RGM INTRODUCING – WE INTERVIEW AMERICAN BAND SPIRIT GUN
Hiya folks thanks for joining us in the virtual RGM lounge today, grab a brew and take a seat.
What made you decide that music is a thing for you?
Oren: It was a few different things, but mainly MTV as a kid. I remember seeing Aerosmith’s “Love in an elevator” video and just thinking it was the coolest thing. You can look cool, hang out with your friends, and girls will be into it. As a pre-teen dork, that is all you want out of life. Fast forward a few years when I get my first bass and I’m playing with my teenage band and we suck horribly. When we all click on the same 3 chords and write a song, there is no better feeling than that. That is what you are always chasing with every new song.
Tony: I was a toddler when Purple Rain came out and that was the moment I thought “that’s what I want to do! I want to be a rocker when I grow up! It took some time until I really went full in when I played violin in middle school. But at that moment in time, something was still missing so I taught myself how to play guitar, bass, and drums. And here I am still rocking out to this day enjoying every minute of it!
Pete: I think it happened in the delivery room when I was born, my mom told me the nurses played rock n’ roll and that I seemed to like it. Oh, The Beatles totally!
Introduce us to all to the members and your musical history.
Oren: So I am Oren, drummer, Taurus, lover/fighter… I am the punk rock kid. Started off as a bass player in punk bands in the 90’s and moved to drums. I dig the beat and the melody, so that is what I try to bring to the band.
Tony: I’m Tony (Toe-Knee) Burgess, I am the bassist in this band, Scorpio, a dude that thinks outside of the box. I am a self taught musician (drums, bass, guitar, vocals, keys with the exception of violin) with over 30 years experience. It’s my life!
Pete: Hey I’m Pete, I’m a Libra (the love mane), I sing and play guitar, started off solo many years ago and wanted to be in a band. I got Spirit Gun going and after some lineup changes I found the powerful synergy with Tony and Oren, and we have been going at full speed ever since!
The music industry is the hardest industry in the world to progress in. How do you feel you are doing?
Oren: Pretty good actually. Just like most things, there are levels. Are we at the Arena every night, tour bus, legions of screaming fans level, no, not even close? Are we at the make our-own rules, play killer shows to people who want to come out to see us, and still get our demons out on stage, yeah. I am really happy with where we are at. Do we want to play stadiums, yeah maybe one day, but I want to focus on the 50 or so people that come to every show in every city. If those people are happy with the music we make and the records we release, then I think it is safe to say we made it in the record industry.
Tony: It’s a tough industry but the true success comes when we get the attention from the people coming out to our shows and showing support.
Pete: I am proud of the work I am doing but that is a reflection of how we are doing as a band, and how we can bring out the best in each other. There is always room to grow, growth can be risky, unsafe, and challenging. That’s where great art comes from.
How have your songwriting skills developed over time?
Oren: It’s funny in this band it’s super collaborative, so even though we all work on the finished product together, the songs can always start differently. I used to write on the bass, but now I kind of have a melody or tune in my head and will write the lyrics to it. I won’t tell the guys the melody and just give them the lyrics. 9.9 times out of 10 they come up with music and melodies I wasn’t even thinking of and theirs are better.
So then we work on that. I am more of a process starter and arranger, then the big guns take over, Pete and Tony. Pete will have riffs and melodies that we work out in the room and Tony will actually record whole demos and then have us check them out and put our spin on them.
I really like this process, because it still amazes me that we could have walked into the room with nothing and we will leave with something. It won’t always be a finished song right away, but it can take weeks, months, and or years to finish them.
Tony: Shortly after we have a new song, we would tweak it to give it more flair which is where I come to suggest maybe an extra who’s here but mostly I usually like to add an effect or two just to bring the track to life.
Pete: I have always been great at improv but then lose that idea, or have a song be too busy instead of just being a vibe that feels good. I feel songs improve because of simplicity, no perfectionism and most of all honesty, that’s all you need. It has helped me interact collaboratively with Tony and Oren to where the songs write themselves. Sometimes Oren writes lyrics and I bring a vocal melody or Tony finds a better way to present a vocal melody or drumbeat, we just all collaborate to get the sound.
As you develop as an artist and develop using socials, in what ways do you get new ears on your music? Any tips?
Oren: We know we are all ruled by our algorithmic overlords, and we don’t want to offend them. I think the trick to socials is frequency. You don’t want to share too much, but also not enough. I mean don’t post about the turkey sandwich you had for lunch today, but you also don’t want your show announcement to get lost in the crowd. Try posting once or twice a week, more if you have something big on the horizon like an album release or big show. Also know who your crowd is on each social site. The people on one site might not be into what the people on another are, so tailor your posts to what that platform is known for and what people respond to. All the strategy aside, just have fun, connect with people, I mean that is what being in a band is about.
Tony: And if all else fails, yell at Zuckerberg haha!
Pete: I am no social media wizard but I do know this, people want to see you and hear what you have. Attraction to music is more powerful than promotion. Anybody can promote something, but can they present something you want to be a part of? We can’t be for everyone, but we are here for the people that we resonate with.
Tell us Two truths and a lie about you.
Oren: I love ABBA, KISS, and LED ZEPPELIN. I swear only one of those is a lie.
Tony: The Mars Volta, Five Finger Death Punch, and Crass. You’ll be surprised but I’m pretty sure I will be chased out of town for this.
Pete: I love soul music, Fugazi, and I love seafood, yeah seafood.
What’s your thought on Spotify’s monopoly on the music industry?
Oren: It’s a blessing and curse. I mean it’s so simple to get your music out there and for a whole bunch of people all over the world to listen to it. But the thing you spent mental and physical hours on creating, money recording, time to get it mixed and mastered, now returns fractions of a penny. It just sucks that it is an artist’s choice to use it or not, but it puts them in a situation where they can’t afford to use it, but also can’t afford to not. That being said, give us a follow on Spotify.
Tony: I feel the artists should be able to make more since it takes a lot of work to create listening content but something needs to be figured out to where everyone including the executives or whoever are given their fair share as well. There are a lot of pieces involved in this creation. The technology is there to make it easier for us to put content at an easy pace, we just have to come up with a way that works for all.
Pete: The music industry has always been a monopoly. I saw what the punks did in the 80s with Dischord Records, SST, & Sub Pop (to name a few). They showed the powers that be that you could be yourself artistically and still get your music out to the people. Streaming services can be the same way, participation is imminent but it is about the final outcome. It can just be a place for people to hear your music and if that opens doors to more shows and more fans, then your band can get something out of it. There is good in evil in everything, you just have to walk the path that makes sense for you.
Do you subscribe to any conspiracy theories?
Oren: Elvis isn’t dead and he is living on a secret island with John Lennon, Biggie, Tupac, and Jimi Hendrix. I am open to believing in just about any ghost story out there, but I haven’t seen anything that really makes me believe just yet.
Tony: I try to be careful with conspiracy theories although I have my thoughts on certain things in the world. But then again, I have had trust issues with politicians since I was 9 lol.
Pete: I have a conspiracy theory about conspiracy theories, lol.
Did you buy anything you don’t need during the pandemic?
Oren: Yeah, way too much takeout! Probably musical gear too, but that is anytime, ha ha. Can’t refuse used gear at a cheap price.
Tony: I can’t recall buying anything crazy but I did build two pedal boards for myself. Out of the two, one is used for this project.
Pete: Yes, rugged nylon belts that don’t work, and yeah way too much delivery, lol.
Where is the band from and how does being from there affect your sound?
Oren: We are from Norfolk, VA. It’s funny the city seems to morph and change as I get older. Norfolk isn’t the biggest city, but it’s not the smallest town either. We are near the water and not far from the country or the mountains. We kind of have everything someone might be looking for, except a pro sports teams! I think of the city as no nonsense, it just gets to the point and I think we do that in our music.
Tony: Norfolk is a transient area and to me it’s sort of like a small scale version of San Diego which is one of the towns I grew up in. I’m a navy brat but I tend to bring a So-Cal vibe that can easily blend in some heaviness from the Mid Atlantic region. Fun Fact: I’ve only lived in the city of Norfolk for about a year.
Pete: I grew up in Norfolk,VA. I have seen a lot of bands here come and go. Just like the city I have seen a lot of buildings, areas of town, laws, and fads come and go. I’ve seen some of those bands get back together and I’ve seen the areas of the city go back to how they used to be, some for the better. I believe in having staying power and that means being patient and also not compromising. That is kind of how the city is and that is how we are as a band.
What was the worst experience on stage?
Oren: They tend to all blend together. Nothing I can really think of in this band. I mean we have had our share of Spinal Tap moments, but we always seem to bounce back.
Tony: Richmond, Virginia, 2006. I was the drummer for the goth rock band theminusmen(Hampton). The sound system goes hey wire, the sound guy is struggling to fix the problem and the spotlight is shining on us, mostly me and it’s just totally awkward.
Pete: Playing a show in a July heatwave where the AC went out, ugh that was rough.
Tell us something about each member that you think people would be surprised about.
Oren: When I am just in the car or wanting to chill out, my go-to music is usually anything with a female singer with an accented singing in English. I mean I can be a hyped up dude, so I don’t need to always listen to hyped up dudes.
Tony: I love doing voice impersonations of public figures and I just love the sound of heavy distortion on guitars. It’s what really got me into music.
Pete: I love to cook and I see cooking and music to be very similar.
What makes you stand out as a band?
Oren: I like to think it is our attention to detail. From backup vocals, harmonies, melodies, drum fills, guitar solos, bass fills, we really scrutinize all that stuff to put together our songs.
Well also our live show. We leave the stage soaked in sweat, blood, and pieces of our soul. We know no other way to be on stage than full throttle.
Tony: I see us as a band that knows what we want to accomplish, we get our point across, we entertain and most of all, we have fun doing so.
Pete: We want to see everyone in our music community do well! Everyone is in, no gatekeeping bs. We want an audience to know that we mean it when we play.
I hear you have new music, what can you tell us about it?
Oren: The new EP is called The Antonym. It’s 4 songs and we are super proud of it. The title track is about our friend Jeff Hewitt. He was a unique guy that was always about spreading the word of arts in our city. We lost him two years ago and we still feel the loss. Like he always wanted to spread the word about the city, we wanted to spread the word about him.
Tony: This EP is a tribute to Jeff, the city we live in and the life we live.
Pete: We honor our friend Jeff Hewitt and also have songs that represent Norfolk, playing gigs, and moving in the right direction.
Talk me through the thought process of the new tune/s.
Oren: With all our releases we either write or group songs together that fit the theme of it. The theme of this EP was the loss of friend Jeff. We always associate Jeff with our city and then it got us thinking of years past. So we wanted to have songs on the EP that fit those themes. I think stylistically and thematically we put a pretty tight piece of work.
Tony: When we worked on the tracks we found songs and themes that went together.
Pete: We wanted to kick things off rocking and finish with something moody, something nice!
What was the recording process like?
Oren: This was the first music we recorded in our Studio, The I3, that we are releasing. It has taken years of dialing the room in, getting good gear, and just learning how to do it. The process was really fun. We would record in between shows and practices. Luckily we have separate gear we use to record and play live with. So we can have the drumset always mic’d up in the booth and the amps mic’d up too.
When we play out, we use a different drum set and amps, so we don’t have to tear everything down. This made it super easy to quickly record when we were ready. Once we had the tracks recorded, we sent them to Chris Kendrick at Whiskey Bear Studios and he worked his audio magic to get the finished songs ready.
Tony: How we recorded the EP was unexpected. I wasn’t sure how things went but it was actually a simple yet DIY recording wise which I’m a fan of. We just worked on the tracks, added whatever was necessary, and kept it going.
Pete: Tony, Oren, & I had a blast recording this EP. We have great chemistry and the three of us are able to give that last minute suggestion that seals the deal on making a recording great.
What was the biggest learning curve in writing the new tunes?
Oren: Being a band again. The pandemic hit us hard, we didn’t rehearse for months. Then our bass player Stephen leaves. So as Pete and I were getting things back together, we had to figure out how to play together again and find a bass player. It seemed like an impossible task. Luckily we found Tony and we hit the ground running.
Out of the 4 songs on the EP, one was written prior to the pandemic, two didn’t exist yet, and one had bits and pieces. So we were able to come together as a new unit and make something that represents us now.
Tony: Working with Pete and Oren is a learning curve as they are dudes I have just recently started working with this past year. I have jammed with a lot of people over the years and we just seem to come together really well musically.
Pete: Just trying to do new things but not become some crazy prog rock band. Keeping things in the wheelhouse but also packing a punch sonically and lyrically.
Would you change anything now that it’s finished?
Oren: Only getting it out sooner, so everyone can hear it. We are excited for everyone to take a listen. It officially comes out 12-23-22 on all platforms(Digitally and physically on CD)
Tony: I wouldn’t change anything necessarily. I’m just glad and honored to be a part of this EP, contributing what I have to offer as a musician with these guys.
Pete: No, I think we have put something together we are proud of.
Is there anything else you would like to share with the world?
Oren: For the band I hope everyone checks out our new EP and keeps an eye out on us in the future, we’ve got lots of cool stuff in the works. For humans in general, don’t curse the darkness, light a candle. I like that proverb because to me it says don’t focus on the negative just tune in to the positive.
Tony: Take this piece of art and make it a part of your life. You’ll be glad you did. Thank you for listening everyone!
Pete: Giving people hope, especially after the past couple of years. Choosing music and art is the best medicine. Everyone out there can do it, even when others say they can’t. Listen to your heart and make your art!