This Town Needs Guns are an Oxford-based math rock band, employing melodic guitar trickery, intelligent lyrics and a sense of humour in their approach to music. They released their debut album Animals in 2008 and the follow up is due next year.
Vocalist Stu Smith played his final gig with the band this autumn having decided to swap singing for parenting and 11 is louder than 10 caught up with him, new frontman Henry Tremain and the rest of the band to discuss fond memories, future plans and Japanese night terrors!
What was the idea behind the animal theme of your debut album?
Tim Collis (guitar): It was going to be shapes, but the spellings for some of the shapes were too hard (everyone laughs). In a way it was pretty lazy. We haven’t tended to choose song titles related to the lyrics.
Stu Smith: Fundamentally, we were writing really quickly – we wrote the album in 4 months – and I think rather than call them ‘New Song 1’ and ‘New Song 2’, we just gave them holding names.
Jamie Cooper (bass): All the new ones have just stupid names – we can’t remember which one’s which!
Off the wall question: out of the animals featured on the album, which one are each of you most like?
Stu: Jamie would be a panda
Stu: Because he’s big, cuddly and black and white
Jamie: You’re a pig
Stu: I’m down with that
Tim: [I am] The weakest animal on there
Jamie: Slug! (everyone laughs)
Jamie: When he gets out of the shower, you should see his plumage! (laughter)
Chris Collis (drums): I have no idea
Stu: Chris is an elk, definitely
(Chris looks unimpressed)
Right, shall we move on?.. You guys have been described as math rock, among other genres –
Stu: Cock rock
Tim: Spock rock
Jamie: Math cock
Tim: Smash cock
Jamie: Dick in math cock (hysterical laughter)
To me, math rock is a term that implies a calculated approach to writing. Do you write deliberately or is it more organic than that?
Stu: It is organic in the sense that Tim just writes the way he writes
So you naturally write in asymmetrical time signatures?
Tim: Yeah. I’m terrible theory wise. It’s when we start playing it together that we realise it’s in some ridiculous time signature. But there are predetermined sections.
Do you have a favourite time signature?
Jamie: I like lunch time (everyone laughs)
What influences your writing?
Tim: Completion of the previous song and knowing we can get through it!
Stu: The fact that we’ve written songs before. It’s a bit of weird one isn’t it?
Jamie: Easter I find quite inspiring. I just think about Easter, past and present (everyone laughs hysterically)
Stu: Make Believe, Joan of Arc, American Football – just reading the t-shirts on people [here]
Tim: Dismemberment Plan
Jamie: I’ve been listening to lots of Into It. Over It.
Stu: I like Radiohead, a lot. The Deftones.
Jamie: The Earthworm Jim soundtrack (everyone laughs)
Stu: In terms of inspiration, certainly lyrically, when we’ve written a song I try to make the lyrics fit the feel of the music – or the complete opposite to the feel of the music.
Turning to Tim, you have a unique guitar-playing style – how did that come about?
Tim: I just thought I’d try it out and then carried on. That was it really.
But was there a particular guitarist who influenced you?
Tim: Not really. I guess maybe Sam Zurick from Make Believe. He is pretty good. Actually, the guy from Minus the Bear in the early days. I think that’s when I first saw melodic fret tapping as opposed to “metal” fret tapping.
How long has it been since you put down your plectrum and played this way?
Tim: I’d say between seven and nine years
Were you naturally good at it or did you spend ages practising?
Tim: I think I probably did spend a lot of time practising.
Stu: He didn’t though! Literally, it was like one minute you were playing with a plectrum –
Tim: Maybe two weeks. Actually, that’s what it was. I saw this band Owls and thought that’s pretty good. I kind of felt like I’d got as far as I could get [playing the way I was].
It’s been a while since your last album. When is the new one due?
Chris: April 
Jamie: We’re recording in October. We’re getting a guy called Ed Rose from Black Lodge [Recording]. He recorded with The Get Up Kids and Alien Ant Farm.
Stu: He worked with Puddle of Mudd
Jamie: Alien Ant Farm was a lie. We’re recording at Brighton Electric.
Is there going to be a theme with the song titles again?
Tim: They’re equally, if not more, pointless. They’re just usually linked to funny stuff – stories and random things. I guess they’re just a bunch of personal jokes really. It’s a little unfair in a way.
Jamie: I think after Animals we realised what a mistake we’d made! (everyone laughs)
Stu: It was weird reading reviews of Animals and seeing people get really hung up. I think NME was one I remember. They gave it three out of five or something like that and they kept banging on about the song names and how they didn’t bear any relation to the music or the lyrics and I just thought that for such a short paragraph of a review to spend it talking about the song names was a really dumb thing to do. It just made me want to call all the songs on the next album things like Ace of Spades or Smoke On The Water or something famous (everyone laughs).
Obviously things are changing from today onwards, so where do you guys want to take the band?
Jamie: Jamaica (laughter)
Tim: We just want to try to play more gigs.
Stu: And finally get this second album done. I say finally – it’s taken nearly three years. We probably could have written an album [by now] but it wouldn’t have been very good so what would have been the point? I think a lot of bands nowadays do one record a year and it ends up being crap and personally I think in some cases they’d have been better off waiting.
Henry, how do you feel about joining the band?
Henry Tremain (vocals): Pretty excited. I’ve known these guys for quite some time and I’ve been a big fan for a long time and being able to make music with them is, well, an awesome dream.
Stu, what will you miss most about playing with the band?
(Everyone else suggests Jamie’s night terrors)
Stu: Yeah, probably. Probably quite a lot of stuff like that. Waking up in a hotel room with Jamie in the bed next to mine covered head to waist in his own duvet, legs kicking out and screaming about spiders (everyone laughs). Stuff like that. Hanging out with friends and playing music. Writing music that I really enjoy doing. One of the things I find weird when reading interviews with other bands is when they say they don’t listen to their own records. Because, for me, being in a band has always been about writing music that I like.
So you feel proud when you listen to your own music?
Stu: Yeah, I suppose so. I mean, that might be terrible thing to say in a lot of people’s eyes, but personally I’m really pleased with what we’ve done and I really love it. I’m just glad a couple of other people like it as well. And we’ve got to do some really cool stuff over the years, like going to Japan, America, Australia and all around Europe.
But you’re excited about what you’re going on to do as well?
Stu: Yeah, that’s alright (laughs). That’s going to be terrifying.
Not like Jamie’s night terrors though?
Stu: No, not like Jamie’s night terrors. Well maybe. I could get pretty tired and start seeing things like Jamie.
This Town Needs Guns recently released a new 7” ‘Adventure, Stamina & Anger/ Mnspector Iorse’. They have just embarked on a UK tour and will release their second full-length studio album next year.