Features Outfit: ‘We Had This Ultimate Freedom’

How Liverpudlians with limitless room forged one of the year’s most exciting debuts.

It might only be a year or two since word started circuiting around Liverpool band Outfit, but already there's a mythology about how they came about. It's easy to shrug off, if you're a cynic. The story involves a big, open space, full of local artists and musicians, all taking advantage of the cheap rent. It was named 'The Lodge' by its inhabitants. The space features on the very front of Outfit's debut album, 'Performance'. The cover shows a transformed studio area the band helped put together - gawking material for architecture obsessives, it should be added - standing above the square of land that all these bright, bubbling talents spent month upon month working within.

As tales go, it could easily be romanticised. But 'The Lodge''s importance isn't being understated anytime soon by chief songwriter Andrew Hunt. 'I’d look back on it and consider those years some of the best times of my life,' he states, citing how 'we had this ultimate freedom and space. Which really, for our band, is pretty essential to what we wanted to do.'

Strange individuals were afforded comfort for their curiosities. 'The Lodge' essentially acted as a meeting ground for oddballs with a cause. Andrew had been writing songs for years, none of which were especially cut-out for Outfit. He then spent time with David Berger, production whizz, who in turn was working alongside Thomas Gorton on a techno project. Somehow these existing strands collided for 'Performance'. Asked if Outfit would be the same melancholic pop straddlers they are today, without this backing, Andrew thinks out loud: 'Erm… I wonder. I’m not quite sure if we’d have been a band or if we’d have been individual performers… We’d probably still be a band, but maybe not as good.'

Space didn't just allow Hunt and co to go wild with their musical extremes. When the time came, Outfit were also lent shelter, so to speak, away from a flock of new fans. Cursory uploads of their debut songs weren't exactly left to rot. It was the opposite. The attention was instant, and in relative terms intense. 'People were meeting us saying ‘I think you’re the best guitar band for the last ten years’. I was like, ‘what the fuck are you talking about?’'

'Performance' is concerned with identity, location, or lack of either or both. The words themselves - 'Outfit' and 'Performance' - give impressions of disguise, putting on a show. Similarly, Andrew and the rest of the band all moved to London together last year to write the bulk of the record. Dislocation seeped in - 'We found ourselves quite displaced [in London]. The LP is bitty in the same way that our lives were a bit bitty.' - and emotionally there's a tugging feeling that defines the album, linked to all of this. 'This band’s always had a sense of straddling a melancholy feeling with this optimism,' says Andrew. Missing home, or loved ones, or taking a bold step - these can be judged in two different lights. 'Any point in your life where you’re dissatisfied with something is actually a point of potential. It’s a point where you could change something and everything could be different. And that in itself is quite an optimistic point to reach.'

It took a move back to Liverpool for Outfit to find their comfort again. Over the previous winter they put finishing touches on the LP. Percussion wasn't just a link in the chain. The sounds of stepping on hay in a field, the grind of a skateboard on concrete - these were all meticulously recorded and thrown into the album to make it 'more human'. Every crunching, attention-grabbing sound on the record is exact. Andrew admits it's 'nothing new', that it's something several producers spend months obsessing over. But he stresses how 'we didn’t want to sound boring and stuck. Some bands use a big studio and a lot of money to make things sound quite bland.' Naturally, 'The Lodge' was key to avoiding this.

The band might not get so lucky next time. The landlord, who owns the space, could be cottoning on. Especially if Andrew constantly details the area's perks for new musicians like him in interviews such as these. 'We’re at the mercy of a lot of other things. The landlord... As much as he’s a nice guy and something of a philanthropist for us, he could make more money out of it and probably should.'

Territory, time and all their added bonuses aren't something Outfit can necessarily get used to either. They're kicking routine by spending the next couple of months apart, post debut-release. Since the band formed, each member hasn't really spent a minute apart from the other. Looking to the long-term yet again, a quick sabbatical is required. Andrew neatly declares: 'I think we all need a little bit of space and time to readjust, time to find those identities we all talk about so much.' It's in Outfit's nature to attempt things at their own pace. So far it's paying off.

Outfit's 'Performance' is out now.

Tags: Outfit, Features

Your subscription could not be saved. Please try again.
Your subscription has been successful.

Stay updated!

Get the best of DIY to your inbox each week.