Interview: Outer Stella Overdrive

Capturing an essence of nostalgia whilst simultaneously looking to the future, Outer Stella Overdrive are a band that you need to be rocking out to, right at this very moment. The London lads Command your attention with contagious tunes, a charged vibe and an attitude that they’re ready to take on anything; stating that they want to ‘open up the industry’ when they checked in with TW.

Dazzling with a soon to be trade-mark grin, Raff Law thrashes lead guitar whilst belting out their passionate lyrics and is joined on vocal duties by Kelvin Bueno who also provides their bouncing basslines. Accompanying Kelvin on the heavy rhythm section is unwavering drummer Rudy Albarn, and Amin El Makkawi brings a magic flare on keys. Collectively, they’re creating a raucous sound that’s managed to tap into something we’ve been missing on the current UK rock scene; bringing a real boost of individual energy and undeniable excitement.

Channelling a proper rock approach, they have a raw and creative production sound that harkens back to the iconic music that they were raised on. In turn, this style helps to fuse their classic punk attitude with the fresh, forward-thinking injection that they bring to the table, thanks to growing up in modern London.  

The sound encapsulated is big and bold; spanning genres with rocking riffs, a funky rhythm and even surreal psychedelic jams. On top of this, they pack in witty but thought-provoking lyrics (as discussed below) in addition to erupting choruses that fill their songs with even more passion and leave you ready to both rave and revolt.

Their latest single Camel Blue is out today, and ahead of the release Raff, Rudy and Kelvin chatted to TW about their evolution, lockdown life and what else they have coming your way…

A: It’s hard for your music to be defined by just one genre as you seem to effortlessly integrate such an array of styles. How would you summarise your sound in a few words?

KELVIN BUENO: I would say two words. I’d say ‘Outer Stellar’.

RAFF LAW: A few words are so hard, especially when I’m writing it but I’d say ‘powerful’ and ‘imaginative’.

RUDY ALBARN: I would say ‘our life’. And ‘true’, true is also a big, big keyword.

A: There’s clearly a real variety of influences thrown into the mix, is this a conscious effort and do you take any inspiration from outside the world of music? 

RAFF: We’ve taken a lot of inspiration from just London, in the ‘Out + About’ video, we shot a few weeks ago, we touched on how London inspires us. In the project that we’re releasing in the form of singles at the moment, it’s like the epitome of what we’ve been living and breathing the last few years. Our experiences and things that don’t sit well with us. 

RUDY: What we’re going through at each point, I think it’s a collective feeling between all of us. We’re just throwing things out. It’s a natural exploration and just comes to us in whatever way it wants to develop.

KELVIN: It’s almost an unconscious effort. None of us try to make any music of a certain style. We just make what we want to make and do what we want to do.

A: Do you guys have a particular way of working and have the recent months had an impact on this?

RAFF: We have a formula but it’s changed because of lockdown. For the past two years, we’d write songs together three or four times a week. Outside of that, I’d be writing a few lyrics on my phone and shit, but I wouldn’t be playing much music outside. Lockdown forced me to have to play the acoustic guitar for like three months without the guys.

KELVIN: We found that balance of our process. We write in a setup, instrument environment, but we also go away and write in isolation, then come back with lyrics and build from there. It’s just the rawest form of songwriting there is; no technology, just vibing together.

RUDY: Oh yes, it fired us up in that time to be like, ‘shit, we got to do this’. A thing that was cool was when we started rehearsing, instead of playing the songs that we just recorded, the last time we were together, we were like, ‘let’s just write new ones’. 

A: How do Outer Stella Overdrive want to change the game?

KELVIN: First of all, put this music back where it needs to be, band music at the top. In the industry, everything sounds like it’s in one place, in one lane. We just want to open up everyone’s ears, open up the industry and opportunity. Inspire the next generation to be like- “I want to pick up a guitar”.

RAFF: I think the process that we have; mates writing music together, it’s so much fun. I personally think it lies in its enjoyment. Our shows are all about energy and positivity and having a good time which is especially true right now when we can’t play shows and the government are telling ballerinas to go cyber.

RUDY: I feel like a lot of music at the moment is solo artists and producers and I think having a group of musicians all play together is a completely different vibe that’s a special thing missing in the industry at the moment. I think it adds another element to our music, just the way we write and, like (Raff) said about everyone getting together, seeing friendly faces.

A: You’ve been putting out some class tunes the past few years now and it’s exciting to see that you’re regularly topping the ‘Punk List’ on Spotify these days. Could you tell us a bit about what the band has in store for us next?

RAFF: Three Piece has recently come out and we have some video content made with Luke Scully (the Creator of ‘Out + About’) to go with that coming soon. 

KELVIN: We’ve also got two more singles to come (the first being ‘Camel Blue’ that’s out today). Then we’re going to drop an EP which consists of these last four singles that we’ve dropped and a few more tracks. It kind of encompasses our journey up to this point.

Then next year, we’re going to have a proper project for you that we’ve just recorded. The first EP that you can look forward to is ‘Counting Self-Doubt’, which will come at the end of this year. And that will change the game.

A: How do you feel you’ve evolved in your musical journey so far?

KELVIN: I think we’ve evolved so much that it isn’t natural. It’s been three years and we’ve really been patient with it. We haven’t just been trying to pump everything out, go big straight away and sign to whoever, wherever we can. We’ve just kept ourselves to ourselves and grown. 

You’ll see the progression in the music from what’s out right now, to what we’re about to release, to those coming out next year. We’ll just let the music speak for itself in terms of that.

RAFF & RUDY: Amen.

A: If you could recruit any music musician dead or alive into the band would you go for why?

RAFF: I’m going for Peter Green.

KELVIN: So strong. Ah, shit. Yeah, it would be.

RUDY: Well yeah, I wouldn’t want another drummer in the band so I’m cool man.

KELVIN: I would recruit fuckin Janis Joplin just to do some squeals in the background.

RUDY: We could do a feature or a little project.

RAFF: Yeah, that would be groovy.

A: I haven’t been fortunate to catch Outer Stella Overdrive live yet but from videos I’ve seen, it looks like you create an insane atmosphere. Would you say that you’re more in your element performing live or recording the studio? 

RAFF: We’re in such different states of mind. In our live performances, we try to play our songs with as much of a high energy as possible and put on a performance. I love getting the crowd involved, whether that’s getting them to do certain dancing or callbacks. I think if you make everyone feel welcome and part of it, it makes it more memorable. You want everyone to remember that gig, that first time they saw you play.

KELVIN: In the studio, we’re actually perfectionists and so precise, so like Raff said we’re in such a different state of mind. Performance-wise we’re willing to sacrifice some of the details that only musicians would notice, to put on a show and just get everyone going crazy with us.

RUDY: I’d say from a live perspective, you’re in a different mindset where you’ve got something to do and that’s the goal at the end of the day. In the studios, you can be more open and absorb more without having to go to that certain place.

A: Many of your lyrics make bold statements that seem to come from a real personal place. Do you have any favourites that you’ve written? 

RAFF: Personally, I feel like the lyrical journey is a whole different experience in itself and I think the best lyrics that we’ve written are what we’ve done in lockdown. As a band, we’ve realised that if we write more fifty-fifty, our songs come from two different personal points of view and life experiences.

KELVIN: It’s much more interesting. Let’s pick a line of something you’ve written and I’ve written.

RAFF: Lost track of time, drowning my sorrows down the line, signing my life away for five minutes of comfort. It’s a fact of mine, that I much prefer the night when the darkness hides the light that shows discomfort’.

KELVIN: In terms of real powerful, moving shit, I think the starting verse in Three Piece-’Another day in London Town, where you can get stuck up and it can get gory. Feds pulling anything that’s brown cos they work for the Tories. So I keep my head right down cos they got it in for me’.

RAFF: To end on this, the lyrics on the singles and the project that we have coming out next year are so bold and the message is so clear. We touch on mental health, we talk about being locked up and not feeling free, our anger towards the government and how they haven’t been thinking about the youth and creatives…  

KELVIN: We talk about our personal philosophies and ways of viewing life, a lot of the tracks are quite reflective.

ALL: Peace out from OSO


Check out Outer Stella Overdrive’s brand new single Camel Blue and their other top tracks on Spotify now

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