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Catching Up with Outformation: An Important Update

Submitted by on August 8, 2009 – 12:00 AMNo Comment
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A couple of months back, I did a feature for Bier Magazine on the Atlanta-based rock band Outformation, touting Travelers Rest, what was their latest recording. As the story went to press, I got a copy of the band’s brand new album, Fastburn. That prompted a telephone conversation with Sam Holt, guitarist and one of the founders of the band. I found out that as an appreciation to their fans, Outformation offered Fastburn as a free download for two solid weeks a whole month before the album dropped in the spring. Several thousand copies were downloaded that the first week. Ant it is no surprise. The album is fresh, eclectic, and flourishing in their southern rock roots.

What follows here is an annotated version of our conversation.

BierMag: You have a new album out. Were there any personnel changes for this one?

Sam Holt: The core of the band (Grady Upchurch on bass, Lee Schwartz on drums [he also sings], and myself) started playing together in 2003. Then we added Jeff [Birddog] Lane on percussion. We had CR Gruver along for Travelers Rest as the keyboard player. He also plays keys on Fastburn and contributes some background vocals. He left around New Year’s of this year. So, we’ve added another guitar player.  We didn’t really know the right keyboard player yet, but we knew of a guitar player who would fit right in.  He’s just really added a lot of spark to the band. His name’s Benji Shanks.

BierMag: CR Gruver certainly adds another layer to this new album, Fastburn, your third CD. It’s eight-songs tackle relationships and life, and you flesh those ideas out with a big sound loaded with strong vocals and intricate instrumentation. I was especially impressed with “No Doubt.” Its vocals sound a lot like those of Ian Matthews who was a member of Fairport Convention and Fotheringay and formed his own band called Matthews Southern Comfort.

Sam Holt: Thank you. I’ll have to check him out.

BierMag: Who is the principal songwriter?

Sam Holt: Everyone has a hand in it. For that song ‘No Doubt’, I wrote all of the words and most of the music. Then I presented it to the band as I saw it, and they did some tweaking to it and maybe some little changes to make it more dynamic. It comes about all different ways. Usually, the person who’s singing it at least wrote the lyrics, but sometimes that’s not the case.

BierMag: So you switch lead vocals.

Sam Holt: Yeah……We write together, and someone will come in with an idea, be it completed or very little there and then we try to work with it from there if it’s something that we feel has potential. It’s pretty collaborative. Everyone very definitely has their input, and we just try to get our egos out of the way and do what’s best for the tune.

BierMag: That’s commendable. It also tells me that you folks care more about the music than who’s got the spotlight. Is that why Outformation releases records every two years instead of yearly like some bands do?

Sam Holt: We pay to make our own records. When we made this one, that’s when the finances added up to enough so we could start recording and we had enough tunes. In the meantime, we played a lot and wrote a lot and just tried to evolve as musicians…..In our scene, it’s the way to do it. Just one helps the other. You play more, you get better. You get better, you play more and more people see you. That’s the way we have to do it.

BierMag: I was talking to a band the other day. They were looking for that record deal in the sky. I think what any band wants is to have people listen to their stuff. How do you feel about that?

Sam Holt: I want to reach the widest audience we can reach. Throw it against the wall and see if it creates a reaction. If someone offered us a bunch of money, I don’t know what we’d say. We might say, Yes, cause we could reach more people. It is a satisfying feeling to be completely independent and to control every aspect of what’s going on. There are a lot of times I wish we had someone who’d say, ‘Well, I can give you x amount of dollars for advertising.’ But everything happens the way it’s supposed to happen, I think.”

BierMag: You have to get the music out there.

Sam Holt: Even if we’re playing to 50 people sometimes, if we can turn some of those people on, that’s what it’s all about.

BierMag: And maybe they’ll tell their friends, and the next time you come there, there might be a 100 people there. What I’m seeing with the quality of what Outformation does, especially this new album, is your are building a very loyal following.

Sam Holt: We definitely have some people there. It surprises me to see them some places. What are you doing in Arizona? You live in South Carolina! But I understand that mentality completely.

BierMag: You’ve been playing all over the place. Are you heading for some of the festivals?

Sam Holt: Yeah, we’ve got a couple. We’ve got one in Chattanooga and we’ve got one in Louisville and another one.  I’m excited about the one in Louisville. It’s called Forecastle. It’s got Widespread Panic and the Black Crowes and several other killer bands on it. [That one  happens July 10-12.]

BierMag: But I’m sure you folks are still playing bars like most touring bands.

Sam Holt: You know, we have our share of bars. We get to do a theater once in awhile and a festival once in awhile. It’s a good blend right now. We can have a good night and think, ‘Wow, this is going great!’ And the next day, we can play a bar to a hundred people all smoking cigarettes. You got to stay humble, and that’ll do it….

Staying humble and putting the music first mark Outformation as a band destined for big things. Check out Fastburn at their website: www.foryouroutformation.com or www.myspace.com/outformation.

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