This Town Needs Guns: Interview
September 7, 2008 by Richard James
Slaving away (in one form or another) since 2004 creating such emo-pop genius as 26 is Dancier Than 4 and If I Sit Still… This Town Needs Guns have gone through various line-up changes before starting studio work on an album of entirely new songs with animal-themed titles in April.
‘Animals’ is out on the fantastic Big Scary Monsters on the 13th October. we chatted to vocalist, Stuart Smith about the album and more!
All photos credit: Lucy Johnston (lucyjohnston.co.uk)
AudioScribbler: First off, which town needs guns? Whenever I mention your music to someone not familiar with it they assume you’re some kind of hardcore or power metal band. Was your name intended to bemuse?
Stuart Smith, This Town Needs Guns: I think the name was supposed to be amusing more than anything. I always liked the idea of having a band name that would make people assume what they could expect from us. At the time we thought that ‘This Town Needs Guns’ was probably the furthest away from what we sounded like and it was a fun piss-take out of the bands that were popular at the time (macho-glam-metal-bollocks that was parading around as ‘emo’). I can’t even remember the names of those dire bands. It seemed like a new one was coming out every other week. They all ‘gothed up’ and had ridiculous guitar solos. It was dumb and couldn’t have been further from what ‘emo’ had always meant to me.
It was also nice that the name was something personal to me. That ‘eye for an eye’ attitude that so many people have has always fascinated me. Why do people think that violence can be solved with further aggression? I thought it would be nice to highlight the absurdity of it all. Maybe we failed. There are definitely people that don’t ‘get it’, but then that is as a result of people reading the name and not listening to the music. I should think it becomes fairly obvious that our tongues are firmly in cheek once you give the records a spin.
Ultimately I think the name is a result of our own meager expectations. When we set out to play together a few years ago it was just for our own enjoyment. We only needed a name when we got our first gig and we’ve just stuck with it ever since. Maybe we’d have changed it if we’d have known where we’d be today. Maybe we wouldn’t.
Oh and in answer to your original question NO town needs guns.
AS: How do you go about writing your songs?
SS: Recently its been the case that Tim (guitar) will come up with a riff or two and he’ll jam it out with Chris (drums). They’ll then play it to us and we’ll start molding it into a song. If we’re not making much progress with a song then we’ll leave it and try to pick it up again later. Mosts songs take months from the first time we hear a riff, to having a finished track and during that time they go through various evolutions. It can suck at times, but nothing beats the feeling of accomplishment when we finish a song and we’re all happy with it.
Promo video for ‘Panda’ from Animals
AS: I notice on the album Stu isn’t credited with playing guitar anymore, what brought this about?
SS: Tim just got too good and there wasn’t any call for another guitar line in the new songs. There has never been any room for egos in this band. If a song doesn’t warrant an extra guitar part or any other instrument for that matter, then we’re not going to force it on for the sake of it. Maybe I’ll start playing guitar again. In the new stuff we’ve started writing I’ve been hearing synths coming through, so maybe I’ll start playing around with that.
AS: You’re clearly influenced by the Kinsella brother’s work, have any of them offered an opinion on your music?
SS: Not that we’re aware of. We played a gig a while back with Make Believe, but I don’t think any of us wanted to know what they thought of it. We have the upmost respect for those bands and their music. It would be nice to think that they liked what we were doing, but first and foremost we write music for ourselves. Like anyone else, if they like it then great. If they don’t I shouldn’t think we’d lose much sleep.
AS: Also quite alot of your sound seems influenced by American bands(especially the Chicago scene) but what, if any, UK bands influence you?
SS: Our first influences were all British. Bands like ‘The Little Explorer’, ‘Aereogramme’, ‘The Jesus Years’, ‘Andy Glenn and Ritch’, ‘Charlottefield’, ‘Youthmovies’, ‘Muse’, ‘Radiohead’, ‘Biffy Clyro’ and ‘The Edmund Fitzgerald’, were all massive influences when we first started out. To this day they remain huge influences, but I think we’ve always tried to furrow our own path. I like to think that to a certain extent we have succeeded.
AS: You’re touring with fellow Oxfordians Jonquil later this month, is there a thriving scene in Oxford?
SS: I think a lot of people presume that there is a thriving music scene here, but I’m not so sure. The bands you have mentioned are all fantastic, but they all have something in common; they don’t play in Oxford very often and I’m not sure they really consider themselves to be Oxford bands.
There are two types of bands in Oxford. Unfortunately there are far too many that concentrate on trying to get the elusive major label deal. They feel like with a few choice words from Nightshift (the local music mag) and once fortnightly gigs infront of the same faces in Oxford and the occasional London show, they will be catapulted to stardom. It’s ridiculous. The amount of tales you hear of local bands getting a major label ‘deal’ in Oxford and then being unceremoniously dropped a year later without their album ever being released are ten a penny. Why no-one seems to learn I don’t know. Especially when all the success stories that have come out of Oxford in recent years have been as a result of the bands getting off their arses and simply playing in other cities and building a national fan base. It just doesn’t make sense. We all love living in Oxford, but with the exception of a few select people who are doing really positive stuff for the music scene here, we try to distance ourselves from it as much as possible.
There are of course really great bands coming out of Oxford at the minute and because it is such a small city it is easy to find like minded people. We’re all pretty friendly with Jonquil, Hreda, Ute, Youthmovies and Foals. We obviously bump into eachother at the odd gig and at different times there has been a fair amount of band member swapping. As a result, we’re pretty close to some people here.
AS: I notice you have a download amnesty on your myspace page, which is a great idea. Is this something you’ve come up with yourselves?
SS: It’s something we’ve thought about doing for months, but only got round to doing it fairly recently. We just thought it would be nice to give people another way of helping us out. When it came to recording the album we were totally broke and for a while we were seriously worried about where the money would come from to pay for it. When you then check some of the torrent sites and see that 1000’s of downloads have been made and we seemingly haven’t seen a penny for them, it can get frustrating. We don’t want to stop people checking out our music, but if they do download it for free and then listen to it regularly, we thought it couldn’t hurt to give people the opportunity to help us financially. Of course, it would be just as good if people would buy a record/a t-shirt/ticket for a gig. Any help is gratefully received.
AS: Lastly, the album is brilliant. Quite a unique concept as well, what brought about using animals for song titles?
SS: Thank you. I’m glad you like it. I wish the whole animals thing came about for some clever reason, but as with most things it was born out of necessity. We simply couldn’t keep calling the new songs (in their various states of completion) “New Song 1″, “New Song 2″ etc. We had to give them a ‘temporary’ name and for whatever reason animals are what first sprang to mind. The plan was always to come up with proper names, but when it came down to it we thought it would be silly to start calling them something different. There is already talk of the next album being called ’shapes’. We’ll see.
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