The Gun Shys

Waiting Patiently on the Verge

It’s 11 p.m. on a Wednesday night and the Gun Shys have already been at it for an hour when I arrive. Having fled the bright lights of Los Angeles and navigated my way through a non-descript, deserted office park in Orange County, I find myself standing at the door of the band’s inner sanctum, their practice space. Room 3. It’s an odd location. Above the door “Pink Floyd — The Wall” is scrawled in the familiar billowing letters. Behind me, I can hear the fanatical ravings of a death metal band currently in the throes of some fantastically discordant mess. Occasionally, the din is pierced by the unmistakable strains of Franz Ferdinand’s “Take Me Out” emanating from Room 5. I press closer to the door, waiting for an idle moment. The dying crackles of “Madly in Action” signal a pause in the turbulence, and I pop my head in.

“Hey man, I was wondering when you’d show up.” Kyle Krone sets his guitar against the wall and motions to a chair in the corner. “Please, have a seat.” The rest of the band, Alex Kweskin and Chris Wulff, already drenched from the first run-through, give me a faint acknowledgement; clearly, their attention is focused on the task at hand. The band is just getting warmed up.

Over the next two hours, Krone (vocals, guitar), Kweskin (drums, electric piano), and Wulff (bass), tear through the Gun Shys catalogue (currently 12 songs) twice. The cramped, claustrophobic room struggles to keep the band’s ferocious sound from spilling out into the hall. The heavily carpeted walls swell with Wulff’s thick rolling bass lines and Krone’s bluesy, staccato stomp. My ears are ringing by the third song, but it doesn’t matter. This is music worth a severe case of tinnitus.

With any luck, pay-by-the-hour practice spaces in decidedly unglamorous locales will soon be a thing of the past for the Gun Shys. Since September 2004, the Gun Shys have enjoyed a meteoric rise on the LA circuit. The band has opened for the Killers in Las Vegas, and members of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club have turned up at several live dates. Now that the band’s EP has been released on Intravenous Records, the Gun Shys have been “taking a few free lunches” — Krone’s none-too-subtle code for the major label interest that has engulfed the band of late. Not bad considering that the Gun Shys cemented their line-up just a few weeks ago when bassist and longtime friend Chris Wulff officially joined the group.

Although the Gun Shys have only been formally active for several months, Krone, Kweskin, and Wulff began making music together nine years ago, when all three members were still in grade school. Wulff now plays bass in the Gun Shys, but he was the one who actually taught Krone how to play the guitar.

“Alex and I had been friends forever,” explains Krone during a cigarette break in front of the practice complex. “And when Chris started at our school, we heard he played guitar. We met and him and started going over to his house. That’s when he taught me.” While the friends kept in touch, they all pursued separate projects in subsequent years, including various high school bands and a few semi-professional stints. Following the particularly dispiriting dissolution of his five-piece in LA, Krone almost resigned himself to the day-job purgatory. However, he continued to write songs — songs that he and Kweskin would eventually take up in the Gun Shys’ early incarnation in late 2004. “We cut the demo immediately — two weeks after starting the band. That was what got us a deal.”

It becomes clear over the course of the two-hour practice session that the six-song EP is intended more as a snapshot rather than any sort of definitive statement. Although without the benefit of witnessing a band practice, one could easily mistake it for the latter. The Gun Shys’ EP is uncommonly assured and cohesive, especially considering its makers are between the ages of 20 and 21. Trading on Stones-y swagger and BRMC’s fuzz-saturated menace, songs like “Two Cent Facts” and “The Usual Unusuals” pulse with genuine grit and peril. Even their attempt at a ballad, “Easy on the Eyes”, skirts banal emoting thanks to the band’s obstinate, rhythmic punch.

However, the Gun Shys are clearly capable of stretching far beyond the confines of their EP, as both the acoustic songs and their epic, classic rock-styled flourishes attest to tonight. “We’re still trying to figure out how to work this one into the set,” says Krone of a stripped-down song he’s particularly enamored of at the moment. He admits it might be a bit awkward to whip out the stool and acoustic guitar during one of their typically floor-rattling sets. “Maybe we should save it for the third album,” he cracks, slyly referencing BRMC’s forthcoming Howl, rumored to be a largely acoustic set.

While the band appears quite eager to branch out, Krone isn’t about to abandon the sound that has earned the Gun Shys their early notices. Of the six songs not on their EP, “Light Sculptures” and “Join the Movement” immediately announce themselves as future singles, as Kweskin assaults the drums with piston-like precision and Krone unleashes a torrent of static. These newer songs are further proof that the band is progressing at a startlingly fast clip.

“I think we’re pretty close to an album,” says Krone at the conclusion of the practice. He drops the last piece of equipment at the front of the complex. “[The album] doesn’t worry me too much, honestly. We’re just going to go in the studio and play. The rest will take care of itself.”

My watch reading 1:30, I hop into my car to begin the trek back to Los Angeles. In my rearview mirror, I can see the band receding, Krone and Wulff perched atop their amps, strumming to some song I can’t make out. No doubt they’ll be at it long after I’ve left. They’re in no hurry, but for the Gun Shys, the future may be closer than it appears.

[band website]

PopMatters