In a day and age where working hard as a band means spending hours online asking people to be their "friends" instead of simple things like recording demos and touring, these simple yet crucial activities tend to fall to the side. This is not the case with Outbreak. Hailing from the once quiet state of Maine, Outbreak has never sat in complacency like other local bands do, patiently waiting for the right label to notice. With an average age hovering around twenty, Outbreak has already released two EP's in addition to spending the last four years playing shows everywhere they could. Scene Point Blank's Scottie sat down with vocalist Ryan O'Connor to ask him some questions.
Scene Point Blank: Correct me if I am wrong, but you were a figurehead for the website XryanX.com. Perhaps this is dating things a little too far back, but for all the newer kids in hardcore, could you explain your role in XryanX.com and what happened to it eventually?
Ryan O'Connor: It blows my mind that some people still remember that website haha! But yeah, that was a webzine that I started when I was thirteen or fourteen. There wasn't much going on in Maine at the time, as far as zines and what not, so I tried to create something of my own since I had learned a thing or two about web design. When I first started it, it was pretty terrible. I didn't know how to make a decent looking website, I didn't know how to write reviews, and I didn't have interesting questions to ask bands in interviews...but it was something. And I had an opportunity to hype up my friends bands and local shows, which was what I wanted. I started getting better at web design so the face of the site changed a few times and toward the end of it's existence I was getting a lot of traffic and advertising requests. But around this time Outbreak started up. So eventually I pulled the plug on the site because it was too hard to try and juggle both a serious band and an up to date webzine. I didn't want to do the webzine and half ass it, you know? I hate webzines or sites in general that aren't up to date and when you're going on tour forty days at a time, it's hard to keep up with something like that.
Scene Point Blank: When not touring and making kids lose their shit, what do the members of Outbreak do to keep their sanity? Do you all live close by making it easy to practice or are you spread out?
Ryan O'Connor: We are all spread out man. Chuck and I live in the fucking sticks, close to Canada. We're in the Western mountains, a couple hours away from Southern Maine where there are some signs of civilization. The other dudes live closer to Portland. This makes it close to impossible to practice, so we don't do that very often. We'll practice before a tour sometimes, or when we're writing a new record, but that's about it. After all the touring, we've played our songs a million times, so I really don't think it makes any difference if we practice.
Scene Point Blank: Getting on to more recent matters, the rumor mill says that team Outbreak suffered a miserable loss to a former Marshalltown wrestling team member while out on tour? Do they just breed a different type of wrestle out west as compared to Maine? Will there be a rematch any time soon?
Ryan O'Connor: Haha! I wouldn't call it a miserable loss, because Link held in there for a while. And for the record, I am pretty sure that Jeff wrestled his whole life! It's safe to say that a rematch will take place on the next Outbreak/Modern Life is War tour.
Scene Point Blank: Any other anecdotes from the Bane/Modern Life is War/Outbreak/This is hell tour you would like to share?
Ryan O'Connor: There is quite a few. Every day was like a party with all of those guys. We had great road crews too. One of my favorite memories of the tour was when Jeff from Modern Life is War dressed up like a cowboy and played an entire set in New Mexico holding a whip. And a couple days before that, Harm's amp caught on fire mid-set. Very punk. We had a contest with Modern Life is War with a series of events ranging from the wrestling match you brought up earlier all the way to a dance off in New Orleans. There were some very bizarre events.
Scene Point Blank: Are you aware there is a band from Sweden with the same name? Are you worried about a whole American Nightmare fiasco or do you think you are far enough apart that it won't matter?
Ryan O'Connor: Yeah we know about them. I can't remember if they ever contacted us or not, but I remember a few years ago another Outbreak told us we needed to change our name. I think that was a Westcoast Outbreak, but I could be wrong. I told them to sue us. That never happened. Since the other Outbreak is from Sweden, there are all kinds of laws that would make it very difficult for either of us to try and do something about it. And we don't really care that much anyway. We're heading to Europe again soon and we're doing a fly in show in Sweden between our UK dates...maybe they will come out haha. We could fight to the death for the rights to the name.
Scene Point Blank: Now getting into some serious questions; from the standpoint of being in a band as well running a label, have you seen a growth in the amount of people listening to â??real hardcoreâ?? It seems that three or four years ago, everyone was jocking metalcore, and while there are still a lot of those bands that exists, it appears to me that kids are going after the faster, thrashier stuff as opposed to slow metal riffs?
Ryan O'Connor: Honestly, it's hard to tell. It seems like most kids are always into whatever is cool at the moment no matter what time period. I mean you see kids who wear girl's jeans and eyeliner and only listen to Atreyu or something, and then the next week the same kids will be wearing cut off camo shirts and listening to Righteous Jams. Or vice versa. I think it's easy for kids to latch onto whatever is trendy and popular around them, which sucks, but it happens. From Outbreak's standpoint, it's funny cause you can witness this first hand. I think anyone else in a touring band can say the same thing too. John Doe will jock your band one week and then a couple months later will be the same shithead telling every one on a messageboard how much your band sucks.
Scene Point Blank: Playing the aforementioned style of music, its comes off hard and fast which is fueled by generally pissed off lyrical content; is this anger shared by all of the band or you specifically? Also now you must have 35-40 songs in your catalog dealing with the subject matter, is it hard to stay so fucking angry? If not, what makes you mad on a day-to-day basis?
Ryan O'Connor: I can't speak for the rest of my band, but I write the lyrics so all of our records are about my emotions and experiences. Funny you mention that, cause I think about us having around 40 songs now and it's like "How did I get inspired to write that many songs?" I guess it is just part of growing up. There was/is lots of things going on around me: personal experiences, relationships, emotions, etc. I never really intended on any of the Outbreak records to sound so pissed off but that's what most of the reviews say. I guess that says a lot about what's going on in my mind when I write songs haha. I don't try and act angry and I'm definitely not "mad on a day-to-day basis." But I have been told I have a short fuse and sometimes things really piss me off. When I get to that point, I just write songs. That's what inspires me to write about 90% of the time...any other scenario may affect me, but it doesn't make me want to pick up a pen and go to work.
Scene Point Blank: Lyrically it seems that more of the focus on this album is downtrodden. As if you have been through some serious shit between the new album and You Make Us Sick. Are there any specific or recurring incidents that inspired these types of lyrics?
Ryan O'Connor: Yeah a whole bunch of them. But I think the main thing to take under consideration is that a lot of the lyrics on our EP's were written when I was still in high school. So there is a huge space in my life between the lyrics to Failure and the EP's. I'm still young, but I'm not the same person I was back in high school and I think that shines through on the lyrics. At least it should. Maybe I am the same person, I dunno. But right now and over the last few years I haven't been in an environment that constantly irritated me, like high school. I hated high school man, and most of the people there. I definitely wrote lyrics for the EP's sitting in math class.
Scene Point Blank: Musically, this album sounds more produced? (Less of a raw, unpolished sound) Was this a conscious choice by the band or was that simply how it came out when changing producers?
Ryan O'Connor: I've heard people say the same thing about You Make Us Sick; "It's too polished. Why doesn't this sound like your first 7"?" The answer is simple. We knew how to make a record when we recorded Failure. We did not know a thing about being in the studio when we recorded Eaten Alive and that's why it sounds "unpolished", or like shit if you ask me. Eaten Alive was recorded at a pretty nice studio, so generally it should sound the same as our other records, but I think the musicianship was just so bad that it creates the illusion that the recording is "unpolished." So to continue to make records that sound like Eaten Alive we would have to play our instruments like we had just picked them up the day before (not too far off from what happened with Eaten Alive actually). Failure came out exactly how we wanted it. Our musicianship shines through, we're way tighter and I think THAT makes for a cleaner sounding record. This isn't 1982, we don't want a record that sounds like it was recorded on a boom box like a Minor Threat 7", sorry people. I think it's still raw and still punk, we just improved a little bit in the musicianship department.
Scene Point Blank: Lyrically and musically, Outbreak seems to be pretty straightforward and while there is definite improvement in the songwriting, it's roughly the same style. Do you think you guys have created a glass ceiling for yourselves as far as songwriting? Or do you just play the style that you love and comes out of you?
Ryan O'Connor: We'll just continue to do what we've always done and that is write songs that we like. If kids can get into it, that is awesome. But we're not writing songs to try and please anyone.
Interview conducted by Scottie.
Graphics and layout by Matt.