It’s a Monday night at Francisco’s on the east end of downtown. Inside Bring Back the Guns are rehearsing as a German cockroach overlooks the proceedings from an electrical conduit over the door. It’s a week before their record release at Numbers for the new album Dry Futures on Feow Records and guitarist, singer, and principal songwriter Matt Brownlie is busy playing conductor with some new material he’s written. As Matt and the band bounce ideas, drummer Thomas Clemmons sneaks potato chips from a bag between runs, bassist Ryan Hull fiddles with his ubiquitous baseball cap, and a yawning Erik Bogle tries to extract some insect from a guitar pedal only to crush it inside for all his effort. It’s a pretty brutal process and my notes read as such; “8:15 same riff. 8:23 same fucking riff 8:35 Oh god just kill me they are still at it.” Then something happens a bit over an hour from when they started and around the same time that I start thinking of a way to politely excuse myself – the pieces falls together, the song works, and it’s incredible. Suddenly the room is alive and even the formerly fatigued Erik Bogle is grinning ear to ear. It’s a perfect example of what people never see when they go see a show or buy an album. To a fan, it’s as if the previous hour of work didn’t happen but the fact of the matter is this painstaking chiseling of marble happens all the time in music.
Bring Back the Guns know all about chiseling; it’s taken three and a half years to release Dry Futures – one year to record and another two and a half in the dubious limbo of record label shopping. You’d think after such a long incubation period, not to mention a decade long career, they’d be tired and dreading an upcoming tour yet, when we meet at Rudyard’s, Ryan is actually excited. “As much as we’ve done it, I never have a bad time on the road. At times on the road, yeah, it gets rough but then I think, here I am with my friends on the road having a good time…I’m not at work. Oh wait, this rules!”
Erik expands on the typical band hardships, “You deal with the crap because there’s no other option. You deal with it because the music is worth doing. It all starts as a 20 year-old’s dream of being a rock star…”
Matt interrupts, “The idea of a rock star was more plausible when we started than it is in 2007. The game’s changed so much. When we started-off, a weird and singular band like the Pixies could get national exposure but now the national scene is so flooded that the playing field has leveled.”
“Well,’ says Thomas, “I don’t think we knew what we were doing back then. We had a five year learning curve.”
“If I could go back,” says Erik as he sips on a beer, “I would tell myself to do two things – tour and hire a publicist. If you are gonna be a band that sits in the armpit of America you need someone who knows what they’re doing.”
Matt sighs, “It’s unfortunate that any band worth its salt has to buy publicity – it’s a goddamn shame. You’d hope that a band making awesome music wouldn’t need to but if a tree falls in the forest…”
“…if a band plays in Houston!” exclaims Ryan to great laughter.
Erik elucidates, “Any band working through a real label has PR. A label not only has to facilitate production and distribution but also has to coordinate with people to get them heard above the fray.” All right fine, but what about the punk rock kid who says having a publicist ain’t DIY or punk?
Brownlie responds, “First, we are doing it ourselves it’s our money being put into this album. Secondly, [in response to why a band needs a publicist these days] years ago there were like 50 touring bands touring the country…hell, I know 50 Houston bands alone.”
Meanwhile, Erik isn’t standing for any claims of punk purity, “Hey, the Sex Pistols were a put together boy-band assembled to make money from dissent.”
So if you are doing it for yourself, why not just stay in the garage and what do you want from listeners? Erik expounds, “It’s just natural…if you love something you want to share it. The reaction I want from people is the reaction you get when you listen to an album and you can’t let it go or the reaction of that guy sitting at the bar, turning his head slowly, and saying ‘Wow!’ Some of my most exciting times of my life have been attending concerts. Get drunk with me and I’ll tell you all about it!” As Erik says this, I sense Charles Bukowski nodding and nothing more needs to be said on the matter.