With massive lineup changes and a few label issues, the band had to take stock, reform and start over fresh. The result is a pretty damn impressive hybrid of punk, metal and classic rock. The new record, self-titled in honor of the band’s new start, is likely the best soundtrack in search of a classic spaghetti western.
Guitarist Tak Boroyan and vocalist/rhythm guitarist Alex Brugge spoke recently about building Angel City Outcasts from the ground up – for the second time.
Innocent Words: Your last full-length was four years ago. A lot has changed since then with the band. Why so many changes?
Alex Brugge: We have experienced a lifetime’s worth of break-ups in just a few short years. Every band member is no longer playing for/with Angel City Outcasts for their own individual reasons. Some former members had received all the satisfaction they were looking for with ACO. Some had obligations that surpassed their own pursuit of happiness, some jumped in head first only to realize that the commitment was more than they expected, while others felt the wear and tear of life on the road was too great. Regardless of the reasons, nothing was connected, nothing was premeditated and as far as I know, no resentment has been harbored.
IW: So in writing this record, did you get a sense that you were starting over again?
Brugge: Yes. In a lot of ways, we felt that this was a chance to take the vision we had to a whole new level. For better or for worse, we would have never been able to make this record with the original cast. Actually, most of these songs were demoed with the O.G. crew, but it took the chemistry and dynamic of the new members to give this record the life that I personally felt it needed.
IW: How have these changes affected the sound and the focus of Angel City Outcasts?
Tak Boroyan: Travis’s (Mason) drumming was one of the biggest changes to the overall sound of the band. He’s a much more precision-based drummer and a real heavy hitter. He really brought the big rock drum sound to the record. We were amazed at how quickly he caught up with the old songs in a short period of time and how well he did with the brand new songs during recording.
Junior, the rhythm guitarist, was another big addition to ACO. He was only 19 when he joined, and he’s like the little brother in the band. He is a very instinctive guitarist, a quick learner and always a reliable player on stage. Because Junior was an attentive ACO fan prior to joining the band, he had a good idea of what the band needed and wanted. Also, Junior’s enthusiasm and zeal made a big difference in the survival of the band through some of the tough times. Overall, both new guys did an exceptional job, and it really comes through on the record.
IW: I know you had a 7-inch out a couple of years ago, but why did you guys wait so long before putting out another album?
Boroyan: That 7-inch was a split with our friends the Turbo A.C.s from New York City. It was a small exclusive European release that featured the song “Made For This” from our last record. Needless to say, it was never our intention to wait four years to release the new record. Multiple obstacles were responsible for the delay. First and foremost, we were touring for around two years on the last record, and we’ve never been very good about writing new material on the road. I guess we’re just too busy having a blast. Factor in multiple member changes, record label dealings and a number of other issues beyond our control, and next thing you know, four years have gone by. But, I’m happy to say that finally both American and European release dates have been set, and we are set to go.
IW: Is there a common theme to this record?
Boroyan: There are several themes to this record, some being more subtle than others. The most obvious one is the prominent Western outlaw imagery and subject matter. I guess it’s sort of akin to the Desperado record by the Eagles, albeit a bit more aggressive. This has been a progressing theme for us since our last album. It’s when we started wearing the cowboy vests on stage and all that. Since then, the band has tuned its image to a more edgy Spaghetti Western aesthetic (More Clint Eastwood and less John Wayne). In the song “Five Guns West,” we allude to the notion that some of the old west outlaws had the reputation that rock ‘n’ roll bands have now. Some of the more notorious ones like Jesse and Frank James were genuine celebrities; their myth always being far more sensational than the truth.
IW: The songs from this new record seem to have a different vibe than the last couple of records. Was that a conscious decision?
Brugge: Absolutely. We have been consistently working in this direction for a long time now. It may have not been as apparent in our prior releases, but it sometimes can be a very slow process. Tak and I like to say that this record is the closest sounding cover band to the band in our heads. Meaning, we feel that our abilities are finally catching up with our ideas. The one thing I do know is, we put our hearts and souls into this record, and we’re damn proud of what we ended up with.
IW: This might be an odd question, but why did you decide to self-title this record?
Boroyan: There have been so many monumental changes to the band since the first two records that it felt like it warranted a fresh start, a reboot if you will. It’s the first record without all original members. Also, during the making of it, we decided to make the band a four-piece instead of five (with Alex singing and playing rhythm guitar). The musical direction influenced the decision to self-title the record as well. While Let it Ride was a punk record, Deadrose Junction was a transitional record; but, this self-titled one is a definite rock ‘n’ roll album. It’s just a different era for us altogether.
IW: Can you talk a little bit about the songs on the new album?
Brugge: Every song has its own sense of satisfaction; I guess some could be considered more monumental than the next. “Wild Hearts” is the first acoustic, non-hard hitting, non-rock song we’ve ever released. “Hold On” is the first male and female duet we’ve ever released. “Doghouse Blues” is the first southern rock, gospel choir-inspired song for us. “Lift Me Up” is the first song I had to have Tak kick me in the testicles during tracking just to hit the notes for the melody. Bottom line is there are a lot of firsts on this record. The common theme that we’ve carried with us from album to album is that we have high standards for the music we produce……oh yeah, and we like to rock, too.