Minutes into her conversation with Beat, it's remarked to Outright frontwoman Jelena Goluza how exciting it is to talk about the band in the present tense, as they prepare to release their first album in nearly eight years.
“We’re lucky we bloody survived,” she responds – both in a self-deprecating manner, given the time between albums, but also with an undercurrent of incredulity given the circumstances of the last couple of years. “So many bands didn’t. So many people didn’t.” Of course, even with the adversity and challenges of the 2020s thus far, Goluza never quite came to the conclusion that Outright – the politically-charged hardcore band she formed in the early 2010s – was entirely done for. “There was definitely that period of self-assessment – thinking like, ‘Where are we at now? Where do we want to be? How much more have we got in us?’,” says Goluza.
“As far as creating music together goes, though, that never stopped. In fact, during lockdown with everything we were going through, that drive was still absolutely there. Half of us weren’t working, and we really needed something to be able to keep pushing through. Being creative, staying connected with each other… it was really important.”
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Forged out of this period came Keep You Warm, the band’s second studio album and their long-awaited follow-up to 2014’s Avalanche. Although its title may seem endearing on surface value, a fire rages within its greater context. As Goluza reveals, it serves as just part of one of the album’s more cutting lines, as heard on the song “Burn”: “I won’t set myself on fire/Just to keep you warm.” To her, the line – and the song itself, by proxy – is a reflection on “managing compassion for ourselves.”
“As much as we serve our communities and try to manage expectations for each other, there’s also this need to take care of ourselves and manage our own boundaries,” she says. “That’s something we absolutely learned through lockdown. I was in a job that was pushing me in really, really unhealthy ways, and there was a lot of pressure. I really learned a lot through that experience – the reality is that nobody thrives unless we all do.”
The intricacies of these interpersonal politics are explored throughout the rest of the LP, as are the band’s sonic reaches. Although still very much indebted to a thrashy, metallic take on hardcore punk, Goluza notes that the album covers a lot more musical terrain than its predecessor. “There was definitely a sense of reflecting our maturity,” she says. “We feel like we are more than just a standard hardcore band – we have so many varied influences, and there were so many different stories we wanted to tell. I think the difference in this record is the there’s just a bit more range.
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“There’s thrashy metal tunes, there’s some really melodic punk… we even have a slow stoner-metal track that goes for seven-and-a-half minutes. Our songs are normally done in two! We really wanted to see what could we do differently – to reflect where we’re at. We’ve been through so much, and we’ve had all of this time to be creative. Why not open it up?”
When Outright first arrived on the scene with their 2011 demo, the chorus of the first song used a common saying: “Gotta be the change I want to see.” Goluza has always embodied this saying – she speaks her mind, and she stays true to championing progressive issues. It’s not done for likes, it’s not done to keep up appearances – it’s bigger than that, and Keep You Warm is testament.
“We are all impacted by the political context and structures that we all live in,” says Goluza. “I think we can’t help but write about it, because we give a shit. We like to interrogate the way that we operate in the world around us, and that means interrogating our personal feelings too. Hardcore, metal, punk and everything in-between offers so much more to us when we know there is truth behind the music. God knows we all have plenty that we feel and want to express.”