St. Louis/Illinois based Inner Outlines, which consist of five members — Matt Hall, Andrew Range, Cody Walker, Dylan McCormick, and Caleb Elmore — just released a music video for “It’s Not Safe Here,” the title track for their newest EP that released back in August. This is the band’s second album release following last year’s full length album Late Night Thoughts. Since 2014, Inner Outlines has graced the St. Louis music scene with their punk rock n’ roll sound.
Impose had the chance to speak with Inner Outlines (through a somewhat sketchy FaceTime connection) about football, movies, the origin of Inner Outlines, and what’s next for them.
Could you all introduce yourselves, and the role you have in the band?
Dylan: My name’s Dylan, and I play guitar.
Cody: My name’s Cody, I play drums.
Matt: I’m Matt, and I’m the singer.
Andy: I’m Andy, I play guitar as well.
Caleb: I’m Caleb, I play bass.
How did you guys meet and how did the band come into fruition?
Cody: I had known Andy several years prior to the band starting and we had heard about Matt, we found him on the internet. And I wasn’t doing anything musically at the time, so I shot Matt a message — he was actually out of state auditioning for The Voice. Took like a month to get back to me, I was at Warped Tour in Chicago when he messaged me back and three days later he came down. He lives about 40-45 minutes from where I live. Two days later, he came down and we jammed and a few days later, he brought Billy and Andy showed up and it snowballed from there. We all grew up with a 40 mile radius of each other.
Where are you guys from, specifically?
Matt: We’re all from Jacksonville [Illinois], which is where we’re at now. Andy lives in Hillsboro, which is to the East.
Where did the name Inner Outlines come from?
Matt: That actually came from our original bass player, his name was Billie Smith and he passed away in November of 2014. And yeah it was just something that he spat out and it ended up sticking to the wall. We just kept the name ever since he passed, just another thing we could hold onto. A real quick thing, me and Cody have the same dream catcher, I don’t know if you can see them that well, the same dream catcher tattoo, [Billie] had the same design in the exact same place.
Dylan: We’re all going to get them.
Matt: Yeah, Billie touched on one of us whether we were in a band together or not. He was just a special dude. I don’t think we’d be at the point without all of us working with him, you know?
Dylan: Me and Andy actually hated it. But after he passed…
Andy: Yeah, it was another form of his legacy. It was crazy, and it wasn’t a name we were partial to. That name was there from the beginning and it continues on a lost brother’s legacy he left with us to carry on.
So tell me a little about your newest EP that came out about a month ago.
Dylan: We worked with Kevin Gates in Springfield, MO to do this. He’s an amazing, amazing guy. I wasn’t actually in the band at the time, I’ve only been in for a couple of months.
Andy: Dylan did get to come in and sit in on one of the sessions that we had in Springfield, MO and he got to hang out and meet Kevin. Basically what we did, we went down to Springfield to meet Kevin because of the work he had done before. We wrote four songs together that I honestly think turned out better than I imagined and learned a little more about what we were doing as a band. You know, the recording process and making sure you turn out a great song at the end of the day. People can listen to it and enjoy it and sonically feel like they’re listening to a band who’s playing for a sold out crowd. It just sounds like a professional band.
Thematically, it’s only four songs but was there any thematic thing you guys wanted going on with It’s Not Safe Here? And was it successful?
Matt: I originally came up with the structure of the first song of the EP, “Good For Me.” That song was actually supposed to be on the full-length we had released previously. But just time constraints and just wanting to get the music out there, that was the first thing we were putting out. “Good For Me” was kind of a transitioning point. It was the next thing that came before the rest of the songs of the EP were on there. One last little huzzah for the writing style that we used for the full-length. After “Good For Me” was all finished, we immediately got to work on another single, we were like “we need another one!” Like, with the first [album], the first one Late Night Thoughts and of course that was the theme, like how the songs were written. You know, those little implemented things.
“It’s Not Safe Here,” the guitar rift just kind of came into my head one day and I had been holding onto it for so long. As we were talking about this next record, we were like okay, with the first one, we got to talk about ourselves, and what do we want to do next? I think we all came to the agreement on this EP was a little short burst of energy, you know, the four songs. All the songs were written about what we would have wanted explained when we were younger. And just kind of the blunt facts, like “It’s Not Safe Here” goes on about the experiences we’ve all gone through collectively just makes us feel like so much more out there. I wrote it more like to lost friends almost, because I have a lot of friends here in Jacksonville that could have been so much more. Really, the premise of it is yeah, it is a life. A line in the song goes “For the moment this feels fine/running out of time” and that’s kind of a little stab at staying here is okay, it’s a good life, I can’t say I haven’t had a bad life. But we realize there’s so much more out there.
The third song, “Our Generation,” really I’d Andy to talk about it, I like when you talk about it.
Andy: I don’t know what to say about it. It was just a song that we had written back, it’s probably the oldest song, back with all the bass player changes. It even started with my brother, who played bass in the band at one point. We just wanted to have that heavier style song but still maintain that possibility that Matt does in his vocals with the melodies and things like that. I think the song as a whole is probably one of my favorites, but I want to touch on how feel about the vocals and the lyrics that Matt did on that. I feel as if the vocals are like, who’s going to stand up and be the next generation, whether you’re in a band or the next generation of medical doctors. It doesn’t matter what your dream is, just step up and do it and don’t let anyone hold you back from doing that. People that tell you you’re not going to be able to make it doing this or this or this, let it be a spark to who are as a person and chase that dream. Honestly, I think that’s the theme of the whole record. We all have our issues, we touched on that, but we’re all here trying to live the dream and treat this as our job. This is our job, we take it 100 percent seriously and we want to make sure other people are not only inspired by our music, but respect what we are doing as legitimate form of employment. I want to see a community, a country, a world that backs that kind of forward thinking.
Matt: Yeah, and before I touch on the last song, I want to add onto to that. This entire process was not just four or five dudes in a band or anything. It took like outside sources like our parents really played a big role in our lives, and our support system. We’ve got friends from all over Illinois that we grew up with.
The last song, “Feel Nothing,” was written half in half. Half by us and we brought the rest to Kevin in Springfield. When it came down to the end, we have that big stadium rock influence, an influence to 30 Seconds to Mars and stuff like that. We’re touching on it and want to go even deeper with future releases. But with “Feel Nothing,” personally for myself, what is something I want to hear after everything else on the EP? What’s the last thing I want to hear and touch on? Really, I was going through rough times at the time of writing it. This was so real in the last couple of months, it kind of started a life style change, like what questions are left to be answered before you move on? With that, “Feel Nothing” was written purely about situations where you just wash your hands free of the situation, just that kind of mindset. When I would do things like that as a kid, I would feel bad as a kid, because I would never just straight up cried about a situation or got angry or really happy. It was just a stagnant emotion and I was just like, am I really not feeling anything, like is that a problem? Like I said, just washing the hands clean, that’s what I would used to do. Just drop it and move on and just kind of go “meh.” But “Feel Nothing” the words just get driven in your head. This song has gotten the most radio play out of all the songs, the biggest response, even bigger than I thought it would get. There have been bunches of people who say they feel that exact same way. Now I’m able to find my own personal connection with the people that want to chant those words right back at us and fully believe in those. I think “Feel Nothing” is my favorite on the record.
Andy: I think it’s got a really great positive side to it too, because you’re screaming at the top of your lungs that you feel nothing, but the reason you’re screaming that is because you’re feeling everything. In a lot of ways. Because if you want to feel nothing, it’s because you’re emotionally distraught and just like what the hell do I do about this and how do I figure out my life? A lot times I think people get to that point where they’re like I want to give up. And they don’t.
Matt: And yeah, that’s it. It’s not safe here, it’s not safe in here.
Andy: Yeah, there’s safety issues.
Matt: And now we’re starting to touch on the next material, we don’t have anything recorded yet but the next step is coming.
Do you guys typically write the songs together or individually?
Andy: There’s two sides of the process. Our side of the process and Matt’s side. And Caleb, you can talk here too.
Caleb: Lyrically, Matt writes like 99.9 percent of the lyrics. But musically, the majority of it has been somebody will come in with a guitar lick and say “hey, Cody what do you think?” and we’ll just kind of build off there. We’ll all say “hey, put this there” and we might say “hey, a different pattern here.” Someone just comes up with a skeleton of an idea and we build on it from there. A song off our first record, was it “Lovers?”
Everyone in agreement: Yeah, it was “Lovers.”
Caleb or Cody: Andy had a guitar rift that was five notes, five or six notes and that song wrote itself in 20 minutes. It just really depends, we all got different ideas that we all bring to the table.
Andy: Caleb can attest to this, if we don’t get mad at each other three times, the song is not going to be good. We butt heads, it’s not all pretty. We’re all human, we have our disagreements. Sometimes, when somebody makes a suggestion, we get caught up in little arguments, like no man, this is what I want to do. But we work around it, no matter what the compromise is, we just want to do what’s best for the song. What do you think?
I was listening to Late Night Thoughts a couple of hours ago, and I really liked it. Especially the acoustic version of “Another Lovers Night Alone.” Could you tell me a little about the approach to recording this EP as opposed to your first album?
Matt: The two processes were completely different. The first one was more DIY, we did that in a house next to a chicken coop down in the boonies of Illinois, with my buddy Chris Himmel, who is a up and coming country artist. I was just making small talk with him one day and I was like “hey, I got this band now and I know you’re practicing with recording music, do you want to practice with rock n’ roll?” Because he did mainly country. If you listen to the intro track to “Late Night Thoughts,” right at the end when you hear that glass smash, someone says “You broke my beer.” That’s Chris. We hashed it all out together. With this new record, we decided to go to someone more professional. We got a taste of what we wanted to try to do, we went to someone immediately who knew what we were trying to do. Immediately took us into this whole different process, like we even write differently today just because of the time we got to spend with Kevin Gates. Kevin Gates is a self-made man and the idea we have now, that was really the idea that made it such a good fit. That’s the one thing you have to have for a record, a good fit of a producer.
Andy: Kevin, the other day he took us to a taco lunch and showed us around Springfield and treated us like we were his best friends. Either that’s just customer service or Kevin Gates loves us. I just hope he loves us. I feel like he does, because I have conversations with him on a regular basis, he treats me like someone he’s known his entire life, rather than just some other artist that walks through the door. That’s what’s important to me, making sure we’re working with people that the best interest in what they’re doing and what we’re doing, all at the same time. They don’t have to be 100 percent invested in me as a person, but I like to be friends with the people we work with. People who want to see us do very, very well. We’ve never met a lot of people who are like “I don’t want those guys to do good.”
Caleb: Or if we have, they’ve kept it to themselves. And that’s the polite thing.
Do you guys have any cool stories from recording or being on the road that you can share?
Andy: Cody and Dylan used to give each other a hard time, a real hard time during football season because Cody is a die hard Bears fan and Dylan loves the Dolphins.
Dylan: For some reason.
Andy: They riff a little bit and like, we all are relatively more involved with the Bears football team. Who do you like?
Caleb: The Los Angeles Rams.
Andy: Solid choice though! It’s funny though to watch two people fight over a couple of sports teams. But at the end of the day when we go down there, they give each probably the biggest hug because they at least know they’ve become friends.
Cody: Have you seen the Whiplash movie?
I haven’t, but I really want to.
Cody: The director in it, his last name’s Fletcher, he’s the music director. Well this guy, he verbally mutilates his students. Like, there’s this one scene where he takes a chair and throws it at a student for being off time, like gets in his face “Are you going to play on my effing tempo?” There was this one part where I was having trouble keeping on time, and [Matt] comes up to me and goes “Have you seen Whiplash?” And he goes “I will go Fletcher on you if you don’t click!” And I was like, “he’s going to kill me if I don’t play this right.”
Matt: Yeah, this record was written with pure intimidation.
Inner Outlines is currently planning tour dates for sometime next year. You can check out the music video of “It’s Not Safe Here” right here.