Artisan Guns shoot for nostalgia

01:23, Aug 23 2012
Artisan Guns
THE PAST IS TENSE: A still from the video for Artisan Guns' new single, Pulled You In. The album, Coral, harkens back to a simpler time.

Purpleness isn't really a word, but it is the way Artisan Guns' Matthew Hope describes the band's new album, Coral. Guitarist Jonathan Pearce isn't sure if the explanation is quite right, but he says that might be because he is colour blind.

"When I listen to songs I usually feel a colour," says Hope, the band's singer and lyricist. 

"I don't trip out and have some weird spiritual experience and a vision of swirling colours, but I feel a mood and a colour to the music. I've think I've always had that.

"But purple is quite melancholic and it can be a little bit moody, but it's never abrasive. It's kind of a funny nostalgic colour."

Coral is indeed a nod to the (not quite distant) past. With songs telling tales about growing up, leaving your teens and the trials of young love, the Auckland band have found themselves in a new place on this, their first full-length album.  

And while he might be happy to write songs about the past, Hope doesn't look fondly on songs from his own. Instead, the singer is the harshest critic of the band's two previous EPs.

"I always look at my work from the perspective of 'I'm doing better things now and that doesn't look like it should'. I annoy [bassist] Reuben [Stephens] a lot when I go 'that sucked. Everything from now on is awesome and everything in the past sucked'."

Artisan Guns came to life in 2006 while Hope, Pearce, Stephens and drummer Alex Freer were still at school in East Auckland.  

Moving forward a year or two, their first EP, Bird and Bone, and the 2010 follow up, Hearts, were comprised of songs Hope had written as requirements for a pop music paper at university. 

He describes the lyrics he wrote for these purely as "exercises", and until work started on the new album he hadn't listened to them in more than a year. But playing them live on a regular basis helped define where the band wouldn't go, rather than where they would. 

"Playing those songs a lot gave me a clearer understanding of what I didn't want to do next time. I know that sounds bad, but it's definitely the truth of the matter. Getting into the nitty-gritty of playing those songs, and not necessarily reaping the satisfaction that I thought I would."

That even applied to the Silver Scroll nominated hit Autumn. Pearce says when the band made the top five for the prestigious song writing award in 2010, they had no plan to forge a career, and no desire to make one.

"At that time we were really just pissing around in our little room, where we would come together every couple of weeks to play some music. Some bands use that sort of thing as a launching pad to go onto other things, but we were not in any position to do that. We didn't want to do that."

But when you're young things change quickly, and soon the four musicians simultaneously found themselves at the end of uni, jobs and relationships. It was the perfect time to re-evaluate and have a serious talk.

"We sat down and had a really open discussion about what we wanted to achieve and what kind of music we wanted to make. What would make us happy, collectively, as opposed to one or two of us," says Hope.

"And we all sort of realised individually that 'oh yeah, Artisan Guns is actually probably the most satisfying thing on my plate right now. That's the thing I really want to give a solid go'," agrees Pearce.

Coral took longer to make than the band first anticipated; they thought it would be out in March, rather than the end of August, making it almost 18 months since the wheels started rolling.

Recorded at Waiuku's farm-house style Revolver Studios, live and without computer wizardry, the album is full of variety, drawing inspiration from jazz, hip hop, pop and show tunes. Don't worry; it's not as weird as it sounds. And significantly, it's one album Hope is happy to revisit. 

"One thing we discussed was making a record we wanted to listen to, that we would enjoy. And I do currently listen to it and I do enjoy it."

Coral is released on Friday. Take a look at the video for their first single, Pulled You In...

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