Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Patrick Stolley
"I was walkin' through the stormy country/You were walkin' through the stormy country/It was here we saw ourselves so clear," Gun Lake lead singer Mark Fain sings in a blousy ending to the song, aptly titled, "Stormy Country." This land, where the ground has been saturated with steady, driving rains, where the littered red and orange leaves adhere to the bottoms of shoes like barnacles, or new traction, is where this Michigan band finds itself most comfortable. We've to some of the prettier spots of their state and we can't imagine how hard it is for them to be away from there. It must be like leaving the hand that you place over your heart behind, as you drive away sadly, knowing that you're going to need that hand just a few miles down the road, but you're not going to have access to it. Your muscles might try to move that blank space, or the void, at the end of your wrist, but those phantom pangs won't be able to grip or move anything. Gun Lake operates in the spaces where you see things before you - lit up via the night's explosions, the electricity that's coming from somewhere far off - that you never knew were there before. It operates in the spaces where the nudging of a branch or a bough brings down a new shower, all of the droplets sticking to the needles above falling in one big, shocking dump. Our breath gets caught in the back of our throat when something like that happens. It's like climbing to the top of a grain silo or a water tower to get closer to the stars, or it's just staying down as close to the dirt as one can possibly get. They're different feelings, but they're all at work on the group's album, "Balfour," a record of these men listening for the beats of their own hearts in the breeze or in other chests. There seems to be a mission to find closeness and companionship out amongst these trees and these elements of relative unpredictability. If you've ever just laid down on the ground and put an ear to the soil, it's one of the most deadened and quiet sounds, owing to there being millions of feet of earth beneath and then on the other side of that earth, more sky reaching out in the opposite direction, in a different season, and a different part of the day. It's enough to mess you up for a while, but all it takes for Gun Lake (named for a butterfly-shaped lake in their home state) to feel this way is to just be out there with the lonely foxes and the hungry coyotes, the scared rabbits and the tranquil lakes. These are places where cares can just be thrown away and those aching hearts can feel the caresses of natural beauty. It's this awe of the outdoors, of the thought that we can make our own fires whenever we want them, that we can feel akin to these trees that could kill us if they were to crack after a split by that stormy country lightening. Fain sings, "Take me to a place where the trees still grow," and later adds, "No, I never thought that I could be anywhere better than here," seemingly at this place where he can find his greatest happiness. He feels the dirt burning ever so clearly and he feels like he never has to be anywhere but here, for as long as he can last.