Outfit’s ‘Performance’ is one of Clash’s favourite British debut albums of 2013 so far. Come to think of it, it’s one of our favourite LPs of this year, full stop. The Liverpool five-piece’s debut ticks those boxes marked ‘potential being wonderfully realised’, ‘genuinely offering something new’, and ‘in a way, they make us think of The Beta Band, and that’s only ever a good thing’.
The band’s Andrew Hunt (vocals, synths, guitar) provides a listen-alongside-it*, track-by-track guide to the album (Clash review here), below.
(*‘Performance’ is streaming over at the Guardian website, if you’re into that sort of thing.)
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I started making this track drunk very late in the evening after seeing Kindness play at the 100 Club. I wanted to try and make the percussion track solely from these samples of skateboards and footsteps, and the sound of an orchestra tuning up seemed pretty perfect for the beginning of a record as well. I took it round to Tom’s (Gorton, vocals and synths) the next morning and he was so excited about it, so we started working on it together straight away. Tom wrote these lyrics about friendship and finding joy in realising that everything's going to be all right. The sun streamed in through the window, we had no worries and it felt like the beginning of something.
‘I Want What’s Best’ (video below)
This was written pretty late on in the album-making process, once we'd established a pretty solid way of working. I pilfered the beat from a techno track I’d started making months beforehand, and again I was experimenting with having drone elements running through the whole song and building the progressions around them. When Tom and I worked on the melody and lyrics together it somehow transformed from a Cluster-esque Eno-y thing into something resembling a single. Which is a pretty good example of why it’s good to work with each other.
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‘House On Fire’
This started life as a much slower, almost James Holden-ish electronic loop which I had mostly trashed until Tom heard it and was determined to turn it into a song. I’m obsessed with the chord progression and constantly play it on the piano both in real life and in my head.
‘Performance’ (video below)
I wrote this song to a pretty tight concept, inspired by a performance piece my girlfriend saw where everyone had been given a fake name and occupation and had to stay in character all night. It was originally going to be just keyboard and vocals, in a kind of ‘Chance Meeting’, Roxy Music sort of style, but then we were lent a broken reel-to-reel machine and Dave (Berger, drums and production) and I started getting these weird gurgling sounds from it which we paired with a dislocated drum beat, and we totally reinvented the song. This is the track we argued the most over.
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My favourite song on the album. The sequence of notes is so beautiful: I’ve been trying to get it into a song for years. It reminds me of Blonde Redhead or something, it has a kind of almost baroque harmony which I love. The atmosphere with the lyrics forms kind of an existentialist ballad all about the ways in which we hide ourselves from the world. That quest for identity is there for most people in their 20s, and is pretty central to what Outfit are about. Chris’s (Hutchinson, bass) bassline is also pretty creepy.
A song about our time spent in the Lodge (where members of Outfit lived for a while – a mansion-proportioned place, with room for plenty of mates), hanging out with a very tight-knit group of good people and having a lot of fun, but ultimately longing to do something different and grow. It is a kind of nostalgic song for a time you loved but had to leave. It’s also probably got the most visceral section on the whole album in the middle of it, where we're channelling the more ‘heads down’ side of our psych influences into this propulsive kinda jam bit.
A song with a simple elegance, which made a lot of sense to us as we were coming to the end of making the album. It was recorded around the same time as ‘I Want What’s Best’, and by then we had a pretty good idea of what sounds we liked and wanted use more of. We added old drum machine sounds, Kate Bush toms, and a creaky door ‘solo’ to Tom’s heartbroken demo and we were done. It came together very easily.
‘Thank God I Was Dreaming’
This song was taken from our original pool of album material, some of which made it and some of which didn’t, written in London last May. It’s maybe the most overtly dance-influenced song here. The beats came from a lot of the music we were listening to at the time – the double kick drum thing and lots of loose bits of percussion, it sounds like it’s just about hanging together. I sent it to Tom whilst he was away in Spain and he wrote these beautiful verses all about being afraid of what happens when you sleep, afraid of the truth of it all. We ended up using some of the lyrics on the back cover of the album, as they were probably the most emblematic of the optimistic melancholy that Outfit try to describe.
‘The Great Outdoors’
This was another fairly late addition to the album, once we’d regrouped after scattering over Christmas. It came together very fast and has some of Nick’s (Hunt, guitar) most beautiful guitar on it, played by blowing on the strings. It makes a really beautiful languid sound, which is psychedelic in the way in which we were constantly aiming for during the recording process. The lyrics are a dreamy vision of independence and escapism. I think the chorus is one of the most uplifting things ever.
‘Two Islands’ (original, 2011 video below)
Our first-ever single and the oldest track on the album, this was the song which made people aware of us, and also the song which for us helped solidify an idea of what Outfit was. Discontent and anxiety turned poignant and life affirming, the lyrics are still probably the most personal and important on the album for me. It was also the song which established Nick’s guitar style which has been an incredibly important part of our sound ever since.
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