Doomsday Outlaw - Summer 2018

Here at Rock Today we are feeling particularly satisfied. As we scan the musical horizon we we take great pleasure in recognising that rock music is currently in a very strong place. British rock in particular is in a very healthy state with so many new bands delivering fresh and exciting new records. Bigfoot, Dirty Thrills and Inglorious are all great examples of bands who have taken everything that’s great about classic rock but also given it a modern twist. But there is one band in particular that has caught our ears that massively deserves your attention: Doomsday Outlaw. Hailing from Derbyshire, Doomsday Outlaw are Phil Poole (lead vocals), Stephen Broughton (guitar), Gavin Mills (guitar), Indy Chanda (bass) and John Willis (drums). They have just released their 3rd album, Hard Times, an incredible record which blends chunky riff-based tracks with softer, more reflective ballads. It’s collectively a wonderfully diverse record an altogether very moorish experience. The standard of musicianship is immense but it’s perhaps vocally where the potential for the band to go stratospheric lies. Phil provides effortless yet heartfelt performances throughout that create a real emotional connection. We catch up with Phil at the Waterloo Music Bar in Blackpool, one of the UK’s newest and most exciting venues, to hear all about how the new album came together.

You’ve just released your new album Hard Times on the 11th of May, and absolutely incredible record, but before we talk about this your website claims that your previous album Suffer More was the band’s debut album. Surely Black River was the debut album? 


Black River was the first album but I wasn’t the singer then. For whatever reason it hadn’t necessarily been working out with the singer they had at the time. It all just kind of happened by chance really. I was actually down at a gig in Islington with my brother and I hadn’t been singing for about a year. I’d kind of fallen out of love with it a little bit. So I was watching this gig and it kind of hit me when I was in that crowd that I want to be doing this again. I’d forgotten why I’d given it up and why I’d stopped wanting to be involved. So I put an ad on Join My Band saying ‘I’m a singer, this is the kind of thing I do’. The guys got in touch a few weeks later, I went for the audition and then got the gig. We started writing straight away. I think Suffer More was released within maybe 9 or 10 months of me joining the band. So I think there was perhaps a cut off – it was a new band, a new line up and a fresh start. 


It certainly felt like a new incarnation and a very different band with Suffer More.


That’s it. The thing is for a long time and a number of gigs we were playing songs from that album. That was okay but we were very keen, myself in particular, to write some stuff that was me, because I write, and something I could put my own stamp on. So as soon as we could get some new stuff out there, that’s what we did.


As I said Hard Times is an absolutely incredible record, and it’s also quite a diverse record. We have strong riff-based tracks such as Over and Over and Bring It On Home, but we also have perhaps elements of funk with Spirit That Made Me and a gorgeous piano ballad with Into The Light. With gorgeous vocals and groove throughout this record has the potential for mass appeal. How intentional was it to try to appeal to a mass audience?


I’d say not at all really because it wasn’t a conscious choice. It’s not as if we go into the studio thinking ‘these are the songs we think might have more mass appeal and these are the ones we don’t think will so we’ll put these over here’. It’s more just that’s the way we write. I think that as me and Steve have developed as a writing partnership, because we primarily write the songs, that’s just the way we have been writing. I think that kind diversity as well, because there is a very broad range of influences within the band, a couple of the lads like the heavier stuff, Indy (bass player) likes punk music and me and Steve like soul and Motown music – and obviously rock music and blues as well. So its kind of an amalgamation of all those different styles. It’s what came out naturally, and as well,  in terms of writing the album, we demoed maybe 35 songs for the album and we got feedback from Frontiers. The most important thing for us is because they wanted an album so soon after Suffer More – because we got signed off the back of that – they essentially said they wanted us to get straight back into the studio and start recording again, we were fortunate that they’d been so great with us giving us guidance as well as giving us time. The initial timeframe might have been a little bit too tight so they gave us more time because we knew this album it had to be better than what’s come before. It was in the forefront of our minds at all times to try to top what we’d done before. It took a lot of work but I’m happy with it.


It was always going to take a lot of work because Suffer More in itself was a fantastic album. But before the release of Hard Times you teased us with 2 tracks: Over and Over and Bring It On Home, which clearly built a huge amount of anticipation for the record because those tracks are incredibly strong. 


We were really happy with them. Frontiers chose those as the singles – we’re not sure what the next one’s going to be, there’s still discussions back and forth about that. It was actually Gavin (guitarist) that brought the riff in for Over and Over. I can remember him bringing it in and playing it a couple of times, I got the melody straight away and we played it once in a practice and I said to him ‘that’s going to be one of the singles’. You could just tell and that’s borne out to be the case so we’re happy with that.


Just to draw a comparison to your last record Suffer More, that was an album written following the breakdown of a marriage?


Yes, it was the sort of timeframe of how things happened. We’d booked to go into the studio and we were waiting really for that time to come around to start recording. A lot of the lyrics were kind of written but then I’m also the sort of person where I’ll get in the studio and try things through a couple of times and quite often I’ll be in the vocal booth, I’ll do something round once, come out to the lads who’ll say it’s gone really well and then I’ll say "I don’t like it anymore – give me 5 minutes and I’ll go and rewrite the whole thing". I like to do it by feel. So a lot of the lyrics weren’t 100% decided or what the songs were going to be about. We just had the ideas. Right around that time, me and my wife split. We’d been together for about 11 years – since I was about 21. It’s kind of having your life tossed into that turmoil and upheaval. Me and my boy moved back to my mum’s, and you’ve gone from feeling like your life is taking a certain path and that’s your life forever, then all of a sudden you’re back at your mum’s sharing a bed with your 3 year old son. It’s sort of like ‘what am I going to do now?’, you know? Then that’s what the album kind of became about because I’ve always been someone that writes about my own personal experiences. All the songs in a way are about me and what I’ve done because that’s just how I write. It’s not a conscious thing, that’s what just comes out of me. They’re stories about my experiences. The album just really took off from there and I found I was writing songs constantly. But again that’s something else I think I’ve found and maybe a lot of other songwriters are the same – I’ve always found it more difficult to write songs when you’re happy! It just seems to flow out a little bit more easily when you’ve got something to focus on and give you that outlet. So that’s kind of what the album is all about, and it was kind of helpful to me and my mindset at the time, and the lads as well because being in a band I was able to get through all of that, as well as obviously family and friends. 


And Suffer More understandably contained a whole host of emotions including resentment, fear and loss. There are still some elements of these on the new record but it also reflects more positively lyrically. Your songs are taken from life experiences and clearly there have been some difficult experiences. How hard was it for you especially, Phil, to turn over those emotional stones and open your soul?


It’s not necessarily hard in the songwriting process because that’s what actually helps. I can be very guarded and not often speak about what’s going on in my own mind. So the way that I get it out is through writing it down. Sometimes it might not be a song I’ve written, it might just be writing something down on a page. When we first started playing some of the songs off the album, the first few times getting through those songs, and certainly when we were recording, were difficult. There’s a song in particular on Suffer More called Running Into You which is a slow acoustic track on that album, and that’s the one on there that isn’t filled with regret, fear and anger. It’s actually the other side of the coin which is that there’s a piece of me missing and I don’t know what to do. Even just going in the studio and recording that was not an easy thing to do. But time heals everything and it’s been a few years now so everything’s great in that regard. We get on fine and obviously we’ve got a son together, and now I get the enjoyment of playing what I think are really good songs. I don’t want to say that the emotion has been taken out – definitely not – but it’s a different kind of emotion.


For this latest album you’ve signed to Frontiers SRL. So many artists, both new and established, are turning to Frontiers. What is it about Frontiers that creates such successful partnerships?


They are taking chances on certain types of bands: people such as ourselves, Bigfoot, Dirty Thrills and obviously they’ve got Toseland and Inglorious. They are building up this stable of bands that I think are great and the more exposure we can get the better. My personal experience is that they’ve been nothing short of amazing with us in terms of what they’ve asked from us. If they’ve said they’re going to do something they’ve done it. It’s just been a really happy marriage if you like. As I eluded to earlier, with writing of this album, initially they wanted a bit quicker. They signed us off the back of Suffer More and said they wanted us to get right back in the studio to bring something they could get behind. But again, with demoing songs and going back and forth, there was no hesitation in them saying ‘look, we want something as soon as possible but we’d rather you take your time and do something as good as it can possibly be’. That really helped us, and to be given that little bit of breathing space has made the record all the better for it.


I think one of the interesting things is that Frontiers reached out to you. And this is also a worldwide deal. That’s an incredibly positive way to start that relationship.


Yes, and how it came about was essentially that we paid for the album (Suffer More) ourselves, put it out there, we had some people help with PR and trying to get it out there. We actually got a review in Power Play magazine and it was that that Frontiers saw and I think it was the day after the album came out that Frontiers contacted us saying ‘We became aware of you from this review and gave the album a listen’. Within a couple of months we had the worldwide deal on the table. It’s fantastic!


You’re currently out on tour with the incredible Jizzy Pearl. What does it mean to be out touring with Jizzy?


It’s been a pretty amazing ride to be honest! It’s been 3 weeks and it’s not quite over yet. We’ve got the last full band show tonight and then we’ve got some acoustic shows with him. Just me and Steve are going to be doing that: Manchester, Birmingham and Bournemouth. He’s been an unbelievable help to me over these last 3 weeks. First and foremost he’s just a lovely bloke. Everything he has done and experienced in his life, it’s refreshing to see that he’s such a nice man and he’s more than happy to offer his experience and his wisdom. And he’s done that with me on more than one occasion, just taken me under his wing and offered me a bit of advice here and there. It might have been things I didn’t really even think of, about ways of looking after your voice when your doing this sort of touring schedule, in particular the use of in-ears (monitors). I’d never tried them before and after the third or fourth gig he took me aside and said ‘Look, you really need to get yourself some of these because it will change your life’. We had a gig at the Slade Rooms in Wolverhampton and he let me use his in-ears and his unit, and he was right! It changed my life! Having yourself in your own ears like that where you can hear yourself, it just means that you’re not straining or forcing it, and it’s changed everything and pretty much straight away. I can’t see me doing a gig ever again without them to be honest!


You will of course have been playing some of the songs from the new album. What has the audiences’ reaction been to the new material?        


Everything has been great so far. Again, the response from the early reviews we’ve been getting for this album, and the response from the crowds, has been nothing but positive. If you’re doing something right you’re never going to please everyone, but so far everything has just been what we’d hoped for really. The live audiences have been really enjoying the shows and we’ve done some great gigs over the last few weeks, some of my favourite ever, and it’s been nice to be able to get those new songs out there. When you’re doing this kind of touring schedule you’re playing the same set every night and I’m still not bored of them yet so that’s got to be something!


So the album has just launched. What are your expectations for this record?


It’s difficult to say really. You’re expectations and what you would hope are very different things. What we would like is just for as large an audience as possible to hear it. The more people that hear it the better because we are really proud of the album and we don’t feel we could have done any better with it. We’re just hoping that more people hear the record and that we hope we enjoy it. 


What does the Doomsday Outlaw calendar look like for the rest of 2018?


We were pretty gutted that our Glasgow show on this tour was cancelled. It was completely out of our control and there was nothing we could have done about it. We’ve played the Hard Rock Café there once before and that’s been one of my favourite shows. Every time we go to Scotland it’s always been great. We’ve done Bannerman’s a few times and the crowds are amazing, and it’s the kind of city where you can see that they love their live music, Edinburgh and Glasgow the same. It has without a doubt made us really keen and eager to get back there as quickly as possible. We therefore can’t wait to get to the Firestorm Rocks festival in November. The rest of this year looks busy! There’s going to be some announcements over the next few weeks – festival announcements and maybe some other announcements. We’ve got these acoustic shows coming up next week, the Breaking Bands festival, going on tour with Graham Bonnet in August, and we’re hoping for another UK tour at the end of the year - maybe even venturing into Europe at the end of the year but that’s waiting on things to be confirmed. 

 As our conversation draws to a close, we reflect on what an incredibly strong album Hard Times actually is. There are some great British rock bands breaking through at the moment and some fantastic new music emerging, but it certainly seems as though Doomsday Outlaw are leading the pack. They have created a standard for themselves from which they refuse to compromise and they’ve taken the time to create the very best record possible. Hard Times could in fact be the British rock album of 2018 and it’s an immense privilege to be a part of this journey.


Find out more at www.doomsdayoutlaw.com  and in the meantime, enjoy the video to Over and Over below.