In November 2015, OUTLYA (pronouncedOutlier) started a journey that saw them ditching subtleties and self-conscious songwriting for perfectly-crafted bombast. Since then, they’ve been making songs that strive for a feeling of escape and have a striking quality to them.


 They could make the most bare, desolate scenery look golden. Take the lyric video for debut single ‘The Light’ – a blindingly bright, neon-pink television set rests on the stones of a miserable, winter-stained beach. That’s the spirit of OUTLYA – they’re a shot of light in the dark. “That’s how we see the music. We don’t see it as this sombre thing that you lie down and take in. It’s not introspective,” asserts Will.


‘Heaven’, one of the first tracks they recorded, sings of finding “a higher ground where I can build a home,” and it’s a neat summary of their main objective – being a point of escapism, whatever the reality.


Debut track ‘The Light’ is a rude awakening. Recorded with Cam Blackwood, heavy guitar parts line up alongside chiming keys and bare, effect-starved vocals. At the time of writing, OUTLYA wasn’t even a fully-fledged project. But ‘The Light’ gave the trio something to pursue, a distinctive sound that thrives on its own sense of confidence. Out with delay pedals and signature reverb, in with gutsy choruses and a heartfelt message. There’s nowhere to hide. Will remembers “trying to replace sheen” with a sense of “swagger”. When this song came together, Henry says they collectively decided: “We could go back or we could just push on forwards.”


Over time, these twenty-somethings reflected on previous musical experience and found themselves “frustrated with norms”, bored of playing the same instruments and relying on the same pedals as everyone else. “Why are we hiding?” they asked. “How are you meant to throw your stone into the pile when everyone else is doing the same thing?”


Having spent 2016 writing, recording, listening to obscure and classic records for inspiration and going to as many gigs as possible, OUTLYA refined early ideas into bigger goals, and they’ve decided that regardless of outside involvement, they’re going to be hands on with every aspect of the project. “It sounds obvious, but we’ve collectively decided it makes sense for us to do as much as possible,” Will states. Everything from the music to the visuals to existence of their own fantastical island stems directly from the trio. “We’re fortunate enough to make this stuff ourselves. We don’t have any excuse not to.”


Working with producer Dan Grech-Marguerat (The Vaccines, Scissor Sisters, Radiohead) in the tail end of 2016, they found themselves heading for a “perfect pop world” with a different purpose, one with the crunch and bite of their rough-edged home recordings, but also one of punchy drums, straight-for-the-gut synths and a slick technicolor aesthetic. 


That’s not to say the story is anywhere past its infant stages. It’s clear from speaking to OUTLYA that they’re full of big ideas – so much so, they could practically write their own manifesto. On record, their mantra is to not limit themselves, “keeping the possibilities as open as possible.” Since first writing songs in their teens, they’ve seen the world of music discovery change completely. Strict, genre-glued projects have paved way for more free-thinking models. “Now is a better time than ever to be making sporadic sounds,” Will insists. “Artists are taking full advantage of the fact they can have a song that sounds like The Streets and a song that sounds like Sigur Rós. People are more open-minded than ever.” He adds: “The game’s opened up now. If we want a heavy song in our set, we can have that. If we want a delicate ambient jam, we can have that. I’m hoping that people are open-minded to that.”


They also aim to challenge themselves live, flipping the conventional gig scenario on its head, whether through impromptu stripped-back shows or something on the opposite end of the spectrum. However this develops, OUTLYA’s aim is to go against a potentially stagnating grain.


There’s a transformative quality to their first steps – they’re making bright, wide eyed music that takes you outside of everyday drudgery – and it reflects the band’s own relationship to music. Other artists “make this place that people go to in their own minds,” Will explains. “If you’re a fan of Grace Jones amongst other like minded people, you’re connected. You go to that same place. Subconsciously, the reason it’s so drilled into my brain is because that’s the way I’ve always seen it, ever since I started listening to music, there was always a place to go to. There are artists like Jon Hopkins and Bonobo who make specifically transportative music, but all music has it in some way. I hope ours will do too.”


More than ever, music should be able to act as some kind of solace for those bogged down by reality. News headlines can often seem near-apocalyptic, and there’s no means of controlling what happens next. OUTLYA understand how music can serve a different purpose in difficult times. Will sums it up: “The number one aim is for anyone who’s listening to our music to find something that makes their day better.” 

Alex Hardee
Booking Assistant: Lily Oram lily.oram@codaagency.com Assisted by: Nicole Selke nicole@codaagency.com