Monday, March 14, 2016

"ME"TAL 101 with TOPGUN

TOPGUN are a young and hungry hardcore band from my state of Massachusetts.
I'm always happy to spread the word about locally grown talent and reached out to the band recently for this month's "ME"TAL 101. We pick their brains about the band's origin, music making and where they plan on going from here.

HMT: Give me the origin story of the band(how you guys met, who came up with the name of the band)

(Butters): Dan and I met around 9 years ago in high school. I was playing in a band and Dan happened to be at one of my shows as well . From there, we became good friends because we happened to like the same kind of music. We would always go to shows and play guitar together. Dan introduced me to Ananth a few years later and together we formed the band " A Stand Against Fate". We had a few other members also. After that band split up, we formed TOPGUN. The 3 of us knew Tim from a previous band, and the 4 of us started writing music together. I think Tim came up with the name? I don't really remember. Someone just said it one day and we all liked it.

(Dan): Pretty much what Butters said. Me and my friend would go to his cousin's band show when we were 14/15 and Butters ended up joining the band on guitar later on. We also had mutual friends and we became much better friends over time and ended up being in bands together years later. Tim had originally met Ananth through another band they started 5 or so years back called Trace the Way. They had a bassist named Dann, who was also the vocalist of mine, Butters', and Ananth's old band, A Stand Against Fate (aka ASAF). Originally, ASAF was a band me and Dann started in high school with a different drummer and bassist, but through having mutuals with Tim and Trace the Way, we recruited Ananth as our new drummer. After a few months after asking we finally got Butters to jam with us and soon after become our new bassist as well. We played for about 2 and half years then replaced Dann with Tim. Tim has a much more intense vocal style than Dann did, which lead us to wanting to write heavier stuff. Tom, our second guitarist at the time, decided to part ways with us because he wanted to pursue a less heavy music direction. Knowing we had a somewhat of a drastically different lineup and sound at that point, we decided to start a new band with a new name. We wrote most of NO MORE YOUTH in the period when Tim was joining and Tom was leaving the band. As Tom was leaving we decided to scrap all the ASAF material and write the 4 songs on the EP. We had them all demoed out from those days on my laptop in early 2015 or so. Over time we'd add more and more to them decided we had put enough work into them to release the tracks DIY.

Oh yeah.. I don't know when we thought of the name, but we had been contemplating one for a long time after ditching our old material. TOPGUN came to us for a bunch of random reasons. Me and Tim grew up with Bury Your Dead for the most part (I know I did at least). They're vocalist, Mat Bruso, first started substitute teaching at our high school when I was a freshman right shortly after he left the band (Tim was in 8th grade), and he would talk to kids about hardcore and show Bury Your Dead to us. So some of us had been listening to them for a solid portion of our lives (we are 22-23 now). They are definitely a huge influence on me as a musician, especially with this type of music. Its debatable that we are really heavy band, so to emphasize that we decided to spell TOPGUN exclusively in all caps. We also know that Top Gun is a movie. We figured naming ourselves after a movie/book could be cool as it has worked for some bands as well as they have made a name for themselves despite their name is also a famous book/movie, while at the same time demonstrating the BYD influence some of us admit to having. Also, if you google the definition of "top gun" the first one that comes up is "a (or the) most important person," which adds to the band name a little. The name covers a lot of ground so we figure it worked best.

TlM: We generally met in our very small high school through mutuals and bands we were all in and TOPGUN evolved from our old project over time with new material.

HMT: What are all of your influences(bands you are into, books, movies) as musicians and how do those influences shape the way you play and write songs?

(Dan): Most vibe really well with particular bands like Thursday, Protest the Hero, Horse the band, Between the Buried & Me, (there's definitely some more just cant think off the top of my head). So that sort of explains the sort of experimentality of us, because we all generally vibe with progressive music. Me and Ananth listen to a lot of hardcore but especially Ananth. We all have a very diverse music taste but Tim, Ananth, and I were particularly into writing really heavy tunes for this line up so we used that strong interest with our progressive side to just write whatever we felt like pretty much.

HMT: I really enjoy the heart and honesty of your song writing. It captures the spirit of what you've been through and how much you want to move forward. How difficult is it to write about those emotions in a song for all to see?

(Dan): I mean, a lot of us have been through our own shit that affected our lives a lot and we've grown to be like "whatever" for the most part. We've all grown a lot since our high school days so what these lyrics and songs mean to me as a band member personally is looking back on your youth, and the choices you made, the things that happened when you were younger and how you built yourself up to be now. When you are young it's easy to take for granted the time you have because you are so incredibly in-the-moment. Next thing you know, it's all gone. Then what you are are all the things you did in that flash of time. Relating to the concept of youth, we also talk about regret and remorse, while at the same time keeping a small glimmer of positive attitude beyond it all and moving on (we aren't total nihilists here).

HMT: I'm really impressed with all of the songs on the ep. There is no filler or waste of space. How important was it to avoid the trappings of some hardcore bands that always find a way to toss on an intro with some sound byte from a famous movie or add a break down just for break downs sake?

(Butters): The ep is short and to the point. All the songs get right to it and get heavy fast. We didn't want to do anything too generic. The whole soundbyte from a famous movie thing was getting old when we used to play shows in 2008. A lot of bands sound the same now a days. I think what we bring to the table is that we all have different influences and different styles of playing, so the music is a blend of all of our individual musical tastes.

(Dan): Thank you. I know every musician typically wants to be original but it was in fact our goal to make something is wasn't a cookie-cut rip-off band. Or a band that just blends with other bands and doesn't stand out or bring something new to the table. Not to say we're the most original band in the galaxy or anything but we did put a lot of time into these songs to make sure we added the right amount of spice to each part to make them stand out and accomplish what they do in each of their own unique ways. The songs and parts have evolved so much over time between the writing, demoing, and the more serious recording days. Making these songs as good they could be in our power for a home studio project was our main goal. We wanted to release a solid debut EP that was also short and sweet and really demonstrated what we are capable of.

As for sound bytes and throwing breakdowns here and there are definitely not in our complete interest. I like to think most of us are tasteful in what goes into our songs and what doesn't. If we were to do a sound byte or sample in a song, it'd have to be something that everyone agrees will work in favor of how it represents our band and how its built into the song. I don't doubt we will do them. I'm just saying we aren't type of band that's going to throw things like that around.

As for straight open note breakdowns we try to only use those here and there. Growing up as a musician and music enthusiast, I personally always hated the really overdone open note breakdown parts unless they really fit. We focus on forming riffs for every part and creating a feel for them, not just a mindless low note to simply get the room to rumble. Our breakdowns I like to consider "heavy parts," or "heavier parts" depending how one may look at it.

We also didn't care to feel bad about writing short songs. If its meant to be short, then so be it. We don't want to drag our parts out. We want to get done what we want to get done in a song and move on. We like to get a lot done in each part/song we write no matter how long or short it is.

HMT: Where does the band go from this EP?

(Butters): We plan on releasing a full length album. Right now, we are focused on playing some shows and getting the CDs printed. We also want to get some merchandise printed. From there, we are just going to keep writing and hopefully write enough material for a future full length. I think we would all love to go on a tour, even if it is just up and down the coast. It is something that we have never done.

(Dan): We're all definitely feeling an album. Sort of like our EP, I want the songs to get a lot done in a short amount of time. Same with the album. Nothing about our album should be dragged out if it doesn't have to be. We're planning on writing some fresh new material for it soon. I also met this guy on Greater Boston gear swap recently that I showed our tunes to and he was really interested in trying out and seemed to know his shit so we're getting together with him this Sunday and seeing how that goes. If it works out then we may be writing this new album with a second guitarist but who knows! We will all have to see. Regardless, I think its safe to expect an album by the end of this year.

HMT: Do you plan on playing out in the greater New England area and who would you enjoying be on a bill with?

(Dan): We hope to play outside of New England soon, for now the goal is to be a weekend warrior band. Playing a show every weekend could be pretty great. Ideally we want to play anywhere that will have us that will allow the kids to bring that mosh and with other bands that are generally heavy.We have a couple friends that are in bands that also play heavy music so we wouldn't mind playing with them, meeting new bands, and networking any way we can. We want to book more shows asap but we also want to write a little more material before we go crazy with show booking and see how this guitar tryout goes. There's a lot of prospects for this band, for now I guess we are just going to go with the flow and see where things wind up for TOPGUN in the next year or so.

If you see TOPGUN coming to a venue near you, get out there and support a band I think will have an impact on the local new england scene and beyond.

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