Syntax Issue 10
Denver Syntax

Imagine starting a band and practicing in an empty Greeley warehouse. You play through small amps. The acoustics echo off the metal container walls. And your lead singer is screaming at his tiny microphone just to stay somewhere near the middle of amplifying anything at all.

Then, imagine taking the songs you’ve practiced into the studio, thinking you have something – enough to pay for the studio time, and enough to rationalize taking time off work and school. Then, your once-screaming singer steps into the booth and begins to, well… sing. Everybody looks at one another – for the first time really hearing his lyrics and really hearing his voice.

Goosebumps. Wide eyes.

This is the vignette of where one of Denver’s newest and most exciting acts found a beginning as a cohesive band of musicians called The Outfit.

In that little funeral of a space where generalities become succinct and particular, provenance can reign as a superlative. Because sometimes, even when life is a joke and the story goes that you are brothers with somebody with whom you just met – the humor can morph into a truism. And where there was once no union, there can be created a new beginning and a particular bond.

This is how The Outfit’s drummer Chris Cain and bassist Pat Lawless fell into each other’s lives, as disjointed twins from the fall of their younger lives. For all purposes, this is also the first beginning of one of Denver’s most exciting new acts.

All of life can be seen to be a choppy cacophony of stops and starts, vibratos and seemingly meaningless melodies – but sometimes, magnetism pulls at the arms of the world and suddenly you find a center, a torso, a body. A band. For while The Outfit figures to be lead by their charismatic lead singer, Eric Johnston – the band is a tight knit conglomerate of songwriters and musicians – all equally hungry for making music and blowing the doors off of every venue they play, with their punchy, raucous sound and charming lyrical whirlwinds.

Very young, the members of The Outfit have some green behind their ears. However, they are experienced musicians with members like Casey Banker playing in a great Denver act, The Don’ts and Be Carefuls. Still, in all honesty – watch them on stage and you will feel the agelessness of time and music and ambition. On stage, The Outfit is a torrent of tight, taught emotion. They only break for quick breaths between songs before launching into another of their severe hanging weather patterns. Physically, the represent their songs with honest, big emotion – certainly, rock stars in the works.

Where one may find deficiency in age, The Outfit has harnessed all of its virtuous qualities: their energy and emotion is incendiary; and even more than that, they are in possession of the kind of drive that often falls to the wayside with age. For even before releasing their first EP (a low-fi album recorded with the invaluable help of Brian Feuchtinger at Uneven Studios – who served as a fifth instrument in the band during recordings), the band flew to L.A. to record their first full length (with a release date to be set in the winter of 2009).

Cagey and oftentimes unorthodox in composition, The Outfit’s songs have a trajectory of their own. Theirs is a natural evolution that stems from their collaborative beginnings with acoustic guitars and bare bones and learning what a particular song needs, instead of stapling it together with the generalities of what they may believe it needs. Transfer the bands initial work on their songs into their electric realm and instead of muddying-up any of their dynamics, their cultivated sense of crescendo rises to the top of their compositions, catalyzing their song’s emotional centers.

The Outfit is a big, hearty sound. It swirls and churns with the watery metallic of a motor’s hum. They teeter on the edge of throwing a rod and kicking the whole machine into chaos – but somehow, impossibly, they always throttle with a throaty obligatto – sometimes killing the engine altogether for a desperate breath, then violently firing the pistons into eloquent motion again before diving deeper into the emotional life of fire.

And while a chronology could serve as useful in articulating what this band has become – it is more about the small markers between them, the inside jokes, the first dates – all which only could big meaning between these four friends. For most importantly, The Outfit is a story of youth melding together in a space where heart and sweat is the only equity apart from learning how to balance their intense friendships with the professionalism that their collective ambition demands.

One may hesitate to call the early stages of a band a success story, but hitherto, The Outfit’s tale feels a lot like providence. A provenance. The beginning of moving together, getting down and then putting it down in the studio and, on the stage.

Keep your eyes open for this rising star – this next year is a big one for the band: with their EP still to be released then on the heels of that – just like their quick breaks in-between songs – the release of their much-anticipated first full-length.