With a new Outcry Collective album currently in the works, Leeds Music Scene caught up with vocalist Steve Sitkowski, prior to the band's co-headlining UK tour with The Computers
You guys are particularly hard to pigeon-hole, but can you try and sum up a typical Outcry Collective song?
I'd say that our songs are typically high energy with lots of builds and releases. We don't ever follow a strict formula; we like to try new ideas - we tend to just either agree on an idea and see where it goes, or bin it immediately.
I read that you recorded your debut full-length, 'Articles', in a pig sty? Can you maybe elaborate on that a little?
I wish we'd lied and said it was an old sweet factory or car garage! But, yes, it was in
fact an old pig sty that we converted into a studio space. We built an internal wall with an air gap for soundproofing and decked it out with everything we needed in order to get the sound that we wanted. It's pretty cool and we actually shot our first video there for 'New Franchise Mess' before the conversion. There's footage of us constructing the studio on YouTube.
Outcry Collective seem to have come out of nowhere. Suddenly you're on Kerrang! compilation CDs, touring with The Ghost of a Thousand and Gay For Johnny Depp, and getting a big thumbs-up all around for your debut full-length, but Outcry Collective have been around since 2006. Can you share with us a little of the Outcry Collective story, pre-'Articles'?
We started off covering Rage Against The Machine and then just started to write our own stuff. We kept it up until we recorded an EP and put it out on the Signature Tune label. We toured relentlessly playing wherever we could until word got round to Visible Noise. They contacted us and saw us live and signed us. I know that some people might think we've just sprung up, but believe me we have worked hard to get to where we are right now.
'A Great Day For The Crows' has some pretty intriguing lyrics. What exactly is that song about?
Well, on the surface it's about an artist who lives in a mansion on top of a sleepy town before anyone reading this was born. He keeps himself locked inside and he spends all of his time painting and creating art. He becomes completely consumed in it and loses touch with reality and his confidence in his art. One night, in a frenzy, he burns down the wing where he keeps his work and kills himself in the fire. None of the townsfolk ever see his art, which is actually great and he loses out on the experience of being critiqued. Of course, looking back I think it was about my own fear of putting ourselves out there into the rock world... but what else are we gonna do?
What's the current status on album number two? Do you have any working titles to share with our readers? I read at your blog that recently you were concentrating on narrowing down 15 to 20 ideas for the next album...
Yesterday I laid down a demo vocal for a new song in a friend's studio. The other three are delivering me instrumentals at an alarming rate. It's crazy how fast they can come up with an initial idea and then build a song out of it! It takes me a lot longer to add my thing to it. We have some working titles right now that will change - 'Quarterback', 'Hangman' and 'Murder In The Woods'. I'm excited about the new stuff and how it will turn out.
What's your vision for album number two? How do you see it relating to 'Articles'? At your blog, you cite the quote 'if you risk nothing, you get nothing' as something that's particularly inspired you during this early recording process...
I think that most people who knew about our band - myself included - thought our first album would be a straight up hardcore album, which it isn't. This one won't be one either. We've had long talks on what we want from the second album, and are getting better at communicating and meeting each other on ideas. We try out ideas and sometimes there will be three of us who like it and one who can't stand it, so we move on. We all have very different personalities and all listen to a wide range of music. The future of this band and our music isn't bulletproof. We have to work together to keep the band on track. Right now, I'm excited for the album and hope it will be different to our first. I remember thinking when we were recording 'Articles' that I wanted to sound as raw as I could, because I knew that come the second album I would be approaching writing from a different angle. Things are different now - I'm in a different headspace, we have all grown up a lot and know a lot more about how the rock game works. I just want to put out some new music that the four of us all believe in...
Do you have a tentative release date for the new album?
There will be definitely be new Outcry Collective music out this year...
At the band's Facebook, you lend your support to the Save 6Music Campaign, which is currently lobbying to save the BBC's 'alternative' music radio station after a proposal to close the station was submitted to the BBC trust. Why do you think 6Music is important?
When that whole RATM/Facebook campaign happened last year I couldn't help but think that it was a reflection on how fucking lazy everyone has become in searching out music for themselves. You complain that we are being fed this bullshit throwaway music - but you can go and find out new music for yourselves! People want the comfort of knowing that what they are listening to is cool and that other people are on board. 6Music is important because it allows listeners access to music that isn't being pumped through the big media channels. Bands need support from the audiences now more than ever and there are some great bands out there that you just need to search after.
With the internet and alternative music channels on digital TV, do you think a dedicated radio station is still important for the alternative music scene?
Hell yeah - I remember being in school and listening to XFM because it was giving me genuine alternative music in the daytime. I would pretend to lean on my desk and listen to it in one ear. There is so much choice out there and it's vital we keep alternative stations on the air.
You've been nominated for the Best Live Act at the Emerging Talent Awards. Does it feel strange to be classed as 'emerging?' Outcry Collective has been around for four years, after all...
I think we are still emerging - just slow like a tank. We have been called 'the next best
thing' for so long and had our fair share of critical acclaim, but to me I'd much rather
have one person at our gigs, than have seven people debating our credibility over the
net. Bands come and go and we've been lucky to get this far. I'm not sure when a band is fully emerged - is it when they've sold a platinum record? Or headlined Reading Festival? Or become a household name? We're just doing what we've always done. We aren't ones to complain if things don't go our way and we don't put ourselves above any other band out there doing their thing. It's not a simple 1+1=2 equation - it's just a road we have to drive on to get wherever it is we're going.
Do you think it takes bands of your genre a longer gestation period, in order to hone your live performance and build up a fanbase? In more mainstream-friendly genres 'big name' acts seem to arrive one day, and disappear the next...
It's hard for people to go to a gig where the venue is near empty and not have the thought 'I might have made a mistake here' and it's hard for bands to get a crowd like that on their side. We have literally won over our fanbase one by one. I don't care so much about the guy covered in tattoos with a 'hardcore 101' book under his arm giving me a disapproving look, or a girl that wants to sleep with one of us because she saw us in a magazine. I care about the person that comes up to me at the end of the show with their eyes wired because they can see how much we put in to our music. It takes a long time for people to accept a band these days. I do it too - maybe I'll get a bad first impression of a band and then hear a song later down the line that makes me take a second look. The four of us didn't invent the electric guitar or rock 'n' roll - we're just doing our own take on it. If people don't like it that's fine, I won't take it personally because they don't know us. If we blow up big then I know it'll never be an overnight sensation. We've paved our way and I hope I'll be doing another interview with you next year...
Outcry Collective are based in Surrey. Is there much of a hardcore and punk scene in your hometown? Are there any other Surrey-based bands we should be taking note of?
I have people ask me about the hardcore scene all the time and it's very, very small. Most of the people involved in the scene are in bands themselves. It's very rare I see anyone in my town wearing a band shirt at all. I'm friends with a lot of Surrey-based bands. Off the top of my head - All Forgotten, Polar, Midgar, A Stranger in Moscow...
You contributed a remix of Bring Me The Horizon's 'Suicide Season' to 'Suicide Season - Cut Up.' How did that come about?
We were at the Visible Noise offices and we all came away with their latest releases like BMTH and old Lostprophets singles etc. I had only ever heard that BMTH were a love-them-or-hate-them kind of band. I listened to that album loads and I saw them play at the Camden Roundhouse last year. I was seriously impressed by what they'd created. Our drummer, Sam Burden, is also a producer and he spoke to Julie at Visible Noise about doing a remix. It was all him - he played it to me and I freaked out. I think it's really cool and is the definition of what a remix should be.
Can you see yourselves remixing any Outcry Collective songs in the future? Or allowing someone else to remix them?
The Ghost Frequency remixed 'New Franchise Mess' when we put that out, and I liked that. We fully encourage people to remix our stuff and put it on DJ playlists in clubs. We could remix our stuff easily, but at the moment we're focusing on new music.
The British hardcore scene seems to be flourishing at the moment; Rolo Tomassi, The Ghost of a Thousand, Dead Swans, The Computers, Blakfish, The Dead Formats, all of whom you've also toured with. What do you think is behind this sudden explosion in British-based hardcore talent?
I put it down to passion - all of those bands have it. I've seen all those bands numerous times and I back all of them. It's a very poor time to be in a band right now, but I'd be honoured to be mentioned with those bands in a few years time when people look back on who was around, carrying the torch.
From your Myspace, Facebook and blog posts, it seems the band are pretty good friends with some of the other British hardcore bands you've toured with. Do you think there's a special sense of community, among the hardcore fraternity?
When you tour with bands you tend to form very strong relationships very quickly. The hardcore scene can be very snobbish and it's ironic that the bands themselves tend to stay out of it. Some of the nicest people I know are in hardcore bands. I've had a lot of bands stay in touch and if they are on tour and are nearby, I'll go watch them play and normally have them back to mine to chill and crash.
And, finally, what can we expect from Outcry Collective in 2010?
We're off on tour with our friends The Computers and then off with Young Guns. We've known them for years and did our first ever tour with them so that will be good. We'll be playing some festivals and will probably be on the road for most of it. We will put out new music, I promise!
Thanks for taking an interest. Peace, Steve