I was once told that I "turn conflict of interest into an artform". It should probably be noted that the person who said this was Matt Roney, RFC contributor and the bassist of an Ann Arbor four piece called Gun Lake. The fact that I party frequently with one of my writers is probably slightly scandalous (Also said that weekend was that even though we're all adults now, nothing's changed from the days of yore only now the girl passed out on Roney's couch is not just a random drunk chick, but rather his editor in chief.), as is the fact that not only do I support Roney's band, Gun Lake, with my love and adoration but I also sling their shirts, running the Gun Lake merch booth with an iron fist. If one person should probably not be trusted in telling you to go see Gun Lake, it's me because clearly I'm biased. But I'm biased with good reason: Gun Lake is the most amazing band in the Midwest.
Earlier this year, I almost quit music journalism. Part of the reason I didn't is documented on my editorial for Indie College on Frontier Ruckus but the abridged version is that when I moved back up to the mitten, I was devoid of the passion for music that had given me the drive to write. It wasn't long into my tenure in my homestate that the Michigan music scene single handedly saved my career, exposing me to a slew of amazing artists right in my own backyard and one of those musicians was Mark Fain, the singer-songwriter behind Gun Lake. The day I met Fain, at a Daredevil Christopher Wright show, I went home and listened to the four songs Fain had on myspace at the time and I was blown away. Gun Lake, at it's core, was deceptively simple folk songs, rendered from memories of a relationship gone by the wayside and possessing an unshakably haunting quality to them. It wasn't long after my discovery of Gun Lake that I was telling everyone I had ever met that they had to listen to this band. And it wasn't long after that that I found myself go through a break up that turned Gun Lake's songs from "gorgeous folk music I loved" to "gorgeous folk music I could feel", adding a whole new layer to my adoration of the band. Anyone who's ever found themselves unlucky enough in matters of the heart to relate to Okkervil River and Bon Iver will find a kindred spirit in Fain and his tales of heartbreak.
In the time between my initial meeting of Fain, Gun Lake has gone from being virtually a solo project to becoming a full fledged band, with Roney on bass, Max Monson on drums, and Ryan O'Reilly on electric guitar, adding a layer of richness to flesh out the gorgeous framework Fain has supplied his band with. Not only has the band become a cohesive unit but they've also entered the studio to work on Balfour, their forthcoming debut, slated for February, working with Michigan superproducer Jim Roll, the man behind such RFC favorites as Frontier Ruckus and Chris Bathgate (and a member of Drunken Barn Dance!).
The recordings available from Gun Lake via their myspace barely do the band justice. Since Fain initially formed Gun Lake, "June" has been reworked to feature a hook laden chorus that turns the confessional anthem into something much bigger than it once was. "Time Again" has gone from a slow ballad, perhaps even a lull in the band's repertoire, to being almost bipolar in the best way possible, juxtaposing it's heartwrenchingly honest lyrics with a far sped up melody, with the rest of the band's fingerprints clearly visible all over it's music. Live, however, is where the band really gets the chance to shine, with O'Reilly's guitar always taking a surprising turn, adding a needed edge to Fain's gentle melodies and hauntingly beautiful voice. The rich harmonies that O'Reilly and Roney add are fast becoming Gun Lake's signature sound but that isn't to discount any other aspect of the band. If you have the chance to see Gun Lake, you ought to do it while they're still playing small bars in Michigan and Ohio.
As we previously mentioned, you shouldn't take my word on Gun Lake though! I'm biased as heck. You can, however, take fellow RFC-er Abby Holmes word. She's never so much as met Gun Lake and she loves them!Nothing will convince you to love Gun Lake like a Gun Lake live show and lucky for you, Gun Lake will be at Mittenfest, playing this gal's new favorite venue, Woodruff's in Ypsilanti, Michigan, gracing the stage on the 4th day of the fest at 7:45 p.m., right before such charmers as Lightning Love and Drunken Barn Dance. And as I might've said earlier, I'll be manning the tee shirts all night long! So come to Woodruff's with $7 in hand (That's all it'll take to get in!) and use the change from the $10 you give the doorman to buy your favorite merch gal a beer!