They may be the new band on the block but they certainly won’t be forgotten anytime soon. OUTLYA are making a play to redeem the ever-saturated pop genre, and they have a fighting chance to succeed. With two tracks to their name already released, we can now fully start to appreciate their output – ‘Higher’ and ‘The Light’ – both earnest in sentiment but firmly and wildly courageous in sound. A gluttony for hooks and a penchant for ravaging pop choruses reign proud over tangy tropics and plucky top-of-the-lungs harmonies. The band, certain to take their music further afield, set out on their first UK tour in early April 2017, with a boasting catalogue of great tunes and a determination to carry them wherever they go, OUTLYA are the real deal.
Catching a twenty-minute break from the first day of tour, we rounded up the band’s frontman Will Bloomfield to talk in depth about artistic creation, intimate performances and what’s on the horizon.
Thanks for taking the time out to speak with me today, how has the day been up to this point?
“It’s been good. It’s our first day of driving – [there’s been] a lot of admin stuff, so a lot of laptop club in the car and also introducing our new tour manager Pete to the world of Fleet Foxes. We played him a lot of Fleet Foxes, and he introduced us to a Manchester band called Dutch Uncles, who I really like, and Goldfrapp. So a lot of listening.”
Seen as OUTLYA is still fairly new to the world, I wanted to start off with a bit of a get to know you question. Can you tell us more about why you started the band?
“The reason why we wanted to start it was because we’d been in bands before and we really felt like we’d never made big, heavy pop music. And it felt like there was a gap that we really wanted to…there’s American bands that are like that and we kinda wanted to be that thing. So we wrote a bunch of new songs, new ideas came out and different sounds, [it was] just a beautiful thing [that] came together, which is great.”
I’ve got to say ‘Higher’ has been stuck in my head. It’s such a great song.
“Yeah we’re trying to make sure everything is super hooky. And also I feel like being a new band is the best time to be as bombastic as possible, we appreciate subtlety, and we appreciate little nice soft sonic-y things as well but I think now, if there ever was a time to grab people’s attention that is the time to be bombastic and be bold.
What did it take for you to get to the point where you were ready to launch OUTLYA?
“There was a year of just writing, a lot of thinking and a lot of drawing up ideas – artwork ideas and video ideas – really refining all the aesthetic decisions because we wanted to make sure that this project had a very clear aesthetic and I’m hoping that people see that.
[After] a year of writing songs, eventually we got to record a bunch of these new songs and that was the point at which we felt like we’re kinda ready to go now. [Once we had] about five or six songs recorded, that was the point where we thought ‘yeah that’s the right time to do it’.”
Today’s the first date of the Frances tour and also OUTLYA’s first gig in Manchester. How are the expectations gauged?
“Pretty high because I love Manchester. There’s a lot of bands here which is great, there’s a lot of amazing venues here. We haven’t be so fortunate enough to play in many nice venues like this so far, since we started the project very recently, all we’ve really been doing is Sofar gigs up and down the country. So we’ve basically been road-testing this acoustic set-up that we’re going to be doing tonight.
We’ve been playing in art galleries and living rooms, very rarely have we been able to play in a venue with a proper sound system and with a crowd that actually is allowed to respond, because the thing about the Sofar gigs is that they’re so quiet – they clap obviously, they’re very respectful – but it’s so great to have a crowd where you can feed off people immediately, so this will be the first time that we can do that.”
It’s great to see that OUTLYA already have booked some great festivals this year including Latitude, Kendal Calling and Barn on the Farm. Are you looking forward to getting back on the road and playing a lot this summer?
“Yeah we’ve got a lot of festivals that we’ve still yet to announce, which we’re very excited about. We can’t wait. As soon as we finish this tour, we go back to rehearse our full production which is what we’re taking around all the festivals, which is really fun.”
There has been a recurring message being broadcast on OUTLYA’s social media pages – Help is on its Way – what‘s the meaning behind this message?
“It’s pretty self explanatory, ‘Help is on its Way…’ We’re just trying to bring any small amount of help that we can.”
Blues and reds seem to be significant to OUTLYA’s aesthetic, is it just a love for primary colours or is there more to it?
“Well I’ve personally always thought that everything I’ve heard has always had a particular colour to it. I’m not synesthetic, I don’t think I am. But since I was a kid, I’ve always listened to something and thought that sounds more purple-y than that or whatever…It’s something that we’re hopefully going to carry on through all of the campaigns, all the songs. Each of those songs has a real colour and I feel like it just helps drill it home a bit. So ‘The Light’ is probably the angriest, most fevered song we have and that to me, in my head, has always been red. A bright red. ‘Higher’ is this more hazy greeny thing, so that made more sense. So you’ll just have to keep waiting to see what other colours [come next], until we run out of colours and then I don’t know what we’ll do.”
When the band first launched, you played a few surprise gigs and secret shows. To approach the debut shows in this way, did it help knowing that the audience would be made up of existing fans and people that are genuinely respectful to new music?
“Yeah it was really helpful, and they were the best people to try stuff on, by a mile. With these little secret shows that we’re doing, we’re hopefully going to keep on doing them but the main thing with them is that we want to…you know, what a lot of people say is that you’re trying to break down that barrier of being performer and artist and making it more about [the communal experience], what we’re calling it is, our ‘OUTLYA choir’. Having everyone involved singing is a big part of that because we’re playing with acoustic instruments, so there’s every more reason to make it a communal thing. We love that because there’s something so heart-warming about hearing loads of people singing all in unison, it’s so great.”
You’ve just released a new song – ‘Higher’, can you tell us more about the track – maybe not what it’s about but a story from the recording process?
“We recorded it up in a studio in Seven Sisters in London with our friend Dan Grech-Marguerat, he’s an amazing producer. He’s produced all of the songs that you’re going to hear throughout the year and hopefully we’ll be recording everything else with him because we love him. It’s really weird actually; ‘Higher’ was so easy to do, because a lot of the new songs we’d worked on from demos that we’d really laboured over and really tried to finesse. So by the time we went into the studio, it was a case of tweaking the odd bit and just getting everything sounding richer and sharper basically.
The only other thing I’d say about ‘Higher’ is that there was a good afternoon of Henry, Willem and I singing repeatedly, trying to make us sound like a choir because it’s a huge vocal sound in that song. There was no trickery behind it; it was just us doing it again and again and again, to get this huge sound. Sadly I don’t think I have any really funny stories about that one, other than, I think, there’s quite a lot of cutlery on it. Henry recorded a lot of cutlery percussion; he was really into a lot of the Beach Boys’ percussion.”
Every artist has their own reasons for why they do what they do, but what is it that drives OUTLYA to make music?
“It feels like it’s what we’re meant to do; it’s what I’ve always felt like I was meant to do and that’s a really lucky thing to have, to feel like you’re doing the thing that you want to be doing, the thing that you feel you’re supposed to be doing. I don’t feel like there’s anything else in the world that I should be doing – there’s a lot of struggle to it and there’s a lot of push and pull but it’s so rewarding and it makes me really happy. You know, I get to do shows and make other people happy, bringing a bit of happiness to someone else is such a valuable thing, I feel. I love the response you get from people, it’s pretty addictive.”
Yeah there’s nothing quite like it.
“Yeah there’s nothing like it at all. I think we just want to be making music that’s making people feel positive and [allowing] people to have a good time, that’s really it. I think that’s the reason most people do it.”
To wrap this interview up the right way, I think a good old fashioned random question round is called for.
The first instrument you learned to play?
“Piano. I learnt to play piano very early.”
A place you would like to visit?
A song that you know all the words to?
“Oh let me just check one on my phone…I’m really weird with words actually because I have a tendency to learn songs and then I won’t even realise I’ve learnt all the songs, sometimes the words seem so secondary to me.
Oh man, I need to think of this. I’m going through this list and I’m just like ‘I kinda know that song’. What do I know all the words to? Oh. ‘Wichita Lineman’ by Glen Campbell, I would say. That’s a good song. That’s the one I always think, that’s the song I want to sing at karaoke.”
What’s something interesting that happened to you when you were a kid that your band mates don’t know about?
“I ran into a wall once. That’s not very interesting but it was a fun trip to A&E, and it was only because I was chasing someone and I forgot to turn. I was so distracted that I went straight into a wall. It’s not very interesting, I’ll think of something else. They know quite a lot about me, they pretty much know everything about me so I don’t feel…there’s nothing I hide from them, that’s for sure. Nah, I don’t have a good answer for that question, sorry.”
A lyric that you’ve always wanted to write into a song but never had the courage to pull off?
“Well I have a bunch of lyrics in my phone that I always start and sometimes will blossom into something else.
Was the question am I embarrassed to put into a song?”
Just never had the courage to pull off, not embarrassed.
“There’s very few. To be fair there isn’t anything that makes me cautious about it, not anymore. I pretty much go for it now. [Scrolling through his phone] I’m just trying to find something that sounds interesting.
I’ve got a hook in my head that I’m going to work on later, that just is: ‘I’ve got some fresh blood in my veins / I’ve found some pleasure in the pain’ blah blah blah, hit single. That was one I was thinking of this morning.”
OUTLYA will be headlining Camden Assembly on Wednesday 26th April. The band can also be seen at festivals including Barn on the Farm, Kendal Calling and Bushstock this summer.