Outright is a fierce and politically charged hardcore unit out of Melbourne, Australia. Rarely is a band so perfectly named... the “outright” immediacy of the confrontational five piece’s new 7” Holler is a necessity, a scathing indictment of the times we find ourselves collectively living in.
Since 2014’s stellar full-length Avalanche, they’ve undergone lineup changes and have re-emerged with what’re easily their best and most cohesive songs. Holler is a master class in pissed off, straight ahead hardcore. There are tasteful changes of pace, blasts of furious and punk-fueled guitar leads, scuzzy bass riffs, and monstrous backing vocals. They do mid-paced stomp seemingly as well as light-speed, all stop a whip-smart and hyper literate canvas. Breakdowns that avoid the Cro-Magnon chest-beating variety, instead feel like opportunities to brutally flatten and confront the lyrical targets of the band. Between the crystalline recording by Mike Deslandes at the Aviary in Victoria and the always superb mastering by Brad Boatright at Audiosiege, Holler is a testament to Outright’s strengths and their message.
It’s lyrically that the band truly set themselves apart, joining a legacy of bands unafraid to put their words into practice via activism and direct action. Neo-Fascism, street harassment, consent, and the toxicity of the fragile male ego all get blitzed and dissected in but a dozen minutes. Topically, they address problems that are sadly as pervasive as hardcore itself. It is, however, empowering to find international solidarity within the confines of the scene. After a cursory listen, the parallels to ongoing issues here in the States are glaringly similar. In a climate of emboldened hate-mongers, racism, and male entitlement, Outright has forcibly stepped up in their scene as flag bearers for justice... Hardcore style. I was lucky enough to catch up with Outright, whom I’m forever grateful for. It’s bands like this that remind me that I can do more, be better, shut up and listen, and grow. Check it.
For many readers, and certainly myself, the scene in Australia is a mystery. What’s the scene like in Melbourne and Australia at large? How has it changed in the 7 years you’ve been a band?
The scenes fluctuate so much over time. I find it interesting to witness as we constantly negotiate the intersections between DIY and industry, grass roots vs hype, youth vs experience, scarcity and abundance, and the variations of style that dominate in each era. Luckily for us, we've always been able to position ourselves neatly amongst those folds and waves thanks to our diverse backgrounds and interests, and also quite independently from the whims of broader influence due to our grounded and proactive nature. We saw pub culture revert to nightclubs and back again as venues come and go and the crowds age or shift in purpose. The DIY presence has always been active and strong but crowd numbers vary - interestingly, they drop hardest due to apathy after scenes become so spoilt by key people doing all the work. Australia's geographic isolation affects the number of domestic and international tours that come through but each capital city and some regional centres still keep things moving.
The scene in Melbourne at the moment is running strong. There is so much diversity and a lot of really exciting and creative bands pushing boundaries. Melbourne has enough artists to host too many multiple gigs per night of the same taste and calibre but, luckily, mixed bills are coming back to popularity and the individualised factions dominating our past are crossing over with each other to really break down barriers and keep shows interesting. Hardcore, punk, metal, crust, power violence, street punk, arty post-punk, noise, indie and emo bands will often share the stage and band members. Benefit shows and charity initiatives are abundant to bring community together and we're seeing so many more exciting marginalised voices come to the fore. It's a great time to be loud and to listen!
Political music has always appealed to me. Where’d that interest initially come from? The Holler EP as well as your previous work directly addresses the problems of street harassment, domestic violence, consent and abuse. I’d love to hear more about that (anything you feel comfortable discussing, promoting, etc.) Locally, we have organizations like Hollabackgirl! and Safer Spaces, both of which promote direct action.
Me too! I think because it offers us ideas that elevate songs to more than just music. There's an added energy and urgency to it. A relevance that makes the song so much more real, present and engaging because the content actually affects or educates us.
The interest to include politics in our music is really a result of two things: our punk roots and my own thoughts and feelings which are always fundamentally driven by politics — the personal is inherently political after all.
A lot of Outright's political content comes naturally as a person with lived experience as a woman who is sharing her stories and reflections. I guess it also helps having inspiration from what I think and see as an activist and public servant in this space (I'm a Senior Policy Advisor in Family Violence and Sexual Assault at the Department of Justice). It took a really long time for me to find a way to express myself so it's really important to me that I use this band for that purpose (and for connecting with others), especially since the music provides such a catharsis for the pain and frustration within and offers me so much healing in return.
What’s the political/social climate like for your area?
The climate in my area is particularly hot for discussion and action on topics like these. The state of Victoria, in particular, recently held a Royal Commission into Family Violence which government is still heavily implementing after committing to all 227 recommendations. The #metoo movement has encouraged a lot of frank and courageous expression and great sense of solidarity in support. Last year, Australia voted to support same sex marriage too which is now finally enshrined in law, and there has been a tragic and dangerous uprising of white patriot movements against which we remain vigilant — though it can be exhausting when our own government is sending refugee children to offshore detention and ignores them when they set themselves on fire. Australia's Aboriginal heritage represents the longest surviving civilisation on the planet and yet generational trauma, systemic racism and continuing colonisation affects the community in heartbreaking ways to the detriment of us all. These issues (to name only a few) cut at our identities and our own safety and well being. It's all too real to ignore and we're far too angry to let them slip by unnoticed.
As I’m sure you’re well aware, we’re having problems with Neo-fascism in the US emboldened by a terrifying administration. “Defeat / Repeat” seems to confront that ideology head-on. What’s the inspiration for that particular track? What’s the political state in Melbourne like?
My heart breaks for your communities, particularly the marginalised who are watching their brutal histories repeated before them like we learned nothing at all. You're right, "Defeat / Repeat" was inspired by exactly that. The images of those tragic parades shook me and I became furious at how our apathy has returned us back to this (or simply resurfaced what never left us!).
Sadly, that behavior is being copied here. Groups like the United Patriots Front antagonize and attack vulnerable people out of misguided and uneducated blame. They subvert our national identity of "mateship" to actually exclude all other citizens and visitors, and whitewash the diversity upon which Australia has grown and thrived. And they're embarrassing as hell (but luckily our counter protests dwarf them tenfold).
Their interests are even amplified in Government! Pauline Hanson wore a burqa in Parliament to make a point about identifying terrorists. Senator Fraser Anning literally quoted Nazi slogans in his maiden Senate speech, promoting "the final solution". Shock jocks on radio and in the press rake in profits for mongering fear amongst the masses who refuse to take the time to see the humanity in themselves and others. It's sickening. I'm fucking ashamed at how devolved they have become.
I’ve long heard about the difficulty bands in Australia have touring. Is there any truth in that? What’s the future, immediate and distant, look like for Outright?
The harsh reality is distance. To cover most major cities you are looking at at least an 8-hour drive to each stop and you often won't be able to make more than 2 shows viable at each location. Fit that in around work, family and other responsibilities, and you need to fly instead which obviously increases the costs which are rarely matched in returns. And you have to tour regularly enough to maintain a presence over time so that ends up being a big commitment. That being said, we adore this incredible country and encourage more bands to tour if they can!
The truth is that we tour and treat it like a holiday to explore our favorite mountains and oceans, be with friends, amplify their bands and check out so many great new ones. We love the opportunity to connect with new communities so we take that as the key benefit — it's certainly the most rewarding part of the long tiring days and risky ventures.
We're about to finish up the launch tour for our new Holler 7" by heading over to Perth, WA for the very first time. Then we'll back that up with another quick east coast run late October (including a fun festival in Brisbane) and head back into the studio to finish writing and recording another full length release. In the new year, we'll be looking at another New Zealand tour and are thrilled to be part of Download Festival in both Melbourne and Sydney in March! Slayer! Judas Priest! Converge! War on Women!!
Europe is in our sights after that if it all works out.