Despite the comparisons (blame the one sheet), Olympia’s Gun Outfit sound much more like Some Velvet Sidewalk (or, really, King Kong) than Dinosaur: Their straight-ahead, bass-free punk-inflected rock is definitely old-school in spirit, which is maybe why folks are fond of referencing SST, but the fit’s not quite right. The trio’s debut, out now on Dean Spunt’s PPM label, is a batch of 11 spare, intense compositions that immediately conjure the Pacific Northwest. When not digging into their streamlined hooks — live, the guitar interplay comes off especially intricate, and even catchier — the band members hold down day jobs: Drummer Reuben Storey is employed at a record store, guitarist/vocalist Dylan Sharp teaches English in Turkey, and guitarist/vocalist Caroline Keith holds down a government job, but one she can’t really talk about in print, so we decided to instead focus on the job she had prior to it at a horse farm, where she fed and led stallions from the barn to the pasture. As she put it, “I had to quit the horse farm because I was afraid for my life but it was the best job I ever did have. Like heaven on earth but with a fear that intensified exponentially. Horses sense those feelings and that put me at a disadvantage. They aren’t forgiving animals. They’re herd and prey animals.” So, in this shitty economy, a day job daydream.
We already posted Dim Light’s “In The Dark.” To keep with today’s theme, you’ll find the collection’s “Work Experience” after the conversations about just that.
Reuben Storey, drums
STEREOGUM: What’s the name of the record store?
REUBEN STOREY: Phantom City Records in Olympia, WA. It’s a small shop — an angry customer once referred to it as a record kiosk — inside of a second hand clothing store.
STEREOGUM: How long has it been open?
RS: The store has been open for under a decade … exact years escape me. There have been three maybe four owners and two locations.
STEREOGUM: How long have you been there?
RS: I’ve been working here for about two years.
RS: Mostly being at the whim of unrelenting conversation and witnessing exiting browsers mistake windows for doors.
STEREOGUM: How many other people work with you?
RS: Usually just one.
STEREOGUM: It’s a tad depressing that we need something like Record Store Day. Does it help at all?
RS: Holidays never help, more turds for the pile.
STEREOGUM: As far as what’s selling … What are some popular titles? What have you, personally, been listening to in the store?
RS: Our two most picked-up-and-razzed-at records are David Allen Coe’s Son of the South and a Method Man 12″ with a picture of Jim Carrey as Riddler from Batman Forever on the sleeve. In the store I have a pretty consistent rotation of Dolly Parton, Naked Raygun, dB’s, Gene Clark, Smiths, GBV, etc…
STEREOGUM: When I was in high school, three friends and I did Naked Raygun’s “Never Follow” at a talent show. Big mistake. So are people buying records or just picking up and razzing?
RS: Cool song. Maybe next time you can do “Peacemaker.” We have loyal customers and passersby, records sell.
STEREOGUM: Joking aside, indie record stores are having a rough time of it these days … Where do you see Phantom in five years? Olympia has a strong history in regard to independent music…
RS: I try not to think about anyone’s future. Are Midwest hessians a dying breed now that Metal Maniac’s has closed its doors?
STEREOGUM: Sad times, but I concede the point. At least from my experience, working in a record store can lead to interesting discussions … as well as far more annoying ones. Any recent worthwhile debates?
RS: My favorite conversations involve the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Siege and Repulsion. I’ve gotten nothing thus far but a concrete ledge to place my opinion. It cracks and crumbles but manages to stick around.
STEREOGUM: Is the place too small to put on in-stores?
RS: We’ve done in-stores in the past, just cleared some space out in the shoe section of the clothing store. It’s cool but a pain in the ass for band and audience.
STEREOGUM: Do you always put Gun Outfit material in a prominent position?
RS: One of the large windows facing the street is nothing but Gun Outfit posters and the record has been on display since release date.
Dylan Sharp, guitar and vocals
STEREOGUM: Are you in Turkey right now?
DYLAN SHARP: I am. I’m stay?ng in Istanbul w?th a cool one-worlder named Melik with a penchant for weak hash and UFO theories.
STEREOGUM: How’d you get the job? Do you have a background in education?
DS: After figuring out that there’s pretty much nothing you can do with Bachelor of Arts degree that you couldn’t do with a few meager connections or a few years of life to burn, I decided I should move to Japan to teach English ?n 2003 and stayed for a year. Since then I’ve been puttering around Olympia until it got to be too much for me and decided to just fly to Istanbul and look for a job. It worked out well, the place I work for is very relaxed.
STEREOGUM: What’s your connection to Turkey otherwise?
DS: I have no connect?on to Turkey otherwise. It seemed like an interest?ng place.
STEREOGUM: How many students do you have at a given time?
DS: I have one student at a t?me, sometimes two.
STEREOGUM: Age range?
DS: All of them are out of college and most work?ng professionals — in banks, insurance companies, doctors, etc.
STEREOGUM: What are common things they find difficult about English?
DS: I think prepositions are probably the most common mistake (to the beach, at the beach, on the beach etc) but since it’s conversational English the best students are the ones who just plunge in and thrash around. Confidence.
STEREOGUM: Have you picked up Turkish? Fluent? Close? Not in the least?
DS: I am fluent in order?ng borek and in greet?ng people. I have been extremely lazy in my Turkish because I f?nd that even when I try to speak Turkish I get a blank stare and an answer ?n English most of the time.
STEREOGUM: What’s it like there?
DS: It’s a really beautiful city because there’s water everywhere and old mosques and castles. Also there’s a lot of well fed garbage eating cats, designer shopping, and cheap delicious food. It’s annoy?ng to constantly have to dicker for the price of something incredibly cheap (like a tea or an orange) or get ripped off, but it’s a fact. I haven’t been able to find any music scene I’ve been into because from what I can tell it’s mostly world fusion/dance/Turkish pop/mixed bag Euro — no thanks. Street performers, especially the blind Alevi guy near my house, are great. Ill take the Anatolian rock and folk where I can get it.
STEREOGUM: Has the Gun Outfit ever performed in the country?
DS: Dylan has performed in his bedroom on a shitty acoustic guitar to the annoyance of his roommates.
Caroline Keith, guitar and vocals
STEREOGUM: How long were you at the horse farm?
CAROLINE KEITH: For a summer.
STEREOGUM: Where is it located? How many horses?
CK: Off Delphi Road in between the foothills and Mud Bay. I remember thirteen horses.
STEREOGUM: It’d be great if you could describe the place a bit.
CK:The place had the feel of Gene Clark’s “In A Misty Morning,” but instead of tall buildings breaking the horizon there were firs and black hills.
STEREOGUM: What were your duties?
CK: Feed, water, give medicine, muck out stalls, dump the tractor load of manure into the woods, put the horses out, bring them in, spread new beds, blow off the barn isle … the owner ran a pretty tight ship.
STEREOGUM: How did you keep the horses from cribbing?
CK: As far as I know they didn’t have a cribbing problem. Probably because the horses spent so much time in the pastures.
STEREOGUM: What were the horses’ favorite time of day?
CK: Feedin’ time.
STEREOGUM: Did you have any previous experience with horses? If not, how’d you end up with this job?
CK: Lauren found me the job. I had an abused horse my parents rescued for part of my childhood but my father was the only one mean enough to ride Biz. I was in over my head dealing with stallions.
STEREOGUM:You mentioned that you left because you were scared of the horses and they could sense that. This would clearly make it that much scarier. When did you decide it was too much?
CK: There were three stallions in the barn. A Norwegian Fjord and the biggest horse I’ve ever seen named Cosimo. I felt pretty confident with the Fjord because I could stick my hip into his side to move him out of my way but with Cosimo and the black stallion they were so god damn huge and when they reared it made them twice their size. I’d lead them in from the pasture and there was a spot that would always spook them. If the wind was blowing through their ears they were ever more excited. Keep in mind they were hungry. I had a few scary moments at the spook spot where all the elements were working against me and I felt afraid for my life. I would leave weak in the knees.
STEREOGUM: It was your favorite job ever … What were the positives? I imagine dewy fields and that horse smell, etc.
CK: No customers. No coworkers. No stale air. Just me and the horses. For the most part it was a good quiet feeling working out there.
STEREOGUM: Any horses who stayed mellow throughout? Or any favorites?
CK: Oh yeah. Most of the horses were well trained. There was a filly. I liked to watch her because she looked so awkward and had real wobbly legs.
STEREOGUM: What’s it been like moving from an outdoor job to something in an office?
CK: Well the horse job didn’t seem like a real job because I was never counting the hours. It was so short lived, it never felt repetitive or familiar to me. I do a lot of spacing out at the office. I couldn’t do that around horses or I’d get pushed around.
Dim Light is out via PPM.
[Left To Right: Reuben, Carrie, Dylan]