Gun Outfit is a Democracy
We caught up with sometimes-frontman Dylan Sharp while he was casually illustrating Jesus Christ jerking off in the desert.
Dylan Sharp shares one half of the frontman duties in the band Gun Outfit. Because their band is a democracy (duh, it was born in Olympia), both guitar players sing off one another, sharing all duties. Gun Outfit first impressed us with their catchy, dark garage on 2009‘s Dim Light, but now, they're back with their third release, Hard Coming Down, on PPM Records. Before Gun Outfit embarks on a two month North American tour, I connected with Dylan to talk about his new life in Los Angeles, the song writing process, and the Swedish Justin Bieber kid he chauffeured.
What are you doing there, Dylan?
I’m just reading an interview with Don Baylor and drawing sand—like poking the paper with the pen a million times compulsively. It is the background for a picture of Christ jerking off in the desert. It’s tedious.
That sounds very Olympia.
Yeah, but I’m in L.A. now, so it’s weird. Child’s play.
What’s up with your band, Gun Outfit? Where is the rest of the band?
Carrie (Keith, guitar) is here, Dan (Swire, drums) is in North Carolina and Anton (Seder, bass) is still in Olympia. I just came down here for the permanent sunshine. We're still a band, but the weather in Olympia was too much of a crushing drag. Well, after we recorded this record, we took kind of a break until it comes out. We're all going to meet in Olympia in a couple weeks and jam long then tour long.
Tell me about your new record, Hard Coming Down.
We recorded it over the last two years at various places (Olympia, Anchorets, and Gauchos in LA) and then just took the best songs. We got a bass player, so the frantic strumming slackened a bit and there's a lot more space. It's slower and theres some moderate "crooning." The lyrics are about delusion, dignity, failure. I'm glad it's finally coming out, because it took a long time.
I know that feeling. Did you write the lyrics alone?
Some songs, and some Carrie and I write together. And some she writes alone.
How did your band start? Are you all close friends?
Bands are just the best way to hang out. Playing in a band eliminates a lot of aimless milling around when spending time with your friends. There's really no other reason to do it other than to spend time with people you like, focusing on something.
I do agree with that, but band dynamics change over time, records, fights, touring... Have you guys managed to keep everything level and happy?
Mainly using passive aggressive techniques in the moment and then later just relying on being funny. It helps that everyone has a pretty good sense of human ridiculousness. Also we make collective decisions, which takes forever but usually means no one can harbor too bitter of a grudge over some folly we've committed. We're all just doing this to have fun and when it's not fun, I hope to Lord the band ends instead of us sourly carrying on.
What do you do when you are not touring around with Gun Outfit?
Since I've come to L.A., I only do bizarre pseudo-jobs because, as far as I can tell, that's all anyone does here. I had a job playing a fake rocker in the background of a TV show, I had a job driving around the Swedish Justin Bieber. His name is Ulrik Munther. I had a job buying corona for strangers at a bar. Oh, and I worked at the weed farm for two months, like all the broke West Coast okies.
What was with the Swedish Justin Bieber kid?
He is a teenager with a small coterie of older Swedish producers who was shooting a music video to make it look like he was all around the world, but he was just in different parts of Southern California, which a lot of people use to symbolize "all around the world." He sang passionately in a newsie hat. One of the producers (who had produced all the Swedish crossover pop acts in the last 20 years, whoever those are) gave me advice about the music business, saying it was a much more rigid hierarchy now than in the 90s and no one was making money except the real Justin Bieber and then he rambled about Spotify for awhile. They were cool.
What is the most inspiring city in the USA to write songs in?
Probably New York, because of life's rich pageantry and all that, but it might turn out your songs suck. You don't need much stimulation to write a song, you just need time, I think. And probably someone to tell you one part of the song you just wrote is not good.
I agree. I think you need deadlines and fuel. Are you a reactionary lyricist?
What do you mean by reactionary?
I mean like, say something really weird happens to you an hour before you go to band practice and it’s on your mind, do you write about it on the spot? Or, do you take some time to sit on it, play with the idea, and see if that thing really matters?
Oh, I sit on it for years, probably. I try to write lyrics that can be applied to a lot of different situations at once—like use sentences that have two meanings, et cetera. I try to write about a specific situation and then try to change the pronouns it so it can be about something bigger, which usually leads to death and how you're supposed to respond to the cycle of things lingering on or dying or being born, and then I usually have to scale it back a bit again. So I guess I'm not very reactionary. If I wrote about what was on my mind at any given moment, it would probably be just a prolonged inarticulate groan mixed with naïve jabber.
Tricky. What is the most important band to you?
I don't have a most important band. That's what I like about music; there's a million people playing pretty much the same shit and the only thing that separates one band from another is the individual people's weird obsessions, struggles, and approach. The greatest bands have it for years and then fall off. It's just like, are you responding to your reality in an appropriate way at this time? If you are, then you are a great band.