5 minutes with The Elston Guns

Oasis, The Kinks, The Kings of Leon, there is a long and impressive lineage of rock bands featuring siblings. The Elston Guns could be the next band you fall in love with to be fronted by two brothers. Matt and Nick Wilson share song-writing responsibilities and lead vocals, in the four-piece London-based alternative-rock outfit, that might just be the next big thing. 

The boys have been creating a buzz on the London gig circuit over the last year, blowing crowds away with incredible live performances of their strong and varied catalogue of songs. The live shows are known to be full of energy. And there’s no doubt the band have “the look”. But songwriting is at the centre of everything that makes The Elston Guns great, and that’s the case with their latest single ‘Definitive Love’. The riff, the groove, the vocals, the lyrics- quite simply ‘Definitive Love’ is a hit! Matt takes lead vocals on this track, showcasing impressive range and versatility as he veers between Alex Turner-esque rich tones and Matt Bellamy-esque falsetto.

We sat down with Matt and Nick to discuss their thoughts on life and music making.

What’s your story in making the band, who’s idea was it to start the band?

Matt: We both grew up playing Beatles covers together on the piano and with a couple of acoustic guitars we had lying around the house.

Nick: A couple of years ago, I was then playing in a band with a couple of mates back home, whilst Matt was down in London. When I moved to London, Matt and I were both sitting on a bunch of new ideas and we started playing and writing together again, and The Elston Guns have kicked off since then!

Definitive Love sounds great, what would you say inspired this song?

Matt: Thanks. We’d all spoken about adding a couple of slightly ‘heavier’, more bluesy songs to our repertoire. The riff came to me one day, along with the ‘definitive love’ line, and the rest of the song came quite quickly from that point.

Nick: I guess we have quite a broad range of influences stylistically and artistically. So sometimes we like to sit down and write a bunch of songs in a particular style whether that’s heavier, or electronic, or acoustic you name it- maybe even a little bit of disco down the line! So we sometimes spend a bit of time writing songs in a certain way and then move on to something a bit different. 

Matt: This is one that we were really looking forward to getting out and playing live!

Talking of inspirations, who would you say inspired you both musically? 

Nick: I guess we both grew up listening to the 90’s brit pop movement, and Oasis for example have always been one of my favourite bands to play along to. I definitely followed the indie movement that happened in my teens, but at the same time I discovered the music of the 60s. Ever since I got into the Beatles, I’ve always aspired to one day write a song as good as they did. With so much music these days I tend to cut across genres now, but those old tunes always bring it back for me. 

Matt: I remember seeing Arctic Monkeys at a small venue in Birmingham when I was 14 and thinking it was the most incredible thing I’d ever seen. Arctic Monkeys are still doing great things actually and I think Alex Turner is one of the best modern-day songwriters. The Libertines and The Strokes were the other big influences for me back then. But similar to Nick, I got into my 60’s bands in a big way. I think John (Lennon) and Paul (McCartney) are both geniuses. We’re also big Bob Dylan fans. His lyrics are incredible. Here’s an interesting fact about The Elston Guns actually. Bob Dylan’s first stage name was ‘Elston Gunn’, before he settled on Bob Dylan, so as a mark of respect, that’s where we took our name from. 

What gets your creative juices flowing, what’s the songwriting and recording process like, what would you say comes first, the lyrics or the melody?

Matt: I tend to come up with new ideas quite often, as does Nick, and then we get together to work on things and the songs often evolve quite a lot from that point. For me, I’ll most often come up with new song ideas when I’m away from the guitar or piano altogether, and often without the intention of writing anything – I’ll just hear a melody in my head and, if it’s any good, I’ll take it from there.

Nick: Yeah Matt and I will usually come together with ideas on acoustic first and finish them off together. Personally, I’ll sit down with a guitar or at the piano and seeing whatever comes out when I start playing. The test is whether I remember the tunes or any lyrics the day after – that’s when I really start composing it in my head and it will start to stick. Sometimes I’ll get a bit carried away and come with a full song, but I like to send them acoustically to the guys, and sometimes Jorge (drums) or Chris (guitar) will play something that takes it in a whole new direction.

How would you describe your music to someone that’s never heard it before?

Nick: We’ve spoken a lot about bands like the Beatles, or Oasis, but we’re not here to copy something that’s already been done. I’d like to think our songs to date, have influences from those great bands but with a more modern feel. We live-recorded this first set of songs, including Definitive Love, during a one-day session in a studio in North London, which has left them with quite a raw, energetic rock’n’roll feel. But when we look forward there will be a lot more experimentation with the arrangements and production of our songs.

Matt: So far songwriting has been the key- we’ve got quite a varied set of songs, from more up-beat rock, with ‘Days Are Done’ and ‘Modern Times’, to the more bluesy riff-based ‘Definitive Love’ and our next two releases are slower, more introspective songs, involving a bit more acoustic guitar and piano. Going forward it’s all about creating a new sound and hopefully pushing forward the musical landscape, if that doesn’t sound too grandiose.

So with lockdown on, what do you both do to keep busy and more focussed towards your music? How do you keep productive so you have a schedule you can stick to?

Nick: I’ve been strangely creative during lockdown. I have my gear set up for recording demos and I guess I’m at home more often so I tend to keep coming back to rough record bits and pieces. As we’re not able to play together as a band we’ve been aiming to send more ideas between the four of us, or add to ones that the others send through, so we’ve been driving things forward and putting a lot of thought into the music individually. 

Matt: I’ve been watching a lot more Bundesliga (German League) football than usual.

Have you any plans to release an EP or album?

Matt: We’ve definitely got plans to do a lot more in the recording studio. The three songs we’ve released to date and the two next singles we’ll be releasing (London Sunset and Daydream Sequence will come out in the next couple of months), were all recorded in the same 12-hour session that Nick mentioned earlier and that collection of five songs could be treated as an EP if we hadn’t chosen to release them each as singles. I think this next year we’d like to spend a lot more time in the recording studio. We mentioned earlier how we like to spend periods of time, exploring different genres or influences and we’ll continue to do that. I think an album is a little way off but we’d like to release a series of EPs, each exploring something slightly different. The live recording process last time we went into the studio was great and there is a real energy on our current singles that I think the live recording process really captures. But in future we’d like to focus more on all elements of production and create some quite unique sounding records.

Nick: Yeah I think we all like the idea of recording an album, but would only want to do it once we have the luxury of time and production in the studio to tie it together. Otherwise I’d feel we wouldn’t be doing ourselves justice and it may end up a collection of singles, which we would be better of releasing individually. An EP or two is definitely on the cards later this year though. 

So many gigs and festivals have been cancelled or postponed this year, would you say that’s affected you guys and how has it been – have you guys tried those alternative virtual gigs everyone else is doing?

Matt: Yeah it has been quite frustrating actually, this was our first year with a few festivals lined up and we were really looking forward to it. Not that we should complain too much, it’s quite an insignificant inconvenience compared with what a lot of people are going through right now. Nice idea with the virtual gigs though – we haven’t done one yet but maybe we will!

Would you rather play live to an audience or record in a studio?

Matt: That’s a hard one. I’d say the end result of recording in a studio is much more satisfying – providing you do a good job! When you first write a song on the acoustic guitar and you have a vision for how all the different parts and the harmonies are going to come together full band- hearing that released a couple of months later on a recording is a great feeling! That said, in the moment, when you’re up on stage and you have a packed out room of people jumping up and down and enjoying your songs and I’m up there with Nick and the other lads and there’s so much energy that comes with playing live music together – there’s nothing better!

Nick: Some of our best times have been playing live for sure, and we’ve played some cool venues in London. Being away from it for a little while I’m thinking about our first gig back and I can’t wait to try out our new songs! The recording and gigging went hand in hand for the last set of songs, as we were so well-rehearsed it was quite easy to translate directly into the record. There is so much more I would like to do with the recording element of our music that I’m itching to get back in the studio.

What would you say makes you strive for greatness?

Nick: Oasis never broke America

What’s next for you, what should we be looking forward to?

Matt: First of all releasing the next two singles from last year’s recording session – London Sunset and Daydream Sequence – both involve either Nick or I at the piano, they’re a bit slower, they’ll show you a different side to the Elston Guns and arguably they’re the best songs we’ve written to date. Then it’s all about going on to create new music. We’ve got a bunch of songs ready to work on altogether when we get out of lockdown and we’re going to be working hard to create a really unique, modern sound. It might be a bit different to what you’ve heard so far from us, there might be some more electronic influences, there might even be some disco. I think it’s going to be really exciting!

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Interview: Rojan Said