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Artisan Guns

Artisan Guns

Interviewed by
Natalie Finnigan
Wednesday 29th August, 2012 10:18AM

Auckland indie-pop band Artisan Guns released their debut album Coral last week. Coral comes threes after they first emerged with the first of their two well received EPs. Natalie Finnigan caught up Jonathan Pearce midway through their album release tour to find out how the shows have been going, their approach to the new album and their thoughts on New Zealand music...

You’re half-way through touring your album – how have the shows been going so far?

Really great. We played three great shows in Auckland and now we’re off down south before finishing in Wellington. I’m really looking forward to Dunedin –we’re playing quite a small show but I really love playing there.

What have you enjoyed about the tour so far?

We’re playing with two sweet support bands – we’ve been really lucky with support bands actually - the Auckland ones were so amazing and we’ve got Taste Merchants, Males and Fat Children supporting in Dunedin, Tom Lark and Ipswich in Christchruch, and Lontalius are supporting in Wellington who we really love too.

What’s the album like in comparison to your two EPs.

Its way different. It’s coming from a completely different place because when we made the EPs we didn’t really think about what we were doing, we just kind of did it and the first thing we played was what ended up on the EPs. When we really thought about how we could make these songs and this record something we’d wanna listen to and something that we’d be happy with for a long time, we kind of approached it from a different place. We talked heaps about it which is kind of unusual for us – Lots of ‘so what do we want to include and what do we want to achieve?’ type conversations…


Do you all have similar tastes in music or do the different band members bring different perspectives?

Our tastes are pretty similar, but we all definitely have out favourites that are different. Matt is really into modern, soul side of hip-hop and he gets a lot of his lyrical inspiration from those writers who use these dense, flowing phrases. Alex is really into hip-hop too, as well as jazz and alt-rock which we’re all into. We all love Alt-pop/rock.

I kind of wondered, given the eclectic range of influence you’ve cited as a band, whether you all had very different tastes or whether you were just a very open-minded group…

We’re pretty open-minded. Three of us studied music at uni which I’d say puts you in a pretty open-minded place. Alex and myself did jazz degrees and Matt did a more general music course. Reuben studied fine arts at Whitecliff – he’s got the artists brain I guess.

What are you personally listening to at the moment?

I’m listening to heaps of stuff but I’m on a big local music buzz at the moment and I’ve been going back and listening to all of Ed Cake’s stuff.

His Ed Cake album and the Pie Warmer album mainly. There are rumours that he might be making another one which would be really interesting because he makes this amazing, twisted pop music, and just confuses and delights me all the time.

I’ve also been thrashing the Homebrew album, which lyrically is blowing my mind.

I know that Matt is absolutely adoring the Frank Ocean album– he’s pretty much just singing it constantly. When he’s not making his own music he’s just walking around singing Frank Ocean.

Do you all have side projects or are you pretty focused on Artisan Guns?

We’ve been trying to do most of our work with the band but all of us except Matt play with a few other bands – Matt pretty much just writes for Artisan Guns which is pretty cool.

Why did you decide to record two EPs before you recorded an album?

We weren’t really ready for an album before now, not that we knew that, but until we began working on Coral we didn’t know how much work it would actually be. We did have enough songs to put an EP in 2010 so we decided to do another (Hearts) to make sure we kept putting our music out there - although that sounds like we had a grand plan for an album but we really didn’t. We didn’t have a grand plan.

And why did you decide to start your own record label rather than try to sign with one?

We’ve got heaps of help because we’ve got a really good manager so we didn’t really feel like we needed to do the big signing thing. We knew we could kind of do it ourselves and we just needed a little bit of help to get there.

We didn’t want to sign our life away because we thought we didn’t need it at the time. Maybe we would want to sign our lives away at some point though? I don’t know.

The label thing is really interesting - people keep asking us whether we’re going to release anything else, because as soon as you have a name you can start doing stuff like that. So perhaps that’s something we’ll develop in the next year or so.

How are you doing things differently being independent?

We tried to make the album as cheap as possible and even though we have a record company helping with distribution only, we had to fight quite hard to be able to sell our albums at a reasonable price.

Our focus is making the albums affordable and trying to get people along to gigs. We didn’t skimp on the cost of making the album either – we used heavy cardboard and full color and stuff so we’re really proud of it.

A lot of bands set up a label so they can put out their own albums and then do the shit they want to do on the side which is pretty great. It mean if you want to help other people with solo projects who need an avenue for putting it out you can.

How has the Auckland music scene be treating you?

I think Auckland music is really strong at the moment – in fact New Zealand music is really strong at the moment. I love it. Auckland’s pretty great in terms of venues and quite a few people are in a position to be recording bands affordably. Lots of guys are setting themselves up to record at home so if you want to make an album but you only have $1000 to make it with, you can probably find someone who will make you a pretty good album.

The guy Alex Bennett from The Raw Nerves just started this amazing label where he records bands on reel-to-reel tape machines and does all the release and everything himself, and, it’s completely free. He has this weird, pseudo political view that music should be free and he just goes with it real hard and does amazing things.

What are your plans for the record after the tour?

We’d really like to put in on vinyl when we can afford to because we kind of wrote the album with that in mind. We wrote it with a side a and a side b and they fit perfectly on a 40 something minute vinyl and it splits right down the middle. The track we put on the start of the b side is a kind of palette cleansing track. It’s sort of oddball and different from the rest.

And longer term plans?

Alex and I talk about this dream world in music where you’d be a small business and you’d work from 9-5 everyday because you’d need to keep filling orders for more albums or songs or whatever you were producing and if you weren’t filling those order you wouldn’t get paid… I dunno, it’s a crazy thought, but it’s nice to dream that one day there might be a music world we could live and work in and how awesome that would be. We’re going to try and book an Aussie tour as soon as we can, and Matt has been saying he really wants to spend some time in LA.


Artisan Guns finish up their album release tour this week - see below for dates and ticketing details.


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