At a time when all things indie rock have been relegated to the dustbin of pop culture, Denver band the Outfit still stands out. The group’s soon-to-be-released self-titled album is representative of its current creative ambitions. The Outfit is the first twelve-inch vinyl record that the band has released; it sports a cover by local artist Joe Triscari of Moon Light Speed and includes re-recordings of some of the band’s earliest songs mixed in with new material.
While an exciting accomplishment, the new album took a long and circuitous route to its release. The band finished recording with Chris Fogal at Black in Bluhm Music in June 2015, but the release was initially delayed to make sure that all details were in place. Even so, album releases and bands in general don’t necessarily operate according to plan. Last summer, guitarist Mikael Kilates left the band, and the Outfit brought Justin Horrigan on board. Then there was the long wait for the self-financed project through the various processes of mixing, mastering, applying the recordings to vinyl and preparing the cover art with an in-demand artist. Now the group is ready to release the record — which has a limited-edition first run of 250 copies — with full integrity, on Friday, June 10, at the hi-dive.
Following the album release, the Outfit plans to tour the Southwest; the tour will include Los Angeles and end in Las Vegas. Then the band will drive back to Denver in time to play the Westword Music Showcase on Saturday, June 25.
In addition to an intrepid spirit, the Outfit is notable for its powerful live performances, which feature drummer RJ Powers and bassist Mike King providing the music’s driving rhythms. And even if you get caught up in the guitarists’ infectious melodies, you should listen to what singer Eric Johnston is saying. Johnston approaches songwriting with the care of a crafter of prose, resulting in stories told with thoughtful and thought-provoking lyrics.
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“We put out a single called ‘Camilla’ that I wrote about my grandma,” Johnston says of a song on The Outfit. “The song is this kind of amalgam of emotions that I was feeling when she died, but also at the end of a very recent relationship. I could connect to that grief I was feeling. At the end of the song, there’s a line that says, ‘To be alone is so nice.’ I realized I get to do whatever the hell I want right now, and I don’t have to worry about it or be sad because that person is in a better place or doing their own thing. So that step from grief to living your life again was something I worked on there.”
While "Camilla" focuses on letting go of grief and looking forward, other songs analyze the past with some regret. “‘Ne’er Do Well’ is about working through a relationship, and when something is initially over, wanting it simply because it was familiar,” Johnston explains. “Things start out fresh and crazy, and then things get more comfortable. Then, when it ends, it’s like maybe I just wanted it because it was something I could rely on.”
In addition to relationships with lovers and family, Johnston also drew on his observations of the music scene and the band’s fans for one of the group’s more enigmatic songs. “When we were writing ‘Tyrannosaurus Surfboard,’ none of us knew what to call it,” he says. “It’s a song about the aggressive nature of human beings,and those who are timid, and those who are crazy have to share this space and share this world. [Like] when you see that timid kid that really likes this raucous punk band but has to stand on the side, but [he’s] just as into it as the kid who is wasted and doing front flips. To me, that’s what the song is about.”
The Outfit will play its album release show at the hi-dive this Friday, June 10. The band will also perform at the 2016 Westword Music Showcase on Saturday, June 25, in the Golden Triangle.