The Ever Evolving Sounds of Outrun The Sunlight

Photo Credit: Andrea Wright

Photo Credit: Andrea Wright

In November of 2014 I became aware of a band named Outrun The Sunlight.  Their debut album The Return of Intertia came out in 2011 and their new album Terrapin is out now, with a vinyl edition coming in the new year.  They check all the boxes when it comes to what I like in music: virtuoso talent, willingness to  take chances, a melding of heavy and light playing and varied tempos.  This is progressive instrumental rock by passionate people.  I listened to their debut daily until Terrapin arrived.  A departure from the downtuned “djent” style guitars, their second album shows a maturation  and again, the willingness to take chances, with a more organic flow to the songs and smoother production.  During the last two weeks of the year Outrun The Sunlight‘s Austin Peters and Cody McCarty were kind enough to talk about their amazing band.

If it’s just two of you creating the music, who plays bass, drums, keyboards? You’re both listed as guitars but that doesn’t really do justice to all your efforts. Are you a full band now?
Austin Peters: We recently met our bassist and drummer Connor Grant & Pedro Villegas after they asked us if we wanted to jam, summer 2013. We started learning songs from The Return of Inertia, and then Terrapin. Adrian [Perez], our keyboardist, joined after he helped us film the video for The Pace of Glaciers, and our musical tastes and personalities just clicked. So yes, we are a full band now.

outrun terrapinWho produced your two albums? What did he/she or you do to improve the recording of Terrapin from Return?
Austin produced both albums in his bedroom in Chicago. The Return of Inertia was produced after spending 4 years messing around in Garageband. I (Austin) honestly can’t even listen to that album anymore because of how compressed and edited it sounds. I tried to make Terrapin sound natural; I worked a lot on my own playing technique, and applied very little editing to the performances. I’ve learned a lot of mixing and tone techniques since TROI, and I think it shows in Terrapin, but I know I can learn a lot more. The main difference between the two was that Terrapin was actually mastered correctly by our good friend, Jordan Nelson.

Please explain your style so we can tell you two apart.
Cody lies on his bed without an amplifier and just plays sad post-rock stuff.  Austin sits at his desk with PodFarm and messes around with amp settings, never really getting anywhere with his writing.
That’s part of why this album took three years to make.

What part are you proud of playing on a particular song on Terrapin?
I think as a band, it’s The Pace of Glaciers because that song was so daunting when we first started learning it, but it’s come so far as a live performance. Austin recorded most of the guitar parts on Terrapin, but individually, Cody’s proud moment are the major-third runs that happen near the end of Permanence because they were a total bitch to play on his Agile. Austin’s proud moment is the very beginning pick-tap riff of And Every Glance Given Has Only One Meaning just because of how odd the rhythm and fingerings are.

What initially got you interested in music and at what point did you realize you couldn’t live without making music?
To start, we both have rock n’ roll dads. I think early on, without that, we may not have held the appreciation for music that we do today. Cody was an eighties hair metal kid, I was a classic-rock kid, and we met in the middle with modern metal. I think I realized Cody couldn’t live without music when he moved from Kalamazoo to Chicago just for this band. As for myself, I majored in film, but now work in the music industry, and have been geeking out about metal for the better part of my existence, so it almost seems like second nature.

What was the first song or instrument part you learned to play? What is the most difficult song you’ve learned and what song do you think you’ll never do well?
We both started guitar separately at age 13. However, Austin’s first instrument was piano when he was 8. I (Austin) can still play most of Resistance by Veil of Maya, but honestly the tempo and my poor picking technique prevent me from playing it cleanly. Cody doesn’t learn songs, just riffs: for instance, the opening riff to In Dying Days by As Blood Runs Black. He always plays that fucking song.
And I don’t think either of us will ever learn how to sweep-pick properly, so any song that uses that technique is out of the question.

I so rarely see true progressive or even instrumental bands play live. Pelican is one of the few. When you play live do you simplify the parts played from the songs? How are the songs translated from disc to stage?
First off, unlike The Return of Inertia, we wrote Terrapin to be able to play it live. That decision has paid off so much, because so many songs on TROI require 3 guitars. On stage, we perform with a backtrack that has strings, ambient guitars, and other soundscape elements that we don’t need to reproduce ourselves. Nothing is being simplified.

What is a particularly great memory of playing live and touring?
I think our first show will forever be this incredible experience that only comes from being a “studio project” for four years and finally making it to the stage. We had envisioned this project to eventually reach a live audience, but we never knew when, and we didn’t think anyone would care. But we packed 150 people into Reggies Rock Club on a Tuesday night (which was also the coldest night of the polar vortex in Chicago that season) and it was surreal. The best part was we got to pick the line-up, and all our friends who had bands played with us, even if they weren’t metal in the slightest.

Have you toured extensively? Will you make it to Los Angeles?
No we haven’t, and hopefully someday we will. Everyone reading this, go tell Cloudkicker we want to tour with him.

What bands should we listen for if we are openminded and enjoy your band?
If it’s not obvious: Cloudkicker, Cloudkicker, and this dude named Ben Sharp who has this studio project called “Cloudkicker.” But we have a wide range of tastes, and we could probably list them for days. Honestly, we don’t want to compare ourselves, so we’ll name 3 bands that we think need more exposure: Mirorist, Eden Circus, and Uneven Structure.

I’ve only bought digital copies of your music. Is there an effort by you two and Rogue to make the physical copies worthy of purchase?
Cody McCarty: Austin spends so much god damn time perfecting the artwork on each release that sometimes it overlooks the production of the actual album. He fucking hand-drew the pictures on the inside cover, multiple times. Holy fuck.
So yes. Terrapin is out now on digipak CD with original artwork by Austin, and will be out on bone-colored vinyl in April. Our awesome Indiegogo-backers helped us make the vinyl a reality, which we are the most excited about.

Tell us about Rogue, the people that run it and the bands.
Rogue has been very helpful in the organization of our band’s Indiegogo campaign and good about keeping our music DIY. They essentially help us with distribution and give us insight to help us mature as a band. Dean Martinetti is good people.

Who has the most divisive musical tastes? Is there someone that listens to bands that the rest of you can’t stand? What are some the acts you all agree upon? And what are some of the most out there bands/acts that you take inspiration from but don’t sound anything like?
We all have diverse tastes, but in different ways. Adrian listens to Big Big Train, Cody listens to Wu Tang Clan, Connor listens to Flying Lotus, Austin listens to Wild Beasts, and Pedro listens to Yung Lean. I think the biggest gripe some of us have is with electronic music. But mostly we agree on what makes music good. Cody and Austin listen to quite a bit of obscure jazz; The Kilimanjaro Darkjazz Ensemble, Tigran Hamasyan, The Young Blood Brass Band, Dawn of Midi, and Pimp & Soil are just a few.

Austin, I read that you are getting a degree in Film. What will you do with that degree? How does film inspire your music? I tend to like music that sounds like it might fit with visuals or an overarching theme or story.
You’re the first person to ever ask me about my degree in an interview, so thank you for that. I studied film & video at Columbia College in Chicago, mainly focusing on film post-production (editing/motion graphics) and directing. I realized quickly that I was not a strong director, and spent my last year learning technical skills that I could apply to my own work, e.g. OTS. I’ve scored many of my own films, and a few of my friend’s. I’ve been told before that OTS music paints a picture or tells a story, but I have to admit I don’t have a visual in mind when I am writing. Eventually, I would like to mold my skill of filmmaking with my love for music, and score a film that I can tour with.

Terrapin is somewhat lighter than Return of Inertia, especially without the down-tuned guitars throughout. While that does take some of the visceral feel from the overall sound, on the new album we are now able to focus more on the details and flow. It’s not so immediate and takes more effort to really listen but is a fulfilling experience. Was there a specific reason to drop the djent guitars?
Mainly our tastes have changed, and we were drawn to different genres and sounds. I think the post-rock element is key to how we’ve grown, and like I’ve mentioned earlier, we were more concerned with the experience of this record rather than its edit, and how it would translate live.

outrun returnWhat is it about this balance of heavy/ugly and lighter/pretty that you try to create in each song? I think of it as if the more delicate and melodic aspects of Rush were mixed with the harder guitars and rhythms/drums of Meshuggah. But I like being challenged and find it a challenge to describe how Terrapin sounds.
It’s hard to display dynamics in metal, and this solution of melding harshness with softness helps us accentuate each part. If it were mostly a heavy record with a few soft bits, the heavy bits would have far less effect. But creating sparsity in the heavy moments, we feel we are able to engage dynamics. We also really love a good crescendo.

Will the next album be an even bigger departure than from the first to second album?
More than likely yes. More and more we move toward what people seem to be referring to as “post-metal.” We don’t know what that means, but we’re just going to keep writing music that we like to play and feel creates emotion.

And finally, what do you think makes your band distinct through your evolution?
I don’t think we are that distinct, and I think a lot of amazing musicians are doing the same sort of things we are doing. The in-the-box technique is being utilized all over the world, and allows many artists to express themselves. It’s taken us a while to get to where we are, but that’s not unique either. I guess as long as people keep feeling our music, that may be the only distinction we’ll have, which is fine with us. We just want to engage our listeners more than anything.

Thank you Austin, Cody and all for your time. I look forward to hearing more from you and possibly seeing you live!
Hell yeah! Someday, we will surely meet in person.

Outrun The Sunlight also have released a vocal version of The Return of Inertia album, a live EP, their early demos and many singles.  Seek out their vinyl too. Help bring Terrapin to CD and vinyl HERE.

(Imterview by Bret Miller)

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