Interview: Niam, Dave and Dan - THE OUTSIDERS
For a New Zealand band to tour Australia is relatively easy if there is any modicum of determination within that band. But when the same band manages to tour Europe and America (twice), play at one of Punk's most notable and respected festivals (twice), release superb records and gain a record release on an American label, that band becomes something of a rarity. Then, add to the fact that same band doesn't rely on an affluent manager while remaining a bunch of really neat people, and you are looking at a band that is doing this whole Punk thing for the right reasons - experience, good times, great sounds and no fucking corporate intervention.
Here is what New Zealand's finest - The Outsiders - have to say....
..First off, as many readers may be new to THE OUTSIDERS, just tell us of the bands history. Various members of the band have been in some notable NZ bands of the past mainly Niam and Stu in RITALIN and Dan and Dave in NOT QUITE RIGHT. What are you hoping to achieve with THE OUTSIDERS that those bands failed to do?
..Niam) I remember Dan, Stu and I were sitting on my balcony drinking Scrumpy, smoking and listening to SAMIAM and were thinking, "Man, we need to start a band that honours the spirit of SAMIAM," and that is what happened... heh. But seriously I think we all wanted to do something a bit more melodic after doing bands that were more Hardcore for many many years. We set out to focus on songwriting and write the best songs we could rather than just play super fast or go crazy; in other words we got old haha.
..Dan) Im not sure that achieving played a part of me wanting to play in THE OUTSIDERS. I just wanted to play as much music as possible with like minded people.
..Dave) Dan, Stu and Niam started the band mid-2008 and then I joined a few months after they had demoed the songs for the first EP. From what I could tell, they formed out of the need to get drunk, eat pizza and sing about girls hahaha! We are currently based in Wellington and Niam in UK (and soon to be Melbourne). We have always had a good ethic of trying to be on the road as much as possible and play to as many new audiences as possible, sharing our love of music and cheap booze with the world if you will. I would like to think THE OUTSIDERS have appeal to a wider audience than our previous two bands.
..Youve just released a new EP Shallow Graves. How is this as a progression on the previous The Words Will Write Themselves album?
..Niam) I would say the songs on this EP are a bit more refined and maybe the fat has been trimmed a bit. With some of the album songs I think maybe they dragged on slightly or were sort of epic; I think this is more straight up Post-Punk or Pop-Punk with songs three minutes or less. Just some good solid songs.
..Dan) I liked our approach to this EP. It was recorded by us at home, we spent a fraction of the dollars that what we did on the album but spent a lot of time getting it to sound exactly how we wanted it too. The songs flowed rather than being pushed as we were on a schedule with The Words Will Write Themselves.
..Dave) We stripped it back again and recorded at home. We had a few more songs we were going to do but decided to stick to the ones we felt were the strongest so I guess in terms of progression these songs are a better representation of us.
..Most of your lyrics tend to focus on the personal rather than the political. That correct? Why do you tend to eschew politics - especially in light that both RITALIN and NOT QUITE RIGHT had a political/ social sentiment to their lyrics?
..Niam) I dont think there is a huge lyrical difference. I think it is just less in your face with THE OUTSIDERS. When I was writing songs for RITALIN, I was becoming politically aware and was angry; as I have gotten older some of the things that have affected me the most have been personal issues but I would not say that I shy away from the political. I have songs on all the records we have released that are about alienation and basically feeling completely disgusted with the way the world works but it is on more of a personal level and how it affects people in their day to day lives rather than hitting out at corporations of governments. For example Waiting In Line is about wage slavery and the futility of living within this system and Walk Away has a similar theme. I think the politics are still there - they are just not as in your face as they were in our previous bands.
..Dan) In NOT QUITE RIGHT I wrote with specific situations in mind. It was find a subject, then write about it. These days I tend to just write... I can write a page of lyrics and only by reading back actually find out what Im writing about.
..Dave) Ill leave this up to the other guys but like I said before, from what I can tell, the band formed out of singing from the personal and has carried thru.
..The big news of late for the band is that you have signed to US label, Anchorless Records in Brooklyn, New York. How did that deal come about? Has that, or might that, lead to any kind of European release too?
..Niam) Neil who runs Anchorless Records saw us on our first US tour and we stayed in contact. I kept talking to him for around a year and he eventually agreed to put out a full length for us in the United States. He has been great and has helped us with a lot of publicity in the US. He is also going to put us on the split 7" series that they are doing that has involved bands like DEAD TO ME and THE FLATLINERS. It is a great series anyway so people should check it out. The album is available worldwide through ULC Distribution, apart from in New Zealand where we are working with Deadboy Records; in fact Australia may be excluded as well I am unsure. But Europe/UK/Japan yes you can get it through various distributors and probably some stores.
..Dave) From what I remember, Niam was shopping our songs around a few places and Neil at Anchorless was interested in working with us on the next release, which was 'Shallow Graves'. We havent discussed what length of time the "contract" is for Neil runs a relaxed ship and is a pleasure to work with.
..For a NZ band, you guys have been incredibly active internationally, having toured not only NZ and Australia but also Europe, UK and America. Youve just finished your second tour of the US that included your second appearance at The Fest. Given you have no manager, how have you achieved so much guess you did it the old fashioned way of networking yeah?
..Niam) It is by sheer hard work and determination. I dont think most bands would go through what we put up with - we have a thick skin heh!! And yeah, it is hard without a manager but there are a lot of great people out there in the scene that make it possible to do DIY tours. If it was not for people putting on shows or giving us a place to stay it would not be possible, so yeah, networking and making friends the old fashioned way is how it is possible. This way of doing things has enabled us to have some great experiences and meet some amazing people; we have been prepared to put ourselves on the line and that is the only thing that has enabled us to do it. I am sure that anyone could do it if they were prepared to lose their jobs/homes/girlfriends and be drunk most of the time but yeah, you gotta be in to win, if winning is what you call what we do.
..Dave) Yeah man, it's been all about Niam and Stu sending out thousands of emails and maybe hearing back from a quarter of them. Also with each trip we meet amazing people that are able to help us out each time we go back to a place I cant speak highly enough of all the wonderful new friends we have made that have helped us out in some way or another.
..During those travels youve played with some well-known bands. You must have some good stories to tell tell us a few! Any bands youve become particularly close to? And some of them must have been complete arseholes you brave enough to name names??
..Niam) All the major bands we have played with have been really lovely and down to earth interesting people. The only attitude I have really got is from smaller local bands who think they are the shit because they are popular in their hometown but actually have no clue of what it is about playing in a band. You can just laugh and walk away from those types of people though.
..Dan) Im pretty happy to say I havent met many arseholes in bands that are actually out and about touring etc. Its a common boat and there isnt room for treading on toes. I dont stay in close contact with many bands but there are definitely a few which are always fun to bump in to.
..Dave) On our first trip to Europe we played a couple of shows with THE DOPAMINES in Germany and Belgium and always try to catch up with them whenever we can when we have been in the US. This last trip to US we did quite a few shows with COBRA SKULLS, NOTHINGTON and ELWAY so we got to hang out and get to know those guys which was rad. Also this band SHADY AVE from Pennsylvania, we have spent many nights/days partying with those dudes as well.
Hahaha... Stories to tell... Hmmm... Here's some brief mentions of things we have encountered along the many travels eating alligator sausages, drinking moonshine at some shack of a house, getting kicked out of frat parties for not fitting in, discovering four loco and high gravity beers, getting a lice infestation, mistakenly drinking urine out of a beer bottle, drinking 100 beers on a rider, stealing NOFXs chicken and booze, living off two potatoes and bread a day, pissing in bottles and throwing up in bags in a car, eating mushrooms at 9am then walking round a city, driving all night in a snow storm white out, spending our last dollars on booze and slot machines... Lots of good hazy memories. I'm sure the others can add to the list of stupidities haha!!!
..As mentioned, youve played your second Fest gig. Did you find any differences from last year when you were Fest Virgins to this years Fest where you could say you were experienced Festers? Tell us what that whole weekend is like from a band perspective, highlights, lowlights etc etc. And, which one of ya is going to put his balls on the line and admit to winning the affections of the most groupies??
..Niam) I guess we knew what to expect the second time we played and our show was better. I think it sold out which is really good. I guess the word had spread a bit about us so a few more people checked it out the second time. That said, I actually think one of my favourite memories of playing music was at the first Fest when the guys from STRIKE ANYWHERE came down and watched our entire set. Thomas came on stage and congratulated us afterwards... That was so great because I respect that band and those guys so much. I think we all had girlfriends this time around but the drummer from DILLINGER FOUR did try and hit on my girlfriend in a totally sleazy, "I'm a rockstar she can come with me and hang out but you can't," kind of way if that helps.
..Dave) Its a crazy weekend - you have to pace yourself. Definitely playing this year was a noticeable difference there were people singing along and enjoying the set even tho we played at 2pm. The venue we played reached capacity so that was awesome. Seeing a lot of our friends we met on tour at Fest was pretty cool it just gives you more people to get into trouble with.
Only low point being not able to drink on the last day cos I was too ill from drinking NOTHINGTON's rider the night before. If you ever get the chance or are even thinking about going I thoroughly recommend it
..Tell us about the problems you had with the van breaking down. Did that jeopardise the tour - or were you stranded in the middle of the Midwest with no way out?
..Niam) That was a horrible time. We were stranded in Laramie, Wyoming which is pretty much as middle of nowhere as you can get in the US. It is like a cowboy town or something! All eight of us that stayed in one dive motel room and it was snowing. We were very fortunate friends/fans on the internet donated money to us otherwise, yes, we may have had to cancel the last two weeks of the tour. We drove for around 30 hours straight when we got the new vehicle - a lot of it in a snowstorm on closed roads. I thought I was going to die - there were trucks falling off the road in front of us and behind us.
..Dave) The van was having a few problems for a couple of weeks leading up to and after Fest we had blown out three or four tyres and had it towed in Gainesville to get the alternator fixed. Then when we were driving thru Wyoming the cab filled with smoke so we had to pull over; got it towed to a mechanic and turns out the transmission had fried itself. So we ended up spending the night (and missing an awesome show in San Francisco) in small town Laramie deciding what to do.
It was gonna cost more that the van was worth to fix so we sold it for enough to get a rental back to the West Coast so at least we could fly home early if needed, or work something out. By the time we had got to West Coast enough of our friends/fans/family had donated enough for us to rent a new car for the remaining two weeks truly amazing and I want to thank them all.
..What differences are immediately apparent between playing in NZ when compared with either the US or the UK? What about on a personal level you find you are treated any differently being an NZ band? How often, and how pissed off does it make you, when you are considered Australian??
..Niam) Touring overseas is always more of an adventure as we do not know what to expect. In NZ, we know most people involved with the scene and we have played everywhere a million times so we know what to expect.
People always seem pretty interested that we are from NZ; it is like a novelty I think which makes us stand out a little bit more than the average touring band. This band ELWAY we toured with called us Exotic White Guys so I think that is a fair assumption of how people see us. Some people have no idea of the difference between NZ and Australia but it does not bother me that much. Overall I think people are not that different around the world, a dirty Punk show is a dirty Punk show right?
..Dan) I didnt find anywhere in the world that was too different from playing in NZ. Overseas you play the odd bigger show but most of them arent that much bigger than NZ shows. In Europe a venue will feed you, put up a bunch of booze and give you somewhere to stay - I wish we had more of that in NZ! I was never mistaken for an Aussie, but logistically, I dont know where most of the states are in the US, so I dont think I can be pissed off at their ignorance.
..Dave) Immediately different? Probably how into live bands the people are I mean we were playing most nights and there would be people out; you couldnt do that in NZ. Also different was Stus brother Tom was filling in because Dan didnt come away with us.
I think people from NZ have a pretty warped perspective on what the US is like. Across the board we have been so well looked after by all the people we met along the way, some of whom we only met at the end of the show and said we needed a place to crash.
Hahaha pretty sure we admitted we were Australian a few times to save explaining ourselves. It's more draining hearing everyday someone say, "Oh, New Zealand! Thats where Lord Of The Rings was filmed," or, "thats where Flight Of The Conchords are from!"
..Ha - I guess the Conchords thing would be pretty fucking weakening. The US tour you have just completed was quite a massive journey even for an American band, let alone one from NZ. After over 40 days on the move, travelling, touring and playing, what is the 'come down' like when you return home? You find you are having trouble re-settling into life in NZ, or are the emotions of seeing family and friends enough to over power the post-tour blues?
..Niam) I travelled after the tour to the UK, but yeah, it is hard to try and settle back in. I think it fucks with your head doing a tour like that and it does take a bit of readjustment. I think you always crave that adventure when you come back but sometimes when you are on tour you crave coming home so it is a weird situation for sure.
..Dave) Yeah... I think it was 45 shows over two months in the end. To be honest, even after being back for a month, it hasnt really sunk in that we are home and not running off to play the next night. You get into a rhythm it's weird to be back doing "normal" stuff. I've had a lot of trouble sleeping; it's actually relaxing to be back at work haha!! But hey, we gotta work so we can continue doing this each year.
It was real cool to come back and do a show with Dan again and play a different set of songs instead of the ones we had been bashing out on the road.
..Tell us a bit about life in New Zealand. Whats the Punk scene like in your opinion?
..Niam) I think the Punk scene in NZ goes in ebbs and flows. It is nowhere near as big as it was ten years ago when 600 people or more would go to a SOMMERSET show. Punk achieved mainstream popularity for a while and it was the cool thing, but it is not the in-vogue thing anymore so there are less bands and people involved. I think it is getting stronger again though; I feel like more people are starting to come out to shows again but people seriously need to get off their ass and get involved - that is the only way it will get really strong again. I think NZ music follows trends too much, I just find Dubstep mainstream pop and electro pop that they call "Indie" these days really boring for the most part, so I listen to Punk/Hardcore/Rock music and go to shows. I like music with passion and heart.
..Dave) It's hard to play in a "Punk" band in NZ and feel like youre making any sort of progress. I mean, you can play week in week out but I think you need to spread your wings to keep your sanity. I would love to see more local bands travelling overseas.
I'm not sure what the "scene" is in NZ. It's hard to find any bands similar to what we are doing which is why it's also great to get overseas.
..NZ has a history of continually excellent and inspiring Punk bands be it 77 Punks SCAVENGERS through to HENCHMEN, STICKY FILTH, D4, FLESH D-VICE, SOMMERSET, RIOT 111 and a myriad of other names. Does the influence of these bands have any relevance to THE OUTSIDERS? Do you feel the influence of these bands is still felt in the broader spectrum of Kiwi Punk today?
..Niam) I think SOMMERSET was one of our main inspirations for starting this band and looking to take it out of NZ; they are one of the only bands in NZ from the Punk scene we can relate too who have toured heavily and actually done quite well overseas. I think their presence will always be felt in the NZ Punk scene. They were a big inspiration for us. I love D4, STICKY FILTH and some of the early NZ Punk bands as well, so yeah, it is all a part of history. I don't know if people still feel the influence or not but I do; the history of music is incredibly important and more people should seek out who their favourite bands were influenced by.
..Dan) SOMMERSET was always very inspirational; seeing an NZ Punk band with 400+ people at a show in Wellington was amazing!
..Dave) I have to agree; SOMMERSET was a definite big influence when we were younger, they were "the big band".
..Given New Zealands isolation, do you feel this has hindered the progress of Kiwi bands when compared with their European and American counterparts? Could this ostracism be seen as a positive - in the sense that Kiwi bands are maybe that much less influenced by the outside world and form a tighter unit within New Zealand itself?
..Niam) I think it is definitely harder for NZ bands to tour and achieve success than bands from the US or Europe because bands in those areas can tour and network with more people and have the chance to play in front of more people. NZ is isolated - there is no getting around that! There are less opportunities to make a living off music or tour heavily in NZ. NZ music is strangely competitive for how small it is. It would be great if people worked together more and realised the reality of the situation of playing music here. One thing that is great in NZ is that bands can be very original and not influenced so much by the outside world, can make for some extremely creative music that is quite unique I think; so that is pretty special.
..Dan) With the internet Im not sure that there is isolation in terms of musical influence. It makes it harder to tour as its difficult to make money here and it costs a lot to get overseas but lots of bands have done it so its not impossible.
..Dave) NZ puts out bands that can hold their own against any of the overseas conterparts I wouldnt say it has hindered the song writing, but maybe in terms of being heard on a greater level its a lot harder to get the music out to the rest of the world.
..Coming off music, what are your thoughts on NZ being part of the Commonwealth? You happy with Queen Liz being Head Of State, or would you prefer to see NZ break free and be independent? Do you ever see a day when that may happen, or is the Royal Tradition too deeply ingrained in the average New Zealander?
..Niam) I think NZ should break free. Royalty is a stupid concept to me and I have no time for it. NZ should get away from that horribly boring family and their influence.
..Dave) I would like to think we could ditch the Queen, hopefully one day we can be independant.
..Dan) Id like to see a new flag for NZ. Im not informed enough to make the big calls but Ive always thought the Commonwealth was out-dated.
..Whats life like in Wellington? Is there much homelessness, poverty, crime etc? Ever thought of making the move to Auckland? What about overseas? Ever see a day when the band especially in light of you now having a US deal and the recent tour may consider a move to the States?
..Niam) I am actually moving to Melbourne for a while, and yeah, it would be great to relocate but people have their own lives and you can't base it all around a band when you have a lot of other things going on.
..Dave) I like Wellington; it will always be home. We have talked about relocating Niam, as he has said, is probably going to be living in Melbourne next year. Dan has a family and is studying here at the moment. I would probably prefer moving to the States over Aussie.
..Dan) I like Wellington but if I was gonna move itd be to Europe I think. The US is fun for a trip but I couldnt see myself living there.
..Thoughts on the re-election of National's John Key as NZ Prime Minister?
..Niam) Fuck John Key, people are stupid. I think people should have more backbone with their beliefs rather than changing government because one party has been in power too long.
..What are the best and worst aspects of life in New Zealand?
..Niam) Best is the natural beauty, relaxed atmosphere and easy going lifestyle. NZ is a great relaxing place to live. Worst aspects not enough bands come to tour here, small mindedness and naivety of people who have not actually ever travelled away from the Islands. NZ is very isolated which obviously has many pros and cons.
..Dan) Its a beautiful country. I think low wages need to come up or the cost of living needs to come down.
..Dave) Best its an island and you can get to the beach pretty easily worst its so far from everywhere else.
..If you could change one thing about New Zealand, what would it be and why?
..Niam) Tall Poppy attitudes. People should be celebrated for achieving not berated. NZ culture has an underlying inferiority complex in many ways I think.
..Dan) It would be nice if there were more opportunities for people to increase their standard of living.
..Dave) Haha - More NY style pizza!
..A fun question... You can travel back to any period of time. When would it be, and why?
..Niam) Maybe the 1980s so I can hang and wear hypo-coloured t shirts and watch great films like Teen Wolf at the cinema.
..Dan) Can you take stuff back? Can you interact with your surroundings? Shit... Ive over thought it.
..Dave) 80s see SLAYER in their prime
..I believe guitarist/ vocalist Dan also does a solo project. Can you tell us a bit about that? When writing songs, what differences are the between a song for THE OUTSIDERS, and one for the solo project? Any other members of the band involved in other projects I believe Dave also drums in another band too?
..Dan) Its Bluegrass sorted stuff, banjo, fiddle resonator etc. It doesnt get confusing when writing, it depends on what Im feeling like playing on a specific day. Its pretty nice to have such contrasting genres to write for!
..Dave) It just means we have to be more organised when booking shows etc to make sure things arent clashing. And yup, I play with metal band EVIL IN EDEN.
..So, after the American tour, what are the future plans of THE OUTSIDERS? Another album? You guys prolific when it comes to song writing? Any more tours?? Will there be any kind of change in direction when a new record comes out?
..Niam) I believe we are going to tour NZ and Australia as much as we can this year and of course we would love to go back to Europe and the US but it is all about having enough money to do that. We are re-recording the song My Answer and making a video for it. I am not sure about new material at this point.
..Dave) Build on previous tours and get back to Aussie, Europe, US and hopefully incorporate Canada as well. New album or EP we are starting to write / basic demos at the moment.
..Anything you want to add?
..Niam) Thanks for reading and please come out and hang out at some shows it is always fun. If anyone is interested please check us out on facebook and you can listen to all of our releases streaming at bandcamp.
..Dave) Thanks for the interest in what we are up to.