It’s not exactly an accident that This Is How We Roll is the title, and title track, of Down ‘n’ Outz’s third studio album.
The seed for the track, whose video is premiering exclusively below, was planted a few years ago, after the group played at a benefit concert in Sheffield, England, for a friend of frontman Joe Elliott. The Def Leppard singer formed Down ‘n’ Outz a decade ago as a moonlight project from Def Lep, recruiting members of the Quireboys to play Mott the Hoople and Mott tracks. The afterparty at a nearby hotel included video from Down ‘n’ Outz’s first-ever live performance, during which guitarist Guy Griffin “kind of shuffled up beside me and just nudged me and pointed at the screen and said, ‘This is how we roll,'” Elliott tells Billboard.
“I just straightaway, metaphorically, took pen and paper and said, ‘There’s a song title!’ I had the music around already, that opening riff that sounds a bit like Humble Pie or Brain Capers Mott the Hoople. When (Griffin) said that to me I thought, ‘That’s got a bit of an edge that seems to match the music of that tune,’ and it fell into place once I did that.” Elliott adds that “This Is How We Roll” also “became our mantra. We would jokingly say ‘this is how we roll’ to each other for the next five years. So it became logical that was gonna be the album title as well as the song title.”
The “This Is How We Roll” video tracks the journey of a Down ‘n’ Outz promotional truck, which pays a bit of homage to the late David Bowie (who’s also saluted in the album track “Goodnight Mr. Jones”). Look closely and you’ll see an Aladdin Sane-era Bowie bobblehead figure on the dashboard of the truck, while the license plate is TVC 15, a nod to the Station to Station Bowie song. The truck also passes a road sign for the fictional Drive-In Saturday.
This Is How We Roll, out Oct. 11, marks a new era for the quintet. Unlike its two Mott-celebrating predecessors, the 11-song set is comprised of entirely new songs, though it hails from the same musical spirit. “I’d be very disappointed if you spotted something on this album that sounded like it came from after 1975,” Elliott notes. “It’s got that traditional kind of vibe about it.” Most importantly, he adds, it’s also “a very different album” than he’d do with Def Leppard, or that any of his Down ‘n’ Outz bandmates would make with their groups
“I really can’t see the point of being in two bands that sound the same, y’know?” Elliott says. “The third (Down ‘n’ Outz) record was always going to be a little bit more personal because I’ve written these songs for the band and, for me, as just an outlet for ideas that I’ve had building up over the last few years that I knew specifically were not gonna be Def Leppard songs but I felt still needed an airing and deserved an airing, and I want to have them heard.”
Per usual, the process of getting the Down ‘n’ Outz crew together to record was the greatest challenge in making This Is How We Roll, according to Elliott. The group, particularly drummer Phil Martini, did some work remotely, while Quireboys Griffin, Paul Guerin and Keith Weir came over to Elliott’s home studio in Dublin, “literally in shifts,” as their schedules allowed. “We were just grabbing little sessions whenever we had the chance,” Elliott recalled. “I think there was maybe one time I had all three of them in the room for two or three days, and we blasted through 90 percent of the album. That’s how it was made.”
The same conflict of schedules means Down ‘n’ Outz has no shows on the books at the moment. Elliott himself has a few more shows with Def Leppard — inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame earlier this year — coming up, including the Exit 111 festival Oct. 12 in Manchester, TN, and another Nov. 2 in Sacramento, Calif. before taking a break until the spring of 2020. “We kind of fire up again towards late April, early May,” Elliott says. “So far everything’s penciled in, nothing in ink yet. That’ll happen over this winter.”