(Photo: Jonas Bang)
Springtime nearly three years ago – it was one of those weird “false summers” where we get a few days of 20 degree weather (with sun) and the life force of the city goes absolutely bananas. The texts were coming in and the park system was flooded with party boys with their shirts off, one time use grills and cremated cheap hot dogs, Frisbees whizzing into groups of picnickers, battery operated ghetto blasters pumping out Skrillex and Medina (or was it chainsaws and a retarded goat…) soccer balls being fished out of ponds, ducks violently gang raping each other and the general populous chucking empty beer cans at Chinese people on mopeds. Just as the sun disappeared behind the trees around Den Gamle By, Kristoffer Vilsgaard stands (after a few attempts) up and tells me that we are now going to Headquarters where a “pretty cool psychedelic band” is playing with an “Italian surf group”. We drag everyone who is able bodied – first across the entire botanic gardens – running, pissing, smoking, coughing, singing, drinking, falling, laughing, screaming, howling, bawling, kissing and singing- through the heart of the city until the gates of HQ beckon us. Soon after we pay our nominal fee in (maybe 20 kroner?) three slender lads in black trench coats slither on stage and immediately begin blowing everyone’s minds. The front man Andreas is covering his face with a fedora while thrashing his guitar, punctuating his dark and distressed melodies with his long blonde beard. Close to the middle of their set they performed a dark harmonically driven dirge called “Ghosts of Scandinavia”. It’s half Black Sabbath, half Eninno Morricone vibe sent chills up everyone’s backbone. This was the first time we’d seen Get Your Gun.
Over the gestation of their career, they have always proved one of the most consistently brilliant live bands coming through Aarhus. Each time they play, normally without much hoopla from bookers and media, the crowd swells in size. The music keeps getting more and more dynamic as well. Songs become more “tone poem” or “elegy” than rock tune. The trio utilizes darker elements of minor passages; attack and release, conflict and resolution, and always a very passionate yet not fake emotional performance. This here, is the real deal. I was delighted to hear that they were recording in Aarhus after seeing what might have been my favorite performance by them at Aarhus Psych Fest at RADAR. Personally, I still have friends talking about it three months on, and I’ve had to buy three copies of their 7”, as it seems to get stolen every time I play it with people around.
I feel it is my personal duty to present these three men here from Aalborg: Get Your Gun. Currently they have just wrapped up the recording and mixing process here in Aarhus and now reaching out to friends and fans as potential benefactors to pressing and releasing the LP by crowd funding – a relatively buzz worthy term for an old concept: HELP US FINANCE OUR DREAM!
I’ve been talking with the two brothers Andreas and Simon Westmark (gui./vocals and drums respectfully) over the past holiday season on their breaks from recording about nearly everything pertaining to their group and music. Unfortunately bassist, Soeren Noergaard, could not chime in, as he was deeply entrenched in his exam period for school. The results however are below. Please help to support what will indubitably be one of the best debut releases in the country this year. The deadline for funding is SUNDAY. Every penny helps.
SOA = Sound of Aarhus
SW = Simon Westmark (drums)
AW = Andreas Westmark (vocals/guitar)
SOA: you recorded the album entirely in Aarhus (Århus Lyd Studio w/ Asger Christiansen), why did you choose Aarhus to record? Was it down to the studio and producer, or something more?
SW: We’ve heard a lot about Aarhus Lydstudie from many bands, but it was through our friends in ”Navneløs” we first heard about Asger. We thought of Asger as a really good match, because of his work with ”folkish” things like Giant Sand (Howe Gelb) and also more heavy stuff like Kellermensch. We felt he could understand every aspect of our music, and not just the heavy, stoned out part. We were also drawn in by Asgers bad sense of humor. Great guy!
SOA: what was the whole recording experience like? Were you totally prepared and focused or was there time for experimenting and tomfoolery?
AW: Lets just say – we could have been better prepared. Well, that was what I started out thinking, but I actually think it was kind of a healthy process for us being a bit more ”loose” than we used to be. Every song was pretty much written, some lyrics were missing, but the fact that some of the songs weren’t rehearsed or played live that much made it very fresh- and I can only speak for myself when I’m saying, that I’m pretty much a control freak, so this more ”open” process in the studio was a very good thing for me to experience – I really liked working like that! And I actually think it made the final result better. I also made some pretty drastic decisions and changes in my life at that period (nothing serious, I wasn’t in life danger at any time…), so I was pretty frustrated in the beginning of the recording process – maybe that comes out in the music as well. We split the process into three blocks – 1 big and 2 smaller ones. The first block was used on recording drums, guitar and bass (and organ) together, live for the songs. So we had the two other blocks for vocals, all sorts of dubs and trying out crazy sonic ideas. So to answer your question – it was a good mixture of prepared and focused AND experimenting and tomfoolery.
SOA: being of course a “power trio” did you aim to flesh out the sound with other instruments or musicians? Or did you keep it true to how it would be performed live with the band as it is?
SW: The songs are written and performed on stage before we go to the studio, so we know that it works as a ”power trio”. We see our recordings and concerts as two different things. If we think that a song needs piano, organ, banjo or a string quartet in the studio, we will record it. We performed almost all the instruments on the album ourselves, only some violin is recorded by Asger.
SOA: From the many times we’ve seen you play in Aarhus, it seemed like Psych fest (your last show here at RADAR) was quite an emotional performance..ALOT of people dug it. There seemed to be a bit more dynamic and space in some of the newer songs, was that the intention or evolution of the tunes, or was it more of an “in the moment” type performance?
AW: Glad people liked the show! Because we started out pretty young with the band and didn’t have the experience back then, we kind of stuck to the arrangements I guess. I still think we are an ”arrangement-band” by heart – you know, figuring out what really works and just present it as it is – but in the years gone by we found more space for improvising and, as you mentioned, creating some space in the songs where something new can happen during the concert. When you play songs so many times live, you can get a little bored, but we/I never felt like making drastic changes. If we make an arrangement that we like, we stick with it. Maybe we extend the beginning, the end or something. But I really found out what big effect small changes can have live – singing phrases in different ways, fucking the songs up with anarchistic and surprising noise or removing some elements to make it more naked and intense. Small things that it’s hard to put a finger on and might be more unconscious than conscious -but I think it makes the concert better for both us and the audience when you as the performer try to surprise yourself and each other a little bit – never put auto-pilot on.
And well – I guess I’m lucky to have such a steady drummer and bassist by my side – they are like glue! It gives me a lot of freedom!
SOA: tell us about the process of taking a song from an idea to eventually performing and recording it for the masses? How is a GYG song born?
AW: I guess it always starts with me – a line, a riff, a melody or something just occurs. It always starts with something very simple – like, really simple. Sometimes I really flesh out the idea before I bring it to the other guys, sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I really know what I want in the song, and sometimes I have no clue. Sometimes it takes a lot of time, sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes I’m right from the beginning, sometimes I’m not. Sometimes there’s screaming and crying and sometimes there’s smiles and hugs (not a lot of course!) I believe I’m right most of the time, but I guess the two others doesn’t agree with me on that…..I think this is the process of many many bands. But something specific about us, is that we never really were a ”lets-jam-it-out” band.
SOA: tell us about the crowd funding experience. Did you have goals? Are you close?
SW: Our goal is to reach 20.000 Danish kroner, which is a lot, but people really chipped in and we only need 3500 kr to reach our goal. There’s a guy from Russia who donated 1100 kr, which is kind of insane, in a good way. Thank you Dmitry! We are truly grateful to all the people who donated!
SOA: crowd funding is kind of a new concept I guess, but a good one how did you guys hear about it? Did you know any other bands that had success with it? Are there any downsides to it, or is it all Bingo/Banko
AW: I actually made my first acquaintance with the concept by Marie Fisker and Kira Skovs crowd funding for their project: The Cabin Project. I heard about crowd funding before, but hadn’t really seen it as an option for musicians strangely enough. I think we all felt, that it could easily become a kind of ”poor-but-clever-musicians-begging”, but we were really positively surprised and are really happy for our decision to begin the crowd-funding project. Not only from the many donations and very good feedback from people – we also found out, that the symbolic value of letting people become a part of the project and release is – yeah well, you just can’t put a price on that.
How it works, is that you donate an amount, and the size of the amount decides, what we give you in return. I think we managed to balance these two categories really well – you are actually just pre-ordering the album + postage when you donate around 200 kr. We saw some examples of others demanding a very high amount for only the single download – that seems kind of silly in my book. So if you find a good and fair balance between the donations and the gifts, there are really no downsides!
SOA: What happens now to the record? It’s been recorded and mastered. Eventually pressed, but do you have plans for distribution nationally/internationally? How do you get it in the shops, or is it a total “do it yourself” task?
SW: The mastering starts tomorrow, and when it’s done we will send it to the vinyl-press as fast as possible. We really can’t wait to sit with the record in our hands. It’s bit of a puzzle with distribution, and we haven’t solved it completely yet.
We release the album together with our managers music company ”Empty Tape” in Denmark and some European countries with local PR and distribution. In other countries it’s released by other labels, where they take care of all the work. Again, the puzzle isn’t solved completely.
SOA: have the songs on the record been road tested, do you find out what works and doesn’t live and THEN go record?
AW: Some of the songs, which were arranged and completed in the summer of 2013, I think its 4 songs, weren’t played that much live before the recordings. I think we just became better in writing and arranging songs, which just works right away. We always had this process of writing and rehearsing for some days, which would result in a bundle of 4-5 songs, and then maybe 2-3 of them ended up working on stage in the end. This time I think they all work, without re-arranging and stuff. But as mentioned before, they were still fresh in the studio, so they were allowed to breath and evolve a little in the process of recording. It was liberating not to get trapped by the ”we-cant-do-that-live” thought in the studio, which is something I can easily get. I do think that, that thought is good and valid to some extent. But seriously – listening to a record is only audio. Watching a live act stimulates all the senses. Maybe not the sense of taste, but who knows – I guess beer can have an impact.
(Note: there is a psychological condition called synesthesia – in which some people are able to sense music as taste (or numbers as colors etc.) a friend of mine says GYG tastes “tangy and violet”.
SOA are you re-recording any of the material from the self released EP/7″ on your band camp profile?
SW: We have re-recorded ”Staying For a While”.
If you could call one of our songs a hit, it would be this song, so we wanted it to be released in all the countries we haven’t played yet.
SOA: you’ve recently toured Russia! What the hell? How did you come to play there? How are you received there? What is the scene like there for underground music these days?
AW: I could write a whole book about Russia – maybe two! And not only about the music experiences – it was the whole package with people and travelling – it was just, wow! I really fell in love with the country. Lots of weird and epic moments! And the vodka, mmmhhhh….
The short story is that we played Tallinn Music Week, it went great and all the right people saw it, a Russian booker sneaked up from behind on our way to back to the hotel, he wanted to set a tour up in Russia, we took his card and thought ”Hell no!” (Pussy Riot), our manager was intrigued and did some research, we went along and we loved it! (Thanks to Alex Kelman to sneak up on us from behind)
We’ve been there two times, the first time being in 2012, and it was an overwhelming experience. We told this story a thousand times, but its only because its such a great story. The clubs were packed with people singing along (which isn’t really something we are used to in our part of the world or our part of the music scene) and if there were 200-300 people, we wrote 200-300 autographs and took 200-300 pictures with them. Quite a positive surprise. I actually think Russia (and Estonia) got our best concerts – sorry Danmark.
I don’t really have a clue why our music resonates so deeply with the Russians and old Soviet countries. A couple of interviewers and audiences actually called me ”Dostojevskji of Rock”. That’s a very big compliment in my book, but also a title I feel very humble and unworthy of it! I guess it’s the dark and bleak nature of our music, which speaks to them and the history of their country! We could feel how it had spread and grown from 2012 to our last tour in 2013. Maybe it’s really going to take off when the record comes out – who knows – but we are definitely coming back to Mother Russia!
About the Russian underground scene – we don’t know that much about it. The bands that opened for us were really upcoming and I guess you could feel that insecurity and un-experience mixed with wishes and willingness as you would with any other Danish upcoming act. I’m sorry to say that I don’t know that much about the more established music scene in Russia.
SOA did the “Pussy Riot” subject come up at all? Were you guys worried about being sent to the Gulags?
SW: As Andreas said, we thought about it before we went there. When Alex sneaked up on us it was just after the whole ”Pussy Riot thing”. I remember me and Søren (our bass player) looking at each other, thinking that this was too crazy. ”We can’t do this”.
The funny thing is, that I can’t remember a moment where we felt unsafe in Russia – Or maybe just one time on the bus, between Moscow and Lipetsk, where our friend and photographer Jonas had a nightmare, waking everybody up in the bus with his scream of fear. Something about an evil Russian stealing his MacBook, I think.
SOA: What are the different experiences with playing there – both with the audience and venues (what is the sound like even..Do they have proper gear there?) How is it all different than DK and DE?
SW: The audience is amazing. Bigger numbers of people come to the shows, and they don’t just stand in the corner like people in Denmark do. When we played in Lipetsk there was a camera team filming the concert, and one of the guys stood on stage filming until he decided to throw the camera away and stage dive. That’s just one out of many weird things happening when we are touring in Russia. Also writing hundreds of autographs is totally surreal to three hicks from North Jutland.
When it comes to the venues we really expected the worst. So we weren’t disappointed, but it wasn’t great in any way. I fought with some cymbal stands and a floor tom that wouldn’t stay up. Andreas experienced that not every venue in the world has a Fender Twin Reverb, but we played through it. Sometimes it’s good to struggle a bit, to become frustrated. I guess we are best, when we are a bit frustrated.
SOA: I’m interested to know how you guys believe your music is perceived (or classified?) by your fans and friends. it’s pretty hard when talking to people to put a label on what it is you do? Do you find a lot of fans of the different genres inter-mixing and coming o shows (heavy, indie, post-rock blah blah blah) cos you guys could easily fit in the “psych” or even “stoner” crowds?
AW: I understand why you find it difficult to describe – we do as well. Maybe we mentioned this before, but the music was just kind of there from the beginning – of course it grew and evolved during the years, but the vibe is the same as it was, when we started out with me singing. So it’s kind of weird to ”post-describe” something that came so natural and unforced to us.
I have no idea which ”box” to put us into – hopefully ”good music” – or maybe just ”rock”! I hope the listeners find it powerful, moving and hopefully they can see and hear that its not only pessimistic darkness coming through. But – I don’t really like to tell people what to hear.
I don’t think any of us feel like a part of the stoner-rock or psych-scene. It’s not because we don’t want to, we like the music, we just don’t feel like a part of the scene. Even though we have clear musical roots from the past, we don’t feel like a revival-band – at all. We’ve actually been talking about how cool it would be to play both metal and folk festivals – because we could see ourselves on both scenes. We actually once made some Swedish death-metal-heads almost cry – they were very shocked and moved. I remember they said that it was the best concert they ever seen and ”It was like being at a funeral – and I fucking loved it”!!!!
I just remembered – I actually think we reached the most accurate description in our latest press-material:”A blend between the weight and aggressive nature of stoner-rock, the Nordic melancholy, and the darkest tales of country- and folk music. The result is a constant duality between authority and fragility, where the complexity of simplicity is given the pride of place and where it is cut to the bone until it hurts the most. ”
Press-material always gets a little arty, and I guess I like it to be, but I think the first line really says a lot about the music – use that next time you have to describe us to someone!
SOA: finally – tell us about the mini tour around the release, where are you headed? do you have support in Aarhus? any surprises in store for the city of smiles?
SW: We will play a show at Loppen in Copenhagen the 14th of February, to celebrate the release of our first single from the album, ”Black Book”. The release tour isn’t completely booked yet, but so far the dates are:
Apr. 11. 1000fryd, Aalborg (RELEASE)
Apr. 17. Kulisselageret, Horsens
Apr. 18. RADAR, Aarhus
We are pretty sure more dates will be part of the tour!
At Radar and Loppen we will bring our friends in ”De Underjordiske”.
”De Underjordiske” is a new band consisting of members from both The Woken Trees and The Wands. The show at Loppen will be the last concert as a trio for a while. In the future we will have a little violin-surprise with us! We can’t wait!
(note: De Underjordiske also performed before GYG at day two of Aarhus Psych Fest)
About playing in Aarhus – We intend to carve out the smile of your city’s face!
Let’s try and help Get Your Gun reach their very close goal of 20,000! Below you can find links to the official album teaser and crowd funding links to at least pre-order your vinyl.
In the meantime, you can visit their Bandcamp profile and head/download their self released EP, or hopefully still grab a copy of that 7” through mail order or on consignment if you are ever in Aalborg.
Touring Russia photos:
If you’re still not sure, check out their album teaser – that will do it.