Tuesday, September 4, 2012

New Interview with Denver's The Outfit: "I hope this era of standing in the front row at a Bass Drum of Death show and only tapping your foot is coming to a close."

Denver rockers The Outfit have been garnering some good buzz out West lately, opening up high-profile shows for bands like The Lumineers.  They're on the road now for their first major tour and stopping by the Jackpot on Monday, Sept. 10 for an evening with LFK's Til Willis, Baby Boomers, and Comanche the Horse (one of our favorite current local band names).   Please stop by and make them feel welcome, since the attendance at a Monday evening Jackpot show is likely to be a little more sparse than a Lumineers concert!

Check out The Outfit on FB over here and enjoy this wide-ranging interview with Mike, Eric, and RJ in which we discuss their beer preferences, the difficulties of non-dancing scenesters, and what the tastemakers at Pitchfork might say about The Outfit's sound (Mike knocked it out of the park with his answer to that question!). 

Richard:  A press blurb in the Denver Thread invokes everyone from Mark Lanegan to Kings of Leon to the Buzzcocks to J. Mascis in trying to pin down your sound.  How would you describe your own sound if you had to use some pompous Pitchfork-y style music writing and can you cite four DIFFERENT singers or bands as reference points within that description.

Mike:  Well shit, here goes nothing... 

"The Outfit offers an earnest, post-garage rock revival, built on ground laid by The Strokes and other acts from roughly a decade ago.  Not that they necessarily ape those bands -- though frontman Eric Johnston's casual articulation occasionally recalls that of Julian Casablancas -- rather [it's] the back-to-basics championing of straightforward, guitar-based pop songwriting.  This is nothing groundbreaking, and it doesn't have to be.  The guitars chime and hum with undiscerning admiration toward The Walkmen, The Pixies, and The Rolling Stones, while the bass and drums propel the songs with youthful excitement. What results is an unapologetically derivative indulgence that is, in a way, and perhaps against all odds, refreshing.  The burden of contextual relevance is relieved in light of a sincerity that doesn't acknowledge where it may or may not belong.  It is free to be itself, for better or worse.  5.5"

RJ: I'm surprised we broke 5.0...

Chip:  The three-gun cover for Broken West Wishbone Test is pretty cool.  Tell us about the origins of the album title and cover imagery.  Also, guns are VERY controversial right now.  Should you perhaps sell the album in a brown paper bag at your shows to prevent someone from being scared or offended?

Mike: Eric came up with that name, Broken West Wishbone Test, so he can probably tell you about what it might mean. For the artwork, we basically just gave the album to our friend Jorge Vargas and said, "listen to this and make art for it." It probably sucks to hear that if you're an artist, but I think he did a good job. There's an armadillo on the back that really ties the whole thing together.  Also, I think revolvers are okay because The Beatles named an album after them.

Eric: The name of the album came from two different blurbs I had written as “lyrical ideas”. The name, at least for me, invokes two different things that could be seen as both modular and linear. “Broken West” invokes an image of a modern society that longs for the “good ole days," ; however, there is hope for the future, something “Broken” can be repaired. “Wishbone Test” invokes an image of, well… a test, with a reward that can mean many different things to many different people. The finesse and confidence of breaking a wishbone and “winning”, has always seemed wistful and satisfying to me. Together, I guess they stand as a challenge to have the courage and confidence to test yourself and the world around you. Ha, but most people just say… 'weird album name'.

Take a listen via Bandcamp.

Broken West Wishbone Test cover art

Richard:  I like the lyrics of "Cavalier,” with its references to “midnight wine” and its image of a “forty on the plaid couch.”  What’s your drink of choice for shows and after-parties?  You’ll definitely be seeing plenty of PBR here in Lawrence.  Also, do you have a particular favorite line or favorite image from one of your songs?

Mike: PBR is definitely a go-to choice. I've been playing in bands for a long time, so I've developed a taste for whatever beer a venue will give me for free (plus tip, of course [insert "just the tip" joke here]). [Chip interrupts to make six 'just the tip' jokes.]  If i'm buying my own beer, I lean toward Colorado breweries, like Great Divide or Breckenridge or New Belgium.

Eric: Ive been drinking a lot of different things- PBR, Negro Modelo. Ive been trying to invent a cocktail that I can call the Bob Costas: straightforward but not afraid to have a good time on the air.

RJ: PBR is pretty much my “usual” pre-show drink, mainly because venues will always give it to us for free. It’s nice that it’s a staple from venue to venue, because I know exactly how many I can drink before I reach my “making an ass out of myself while I try to drum” limit. But I really like the line in “Softsided” where Eric sings “You’re so softsided, you love it but hide it, you want them, but let them go.” Something always just kinda stuck with me about loving something but hiding it and wanting something but letting it go.

Chip:  Your FB page lists one of your stated goals as making music that “people can really connect to and gets them moving.”  What’s the scene in Denver like and do the scenesters there actually “get moving” at shows?  I can assure you that your Jackpot show in Lawrence is going to feature a lot of stock-still scenesters staring at you with stern expressions, so be prepared to work extra hard to get those fuckers moving.

Mike: That's exactly what Denver is like. I think more people are figuring out that if you just let go and dance and have fun, every show, no matter what, is a thousand times better. It sounds stupid, "you'll have more fun if you have fun" circular logic, but I've been that guy who just stands there, and I've been that guy who is the only one moving around, who people are angry at because they want to watch The Thermals in rigid, analytical stillness, dammit, why is this asshole bumping into me!  I've been on both sides, and I can say wholeheartedly that i prefer the latter.  I mean, I prefer when other people join in and dance too, but... well, you get the point.

Eric: Yup, I hope this era of standing in the front row at a Bass Drum of Death show and only tapping your foot is coming to a close. Music can be enjoyed in many ways but if you’re going to just stand there, stand in the back.

RJ: Crowds that don’t move have given me a much better appreciation for the dude, or lady, in the crowd that just lets it all out. The person that’s not afraid to dance, or be the only one clapping to a section of a song, or pour beer on their friends because it’s crazy how infectious that can be in an audience. It’s like that one person not giving a fuck gives the rest of the crowd an excuse to get a little weird too. I always want to buy them a beer after we play.

Richard:  Looks like you guys have shared the stages with some “buzzy” bands like The Lumineers, Dinosaur Feathers, the Cave Singers, etc.  Can you tell our readers an exciting tale about hanging out with these scenester luminaries?

Mike: The bass player from Dinosaur Feathers, Ryan, and I are on the same guitar effects forum on the internet. That is not an exciting tale at all, unless maybe you also look at ilovefuzz, but it's true.  A lot of musicians are really just nerds who spend too much time online.

Eric: These bands are the epitome of hard work. Each is so talented and brings so much to the table, but people are talking about them because they worked incredibly hard and haven't given up. Its amazing how patronizing people can be when they ask "how's the band"?? You've got to ignore a lot of bullshit and remember why you're doing what you're doing. 

RJ: Our dear friend and pet fake armadillo, Margaret, went to a better place just a few months ago. Neyla from The Lumineers found her while they were on tour, and gave her to us earlier this year to look after our merch while we are on stage. We didn’t get to hang with her very long, because she unfortuantely lost her head at a bar in Denver after The Lumineers' show in May. I think that’s how she wanted to go out though; surrounded by friends and as a racecar, not a pacecar.  Margaret might make an appearance on a shirt in the future though.

Richard:  Tell our readers what to expect at your Jackpot show.  Also, what else is on the horizon for The Outfit in terms of future recording and touring?

Mike: The Jackpot show is going to be LEGENDARY.  The kind of thing that people will find out about afterward and then tell other people about it like they were there.  Like that house show that Sonic Youth played in Denver in 2004... amazing...

As far as the future is concerned, we're mixing some new songs right now that we recorded with Tim Gerak. He's making us sound so good, it's crazy. We will definitely be touring more once we have this new material out, but it's a little early to say when that will be.

Eric: Good job Mike! Jackpot show… “JACKPOT”- A. Sandler

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