Outrun Shines With '80s Synths and Game Waves on 'Dynamite,' Featuring Vocals From Flux Pavilion

Outrun
Bill Waters

Outrun

You ever have a friend introduce you to another friend because you were both total weirdos? That's how some of the best new relationships, start, right? That's how production duo Outrun came to be. Robin Harwood and Will Moore were introduced by a mutual friend because they both made “weird music,” as Harwood explains to Billboard in an email interview.

“We cannot escape this aesthetic, both of the '80s and of video games,” he elaborates. “There was something magical about the constraints of early games; the simplistic graphics and synthesis capabilities. Games designers squeezed as much excitement as they could out of that format, and we aim to do the same, utilizing all the precision and power that modern production affords. Effectively, we now wish to create heaviness and beauty from late '70s/early '80s analog synths and VSTs, with more than a cursory nod to our influences.”

The pair aren't just inspired by the sounds of their childhood: Outrun truly incorporates those 8-bit sounds from Sega Genesis classics like Desert Strike, Jungle Strike, and Sonic the Hedgehog, using synth chips not unlike the ones used by game developers back in the day. You can hear the vibe ringing beautifully on the duo's upcoming EP Please Insert Coin, coming to ears near you on Circus Records.

“The whole Circus family is a reassuring and supportive one, but Josh [Steele, a.k.a. Flux Pavilion] goes above and beyond,” Harwood says. “Will and I are very good friends with him, and he has helped us to no end. Josh excels at cutting through bullshit. He is very open and driven, which seems to rub off on those around him.”

“With Circus, we wanted to build a space where artists and creatives can be free to indulge their ideas and creatively see where they go,” Steele says in an email interview. “Outrun is a prime example of a creative force that doesn't exist for any reason other than the drive of the artist to create. All they want to achieve (and us in turn) is great music, pure and simple. That's what we all love to hear, and that's what Outrun are doing.”

The Circus Records co-founder even lent his voice to Outrun for the duo's lead single “Dynatime,” an '80s synth-wave ballad so blissfully retro, anyone who remembers the 8-bit era won't be able to help but love it.

“I love writing songs,” Steele says. “A lot of Flux stuff uses my own singing in the demo phase, but I tend to use it as a foundation. To approach a record as a writer and vocalist is refreshing and rewarding for me. It's like I've been honing my craft behind the scenes and on tracks like this I can be free and let it out.”

“Dynamite” started as a riff on a Yamaha DX100, pumped up by emotional cords from a Yamaha CS-15. According to Harwood, Steele's lyrics are a tongue-in-cheek ode to the synthesizers on the track, disguised as a love song.

Anyone keeping score back home might recognize Harwood and Moore from their last collaborative project Brown and Gammon. It was a heavier, dubstep sound, and some fans are sad to see it go, but Outrun are here to let y'all know: This is the future, and if this is the music that they want to make, how could anyone begrudge their passion?

“We intend to forge forward with our own style, which we've nicknamed 'SludgeWave,'” Hardwood says. “I record and process my choral vocals... adding plenty of harmonies – even the female sounding vocals are me. This is inspired by Mutt Lange's work with Def Leppard. I had no idea how difficult it was to mix/EQ that many vocal tracks before attempting it. The intention is to add an airy beauty to heavier riffs. This is us playing to our strengths. I can squeeze as much music into our tracks without upsetting the listeners. The tempo of 170-175 bpm allows us to flirt with DnB-esque sections, yet always drop into heavy, half-time refrains. Though it might be difficult to play out in other people's sets, we're very much invested in it right now. If we find an audience, great.”

“Dynamite” is a stellar step forward into this brave new retro world. Listen to it below, exclusively on Billboard Dance, and look out for Please Insert Coin on Circus Records Friday, June 30.

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