Outrun The Sunlight is a Chicago progressive instrumental band formed by Austin Peters and Cody McCarty in February 2011. The original intention of the band was to experiment with composition and sound recording, in a strict studio setting. The band put out four singles in 2011 prior releasing their debut full-length The Return of the Inertia in December of the same year.
In 2012, Outrun the Sunlight inked a deal with San Francisco based label Rogue Records America and the debut album was re-released with vocals added over the original tracks.
Outrun the Sunlight have recently completed work on a new video single called Spirit, announcing the band’s new album Terrapin which will be released by the end of the year via Rogue Records America. The track was mastered by Jordan Nelson. Prog Sphere teamed up with Outrun the Sunlight for an exclusive premiere of a new song, and we talked with guitarist Austin Peters about this and many other topics.
Define your mission with Outrun the Sunlight.
Cody and I have always described it as “playing the music we want to hear.” I think that has sort of evolved into “playing music that is both challenging to us, and our listeners.” Music that forces you to interact with it, that requires that you sit down with it and pick it apart. Not to say that you couldn’t just put it on in the background, but if you were to really engage it, you’d find yourself being pulled into an atmosphere. So maybe it’s the creation of that atmosphere that we strive for.
You released four singles prior releasing your debut full-length album The Return of the Inertia. Tell me something more about the creative process that informed the album. How did it go?
We had a bunch of leftover riff ideas from our previous band, and Cody and I had gotten really into The Contortionist’s Exoplanet, which influenced a lot of our writing on that record. We basically spend that summer in my bedroom in Michigan, writing and recording straight into Garageband, and compiled songs faster than we ever had. Having a tool like that did wonders for our creativity. I think at some point we had to just cut ourselves off because we were writing so many songs.
Is the dynamic flow of the pieces on The Return of the Inertia carefully structured or did it just happen that way naturally and through writing together?
I think we had ideas about how the album would start and end, but everything in-between was stream-of-consciousness. We wanted a hard beginning, and an epic ending, and to fill gaps with melody, dynamics, and other tricks that we could think of to keep people on their toes. Cody always had a more sporadic writing style, and my style wanted more flow, but put together, I think we crafted some really interesting parts. So to answer your question, I think the record happened naturally.
The Return of Inertia was re-released in July 2012 on Rogue Records America with vocal tracks added in the mix. How did you come up with this idea and do you think that in some way it put the original songs to a higher level?
I think being an instrumental band, you inherently wonder what it’d be like to have vocals carry your tracks. I myself have tried on several occasions to come up with melodies and lyrics to our songs, but failed almost always because I’m just not a lyricist. We really were attached in the internet “djent” community, and found it incredible that we could reach out to our favorite artists over Facebook and just ask them whatever we wanted. So essentially, we compiled a list of our favorite underground vocalists and asked them plain and simply “will you write lyrics, and sing them for us?” There was really nothing to it, since that community was so open to us and so willing to share their craft, it was incredible to see the response. It was a giant experiment, and idea that we had, and we executed it as best as we could.
After putting out this vocal release of The Return of Inertia, did it ever cross your mind of bringing in a singer in the line-up?
Yeah it did. The fact was, the two vocalists (that in our opinion had nailed our tracks) live extremely far away (Florida and Serbia). We never auditioned anyone else. People had asked us, and of course we’d let them track vocals over an instrumental song, but nothing wowed us. If there ever was a vocalist to step into Outrun the Sunlight, they would need to understand that they could not front the band traditionally. It would redefine the sound, and completely change the message of the band, and at this point, none of us are willing to take that risk. Ideally, we’d love a vocalist who was also a keyboardist. That would just be awesome to incorporate.
We teamed up with you guys for the premiere of your new single called Spirit, which can be heard below. The overall sound feels far more fresh than your material on The Return of the Inertia. Can you say that Spirit is in some way a new beginning for the band?
Yes, Spirit is just a taste on what will be heard on the new album. I’d say our sound has changed, not only in our writing, but in the way we record, the way we mix, and the way we display our instruments throughout each track. It’s a ending with a beginning. Cody and I write most of the music, but I structure everything. After this release, I’d like to start working with the full band to write songs.
Did your writing approach change drastically for Spirit comparing with what you’ve done before?
I was definitely more aware of each sound. I went through countless drafts of this, and had worked it for over a year before it reached this point. I was focused on the dynamic build and tried to figure out how to include all elements of the track throughout the song so that it was a clear cohesive piece.
Have you managed to make any new discoveries in terms of songwriting with Spirit?
I really learned to challenge drum writing, and to be very aware how the song structure would influence an audience. The idea was to lure and ease a listener into the opening, hoping they’ll stay to hear what comes next. I wanted there tone a lot of build, a lot of anticipation, and a lot of pay off when the ending does come in. I wanted it to climax similarly to how a plot in a film climaxes, right around the 3/4 mark, and then the resolution be so fulfilling, that when the ending drops off, it hopefully leaves you wanting to listen again.
What evolution do you feel Spirit represents for the band?
It’s a venture into a more conscious realm of songwriting, with intention, purpose, and goal. To us, this is the best way for us to communicate our themes.
I suppose that Spirit is an overture for what comes next. Are you working on a new full-length release at the moment? Speaking of which, are you going after something specific in terms of sound you want to achieve?
Yes. Our next album Terrapin, will be out later this year on Rogue Records America. What we created, we believe, is a redefining sound for Outrun, which is all I can really say for now. We’ll see if our listeners agree with us or not.
[Hear a new Outrun the Sunlight song, Spirit, below.]
How do you document the music while being formulated?
I don’t really use guitar tab software, Cody and I just hash ideas on the computer, and that’s how songs get written. However, for this album, since I was finishing up my film degree at Columbia in Chicago, I had far too much time between recording and listening to my mix to make any decisions about when a song was done. Therefore, songs went through 10-15 drafts each in the matter of a year. The sound, the pacing, and the feel of the album has gone through so much to reach where it is now, it feels like a relief that it’s nearing the end.
What kind of gear do you use when recording?
I use Logic Pro 9, a Line 6 UX2 running into PodFarm (where we get our guitar tones), EzDrummer for drums, and other various patches for synths. I use my Carvin DC727 to record ALL guitars (including bass guitars).
Where do you grab inspiration from and how do you go about channeling it into writing?
Other bands we love. Intronaut, Cloudkicker, The Contortionist, Humanity’s Last Breath, Polyenso, Radiohead, to name a few. Whenever we are moved by a piece of music, we’ll usually try to duplicate that feeling in our own music. We’re never focused on how complicated or technical something is, we just want people to feel something when they hear us or see us, whatever that may be.
What non-musical entities and ideas have an impact on your music?
Personally, I am moved by sacred geometry and design because of its inherent ability to be both complex and simplistic simultaneously. And as well, personal storytelling through whatever means. When you pour yourself into your work without fear or shame, to me is the most respectable thing you can do as an artist. I am still learning how to do that, but Outrun is the closest I’ve ever come.
Are you satisfied with the response of audiences on your tunes? What is it like playing live with Outrun the Sunlight?
I am! I’ve always loved playing to an audience, and it’s incredible to hear songs that I wrote three years finally making it to a live audience. Reactions seem to always be overwhelmingly positive, I think it’s inspiring, not only to myself but to everyone who attends our show. It’s a great feeling.
How do you see Outrun the Sunlight’s music evolving in the future?
I can’t foresee it. It will keep changing, that’s all. We will try new things, add new instruments, cross new genres, new beats. It’s all just a giant experiment in the end.
With Prog Sphere we tend to release a downloadable Progstravaganza compilation series, highlighting the artists coming from progressive related genres from all around the world. Do you think such a thing is good enough to showcase the potential of many unheard bands on the already overcrowded scene?
I think the unheard bands are writing the most interesting music. It’s not always the most graceful or the most accessible, but it is the most unique. Some of the most under appreciated artists are the ones who define a whole generation of sound (Misery Signals – metalcore, Textures – djent). This is because the musicians in other bands are the ones who are primarily interested in bands like these. Musicians want to hear something different than the mainstream, they want to be surprised, to be thrown a curveball. I think if music is going to keep progressing, the word “potential” isn’t something to assign to one band. It should be assigned to a genre, or a movement of music, and musicians should be continually asking themselves, “What can I do with this form of music that I’ve never heard anyone do before?” It challenges the listeners, it challenges the artist, and it challenges the genre. Forget overcrowding, skill, and talent, just pour yourself into your writing, and if you do it again and again, more and more people will recognize your energy as being unique.