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Outfit Interview at Festival Number 6

  • By Art. Author Avatar
  • 24 September 2013

Outfit Interview at Festival Number 6

With their debut record, Performance, Outfit serenaded the Sisyphean struggle of “being in your twenties and trying to find yourself”. Whilst this rite of passage is often explored by artists, there is something frank, forthright and bright about their interpretation. Performance has an aptitude for depth that you’ll seldom find on any inaugural record, which refracts light on the shortcomings of Modern British Pop Music somewhat unintentionally.  

After taking me for a surreal ride on a festival buggy, Thomas Gorton and Andrew Hunt of Outfit lounged on the leather sofas of Castell Deudraeth discussing the nuances of contemporary culture in the arts, whilst confronting the wilderness and optimism of their 2013 debut release.

Here's how we saw Outfit's set at Festival Number 6.

Have you been surprised by the success of your debut album?

Tom: I don’t know really. It’s hard to really measure success, in a way it’s been reviewed well, people seem to like it.

Andy: We spent a while making it, so we thought it was good when we finished it, so we hoped everyone thought it was good. People seem to think it’s good so, it’s good.

Tom: We’d like to think we’re not insane and that we’ve made a record that’s good and worth something, and in some way culturally significant.

Andy: So no.

Tom: [laughs]

Andy: We’re actually annoyed it hasn’t gone better.

What drives the record, sentimentally?

Tom: Good question.

Andy: We wrote some of the record down in London, so some of the songs have a bit of a hint of the atmosphere down there-

Tom: Yeah, kind of, but if you remember I quit my job at the end of the April, and then me and Andy were working together on demos for like, a month, which was the best time ever.

Andy: That was great.

Tom: So I disagree that it has [pauses] it doesn’t have the same fraught sentiment as the EP, and I think when we got around to making the record and started it in London, there was perhaps a trajectory of optimism that was happening.

Andy: That’s true, but I think some of the lyrics are kind of still in keeping with the way that – when we wrote the lyrics down in London I think we were still writing about a period that had happened before then: we had to try and find new lives in London. But then we did the rest of the record in Liverpool , where obviously we were very comfortable, and that was necessary really.

So the themes which arise in the songs: frustration, boredom-

Tom: Loneliness, boredom, yeah – but there’s also like – for instance, a tune like ‘The Great Outdoors’, which is really about being alone but being absolutely comfortable with it and happy. So I guess it’s a strident, independent message instead of ‘oh I’m in my bedroom, I don’t know what’s going on’.

Andy: A lot of the songs have to do with a point when you’re frustrated or disillusioned with something, but you make a change, and you’re quite comfortable with making a change. There’s a certain optimism to that: changing something about your life, and a lot of songs come from that place.

Tom: Nothing big as well. The first track on the record is about late nights, and friendship and everything being slightly directionless but fun and, y’know, exciting at the same time, and being content with that kind of idea of being around people, and everything being alright.

Andy: Then I think ‘Elephant Days’ is kind of the flip of that in a way, because it’s about doing nothing and hanging out, but feeling an itch to do something else, or to move on. Just feeling like that’s not enough.

Through your music are you looking for an answer?

Andy: I think they raise a lot of questions, not necessarily definitely answers them but it raises a lot of questions which are kind of universal to being in your twenties and trying to find yourself.

Is there a moment you feel encapsulates what you were going for?

Tom: Lyrically, or in terms of sentiment?

Lyrically

Andy:  The quote on the back (of the record), which is from ‘Thank God I was dreaming’: “Heaven Collapse, light refracts, make a rainbow out of black, don’t look back”. I think that encapsulates some of the optimism within the melancholy

Tom: A playfulness as well - talking about colour and there’s a certain excitement to it, set against a kind of melancholic melody and tune.

Andy: Emotionally, I think that song encapsulates what we were going for on the album.



Outfit playing live at Festival Number 6.

You come at melody in quite an angular way, is that something that’s been developed stylistically for the band?

Andy: I kind of think that’s something which is inherent from being influenced by New Wave

Tom: Post-punk stuff

Andy: That stuff is there without having to think about it. That New Wave influence: Talking Heads, Roxy Music –

Tom: It’s probably learnt, but it feels inherent.

Andy: That’s it, yeah. That probably comes from when we were eighteen, nineteen we listened to a lot of New Wave stuff and Post-punk stuff, which I think is just there inherently in the music. I think, when we started the band, we also had a desire to take that a bit further, and have the chord progressions be a bit more fluid, and have a bit more movement to them. I think in terms of my vocals, they’ve got a bit more soulful to what I used to do in previous bands.

Tom: Used to be a bit more shouty.

[I sing Indica Ritual]

Tom: [laughs] Yeah, exactly!

Do you feel influence from the British Scene, as well as the American Scene?

Tom: I dunno really, it’s hard to say. We kind of bemoan the fact occasionally that we don’t feel part of a scene in any sense. We are very much in our own world. As a band, we have contemporaries, peers or whatever, but I guess every band does, I don’t really feel like we are-

Andy: The UK doesn’t have a scene; we’re not plugged into that. There’s a couple of bands where there’s a certain kinship with the motivations behind the music. This tour we’re doing in October with Dutch Uncles and Everything Everything is a good match in terms of bands who are trying to do something new with a Pop format, bands who are trying to do something new with melodic music and have an emotional resonance with it. So I do feel like there’s we have a certain amount in common with them, at the same time, I couldn’t say that we feel like a part of the same scene. In terms of American music – it’s been good – there’s been good stuff from everywhere, but I don’t think we’re attached to anywhere geographically.

What do you think it is about Britain which is halting that at the moment?

Tom: I think globally – it sounds boring – but the internet has changed scenes, movements-

Nothing can be underground anymore

Tom: Exactly. It’s faster, so people consume things so much faster.

Andy: I think within a student culture – we were saying this the other day – student culture used to be something that a band like us would rely on, but I’m not really sure there’s a very adventurous mind-set that students buy into anymore. I think the student lifestyle is quite mainstream, so people aren’t seeking out things that are underground and subversive. It doesn’t feel like there’s a student movement which is driving progression, you know?

True

Tom: It kind of depends. Like right now, there’s a dearth of people in that population or demographic who are really dedicated to finding out about new bands but whereas the internet for something like Techno is still really good. The same people who download that stuff still buy 12 inches, still go to loads of Techno clubs, however I think the consumers of bands have perhaps become slightly more impatient

Andy: A bit more apathetic.

Is there a city or a place that, when you play there, you feel resonates with you?

Andy: We played London two nights ago, and it was the best show we’ve ever done.

Where did you play?

Andy: We played Electrowerkz in Islington,

How was that?

Tom: It was fucking great.

Andy: It was a fairly small venue, but full of people who wanted to be there, and who knew the songs, and who were very much interested in hearing something new.

Tom: It’s different in other places

Andy: Yeah, we were talking about this the other day: in terms of scenes in the UK, Leeds has a stronger scene in terms of ‘students who are interested in weirder stuff’, same with London. We live in Liverpool where it’s not quite like that. There’s a scene as far as there are people you know who make music who are interested in similar things to you, but in terms of there being something cohesive that’s binding you together, it doesn’t feel that way.

Tom: Manchester has a good thing going too.

Andy: Actually, our best gigs really have been in Manchester and London.

The thing is about both those cities is that there’s an art scene, as well as a music scene.

Tom: That’s true.

Andy: That makes a big difference. In Liverpool, actually, the art scene is incredibly small.

Tom: It feels quite corporate, the Liverpool art scene.

Andy: There’s not a group of young creative to drive a progressive music scene or art scene. I think what you need to do is fill some of these empty houses with artists, give them to artists.

Actually, how much is a 2 bedroom flat in Liverpool?

Tom: 500 quid a month.

Andy: Between two, yeah. Where we are now, we pay 230 quid a month.

Tom: With a studio.

Andy: With a studio, bills included.

Where you recorded?

Tom: Yeah.

Andy: We went back to Liverpool to do the album so we could have space and time, which wasn’t a luxury we had in London.

How long did you spend doing the record?

Tom: [pauses] We spent about six months recording the album. Then we started tracking, and trying to mould these songs into a cohesive –

Did you feel a pressure of ‘look we need to get this done whilst it’s relevant’ or were you just like ‘fuck it - it’s done when it’s done’?

Tom: We kind of flitted between the two really. Sometimes we felt like ‘oh we’ve got to finish it’ or, like, ‘does anybody know who we are anymore’?

Andy: It’s easy to feel out of the loop.

Tom: Yeah, you feel out of the loop because you don’t communicate with other people, it was just the five of us for so long. So you fell underground, and in a way there’s a sense of relief or happiness that the record has come out and people have connected with it.

Andy: I think at core of it was the desire to go away and as spend long as it needed on the album  and for the album to just be good.

Tom: And to fuck everyone else off

Andy: I think at the core of it, that’s what we felt. But there would be times when we were thinking– we’ve been talking about how fast things move – does anybody still give a shit about us? Is anyone gonna come see us play? Whatever! I think we gave ourselves the time to go away from any scene, if there is one, or any kind of media presence and just work on the music. Because that’s something which is unbelievably ignored by a lot of bands, who won’t actually spend much time on the music, but they’ll spend time on everything else.

Do you feel like there’s a natural step for where you’re going?

Tom: Now? I just can’t wait to do the second record. I’m really impatient and it’s been bothering me.

Andy: We’ve been talking a lot about when we’ll fit in time to do the next record because we’ve got quite a few songs we want to do and we’ve got an idea of things we want to keep from the first album sound, and what we want to move on from.

Tom: And some other instruments we’ve been talking about.

Andy: I think the next album will be a more concise and coherent exploration of the same kind of ideas.

So if you could pick a track off the first record, what would be the best gateway.

Tom: The best gateway? It’s a good question that, actually. In some ways I think ‘Spraypaint’-

Andy: -I was gonna say the same, actually. In certain ways ‘Spraypaint’ in the way that it’s very musically progressive and it uses-

Tom: -slightly more complex chord progressions

Andy: Yeah, there’s a bit more to it musically. I think with the next record we’re keen to do something that’s musically very advanced or more advanced than we’ve done now, but something where, we’re changing the palette. There’s certain things we’ll keep I’m sure: a general sense of melody is of course a big part of what we do. But I think it’ll be musically more ambitious. We’ll see how that goes. 

That was bloody lovely. Thanks.

Andy: I enjoyed that.

Outfit Interview at Festival Number 6

 

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