bone in 2009, and followed up quickly with another EP Hearts in 2010.

Their wistful debut single Autumn earned them a Silver Scroll finalist spot in 2010, spurring them on, and in the intervening two years, they all finished university degrees, and threw themselves into creating debut album Coral, hoping to evolve a sound and create a definitive album that would truly represent them.

"Our bassist, Reuben Stephens, talked about that feeling of, your first year out of uni you really wanna put your name against something, something that is really yours, something awesome," Pearce remembers.

Hope in particular was keen to get started on writing songs he would actually listen to, songs that represented his own musical tastes rather than experimenting with the university music assignments he was given, as had happened with the songs on each EP.

"I don't necessarily listen to the old EPs ever. I'm not saying they're terrible, I just can't remember writing them, almost like they could be someone else's work. This album was the first time I was writing because I really wanted to make something myself, so that's why I feel like there's something a lot more honest and a lot more real about this album comparatively."

The band sat down together several times to discuss what kind of direction they wanted the album to take, before they even began writing. "I remember talking about it in the lounge. We didn't want it to sound epic, we didn't want it to be grandiose or overblown or hyper-theatrical," says Pearce.

They also wanted to have more emphasis on the guitars, and credit their drummer Alex Freer with helping define and refine their rhythmic concepts. They've also approached their vocal harmonies differently.

"In the past it was more like a country type duet, whereas now we're using the harmony as a texture or a layer or a colour. It's more instrumental than lyrical" Hope explains.

When it did come to lyrics, Hope chose to mine his own nostalgia for his childhood and teenage years, for the freedom of those years - even though he's only the ripe old age of 23.

"I'm really reluctant to get any older ... .I am addicted painfully to all my past stories and my childhood, like I still have the majority of my old toys, and I just don't want to let go of that ever. I think the album is kind of about that," Hope says with as shrug.

The weather - particularly two unspectacular summers in a row - also informed the sound of the album, creating an occasional sense of melancholy.

"When we were all at our producer Djeisan Suskov's house doing all the demos and writing parts, we were often in really cold rooms, and it just makes you grumpy," Pearce laughs.

"It makes you feel like you don't want to be there, but you also really want to be there, so you're all dressed up really warm, working really hard, getting really intense, and that's how the album ends up sounding - there is some kind of frustrated intensity in there."

That frustration has never wobbled the band though - in the six years they've been together many other young acts have come and gone, but Hope reckons they've stuck around because their friendship is the important thing.

"A lot of bands rate how well they're doing on the success of their music, but we've always rated how well we are doing on how good friends we are. Because when we're all in a good spot, and we're happy with each other, that's when we're most successful. We prioritise being homies."

Who: Artisan Guns
What: Debut album Coral
Where and when: Album release party at the Bacco Room tomorrow night, all ages show at the Snakepit on Saturday.

- TimeOut

- NZ Herald

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