With attention in recent days, months, and years fixated on Denver, Colorado's DIY electronic undergrounds, it would be remiss to overlook the mile-high thriving indie rock scene that lies beyond Rocky Mountain National Park. Meet The Outfit, who premiere their songs about neighborhood kids, empirical kids, stuck-up kids, shy kids, self-conscious kids, rough kids, royal kids, and more off their upcoming Tough Kids EP-streaming with us in the following exclusive.
Courses of change in the face of time create a Rocky splitting sound that causes an avalanche to make even the most giant of egos reflect and weep on, “What Happened To You”. The emperor-esque held esteems and independent empire commanding, “Caesar” is the extended player's big single designed with big emotive high risers, paired with the song's key sparse bass from Mike King and Mikael Kilates' guitar that both play off RJ Powers' heartache in a heartbeat percussion. Lead singer and guitarist Eric Johnston evokes the feelings of a cold day in Colorado where the indoor warmth is fostered by him and the band, in between the memorable accusatory finger pointings like, “you take, you take, so give it back,” that stay with you like the closing refrain of “you animals,” that catches up with you hours after listening.
The title song takes a time out to salute heroes of the cool, cutting edge, and trending off the neatest and newest waves on “Tough Kids”. Johnston, Kilates, King and Powers have a knack for ear burrowing entities that affects and appeals through a synergy of sound, chord progression hooks and memorable lines. The trick lies in the manner of relaying those thoughts of envies past and present that are related through Eric's impassioned repeated delivery of “I was nothing, you were always something new.” Keeping that energy fresh, “Projector” keeps it pushing with self observations displaced away from personal evaluation and acknowledged through the perceptions and perspectives of others, “I see myself, through their eyes.” From the shred fest of overt self-conscious concerns over what other people think, the EP closer “El Presidente” reasserts and reassures all that The Outfit rocks to the style of their own threads and self-appointed lead processionals. Mike's bass steals the show in time to RJ's 4 quarter count, as Eric again encapsulates the band's ethic in the succinct-but poignant chorus phrasing of, “I don't want to, walk behind you.”
We caught up with guitarist-singer Eric Johnston to talk about The Outfit's new EP, the raddest places around Denver to get outfitted, the aesthetics and politics of how to dress like you want, the band's formidable foundings, bullies, tough kids, and tougher kids.
How did you all come together in Denver as a band?
Well, the band has transformed a little since first getting started. I am the only original member left but I believe the band has found a good balance. The members in the band are RJ Powers [on drums] Mike King [on bass] and Mikael Kilates [on lead guitar]. I sing and play some rhythm guitar. RJ started out as the third guitar player but is an insane drummer as well. When our first drummer left he jumped in and we really didn’t miss a BEAT… Yikes. Mike saw us play at one point or another and when we sent a message out looking for a bass player he came in and blew the doors down. Then we got a hold of Mikael. He is originally from the Philippines but when he heard how much money we couldn’t pay him he rushed to Colorado and I think he’s going to school or something. I think there is a power that comes when you’re making music with guys as talented as this and I am pumped we all landed in the same boat.
What is the story behind naming yourself, The Outfit?
We stole that name from a band that is currently performing under the moniker “The Knew”. We were talking about band names one evening and they told me they were originally going to call themselves “The Outfit”. I said “That’s a pretty dumb band name.” I then excused myself from the conversation, ran home and wrote “The Outfit” down multiple times on a sheet of paper, like a girl in middle school who is in love with the weirdo sitting next to her.
Are you all big into textiles and apparel?
I think every member has a different take on the subject. Personally, I think fashion and clothing is all about confidence. You look at David Bowie or Jack White and you know they are untouchable because they are confident. The Outfit needs clothes that can be covered in beer and taco sauce and still hold up, functional.
As a band “The Outfit” is very into the local Denver scene. We all have local band t-shirts that we wear often. I have a shirt from the band Hindershot that has gone through the wash 1000 times. If I’m feeling like I need to step it up there are a couple stores that I head to. There is a great store downtown called Rockmount Ranch Wear. They have some of the most beautiful shirts I have ever seen. The embroidery is all original, and incredibly impressive. I also head to Sheplers, another ranch wear store. They have pants that never wear out. After I spend all my money at these two places I usually fill in my wardrobe with a trip to the ARC and using my mother's senior discount at Kohls.
What is the connection between fine or coarse textiles and music? Is there a connection between matters of clothing aesthetics and the aesthetic of your sound?
I think the only real connection between The Outfit’s music and the clothing we wear is confidence & simplicity. We all seem to have somewhat similar tastes in clothing so I think the band aesthetic comes naturally. We don’t have a cowboy up front and a juggalo playing drums. Ha, actually, I would go see that band.
I don’t think there will ever be some huge statement in the clothing we wear on stage. If we show up to a show and the band is dressed as Huey, Louie and Dewey and I have a Scrooge McDuck costume on, it's probably not because we're making a statement on young Hollywood and the dangers of jumping into a pool filled with gold coins. If we show up dressed like that we’re just ready to party. We all love experimenting, but I feel that we’re satisfying that need with the music more than aesthetics right now. However, we are always looking to do more with our onstage presence so if anyone knows a good laser guy let us know.
Give us some behind the scenes glimpses of Tough Kids. The secret behind your rip your heart out right on stage sound tactics?
When we write music we usually look for a raw and genuine sound. I am inspired at very unusual times and places and this can make writing lyrics interesting. I will always have little notes that may or may not make sense when I get home. Music is something that is very near and dear to us so there is this constant struggle between keeping things interesting and enjoyable while working hard and pushing forward. I think we have really found a good headspace live. Being on stage is intensely cathartic. It may sound cheesy but it is easy to get lost up there and dive completely into the situation. I think when this happens the audience can truly connect to what’s going on. Those are the best shows, the ones that are loud, sloppy and full of fearless expression.
Speaking of 'tough kids' what are your thoughts on bullying. National epidemic? Global epidemic? Over-hyped?
I think in this day and age most people understand that no human being is one-dimensional. I am more interested in what creates a bully or an ass hole. Why do some people feel the need to hurt others? In America we all go through the awkward gauntlet of Middle School and High School but everyone develops such different attitudes. We hang on to what we are passionate about and there are going to be people that want us to feel such passion is strange or out of place. Why do they do that? Is it fear or jealousy? The song “Tough Kids” deals a lot with feelings of both inadequacy and fulfillment. I drifted to the name “Tough Kids” because it expresses maturity and innocence. The limbo we all have to face. Bullying is a very difficult subject to tackle. When do we intervene and when is it just kids being kids? When do you talk to a bully and when do you let him get socked in the mouth? I really don’t have the answers. I think we just need to fight for understanding as hard as we can. In the song I just try and deal with the transformations and confusions I dealt with during early high school well into my twenties, maybe it connects to someone else.
What can you tell us about a possible full-length follow up to Tough Kids?
We all really want to get something on vinyl. We have been writing a lot and the process has been going super smooth. Excluding the nights where I forget to wear pants, I think the band is happy in the direction we are heading. We are really working hard and are super proud of the EP we made so we are all excited to get back to the studio. But I think we need to take a little bit of time this week and really enjoy what we have done. You can’t hang out for too long but sometimes you need to find a Hawaiian shirt that is way too huge and walk around town with your head held high.
The Outfit's Tough Kids EP will be available August 24 from Hot Congress Records.
The release party will also be held on the same day in Denver at the Larimer Lounge. Tickets available here, details are on the following flyer.