By Carl C. Sundberg
The state of Maine is not really a hotbed of music, especially punk rock. So when Outbreak formed in 2002, the three teenagers knew they would have an uphill battle. But they were prepared for the challenge. “We got a shitty van and decided to go on tour really early on,” says frontman and founder Ryan O’Connor. “We had to make up for the fact that we weren’t coming from a place that automatically creates interest from someone.
Since then, Outbreak managed to gain a loyal, insane following all over the globe doing things in the traditional DIY fashion: touring their asses off. What started with self-booked tours grew to opening slots for Agnostic Front and festivals with Rise Against and Taking Back Sunday. Eventually their explosive shows found their way to audiences in most parts of the world. “We started touring pretty much immediately,” O’Connor says, “and slowly worked our way around the world.”
An Outbreak show is not an exercise in patience. Known for aggressive blasts of high octane hardcore, their sets are generally less than 30 minutes of some of the grittiest, fastest, nastiest punk sets you could possibly imagine. Drawing influences from older lightning riff punk veterans like Bad Brains and Negative Approach, Outbreak is a modern day wrecking ball. “I like a short live show, I have a short attention span,” says O’Connor, “I don’t want to see a guy screaming for an hour and a half. I always feel like I’m gonna die after a 20 minute set.”
And while they’ve shared festival stages in front of thousands of kids, it’s not their preference. “A typical show for us is gonna be a dingy club, you know like CBGBs is a good example,” O’Connor says, “Just a really small place, with no barrier, so kids can get up on stage with us and jump on people’s heads. It’s typically covered in graffiti. The type of place an average person walks into and goes, ‘well what the fuck is going on here?’”
With a self-released EP of songs hardly clocking in past the two-minute mark, the band’s deadly fast style of hardcore punk became something of interest to Bridge 9 Records, who also signed New Found Glory. Outbreak released their debut album with the label, followed by a handful of EPs, 7 Inches and Splits.
Following some massive lineup changes that left O’Connor as the only remaining founding member in the band, not to mention a lack of touring over the last few years, Outbreak seemed on the verge of extinction. “It had been so long since our last proper full length, we thought some people had just counted us out,” says O’Connor, “The lifespan of a hardcore band is usually one album or a couple years at most. Since we had been a band for six years, we already put out an album, and a couple EPs, it just sort of seemed like people were like, oh ok this is probably the end.”
But it was far from the end. In 2009, Outbreak not only came back, but came blazing back with a brand new lineup and a brand new self-titled album that scored them a deal on their brand new label, Trustkill Records. The reasoning behind giving the second album the self title? “I just wanted to make a bold statement,” O’Connor says, “Just sort of show everyone we’re still alive and this is where we’re at in 2009.” It’s an album chock full of classic Outbreak style riffage but it’s not the same album they put out in 2006. “I wanted to find a balance of progressing ourselves and taking the elements of Outbreak that everyone loves,” says O’Connor, “And find a good balance between those two things.”
Outbreak also managed to score a song on the soundtrack for the film Saw VI, along with bands like Shadows Fall, Chimaira and Lacuna Coil. Getting on the soundtrack was kind of a surprise to the band. “It was taking off right at the same time as our distribution deal with Trustkill, O’Connor says, “We pitched them the song when they were taking submissions, and we didn’t hear back for awhile so we assumed it wasn’t going to happen. And it ended up going through which was cool.” But while the subtle taste of the mainstream was good for the band, some fans cried sellout. “It’s just the mentality of a lot of younger kids that don’t understand certain business ends of things, which is understandable,” says O’Connor.
Lineup changes, label switches, triumphant returns and soundtracks aside, Outbreak carry forth with the neck snapping pace of a band intent on thrashing as many seedy halls and dirty dives as they possibly can. “We’ve got another tour coming up in a few weeks,” O’Connor says, “We’re touring the US, and after that, who knows.”
Originally published on 101d.com