Behind the Song: "New Age Outlaws"

Photo courtesy: Clinton Wilcott

The fourth selection on Friends in Low Places marks arguably the heaviest part of the album, as "New Age Outlaws" packs a punch heard perhaps nowhere else in the band's catalog.

A constant in a Seventh Son set, Bobby Mahoney and Jon Alba discussed the track's orgins and how it ended up on the new installment.

"New Age Outlaws" has been around since late-2012. Why keep it around for the new album?

BM: "This is one of our hardest rocking tunes, and we wanted this album to have its roots in hard rock and punk, and this song fits the bill perfectly. Lyrically, it also fit into the album theme and it helps piece the story together."

JA: "I love every single thing about this song. I think it was best described in The Aquarian review of it. 'Mahoney’s vocal presence blends with the anaconda power crush of drums, rhythm guitar and bass in this sure to be popular rocker.' All of those elements come together and create an awesome clash of sound."

Who wrote the track?

BM: "Well according to Jon, the main riff came to him in his sleep. From there, he and I worked out the rest of the song with the arrangement and I came up with the lyrics. We wanted a fast rocker with a punch, yet have it be different from tunes we wrote previously, like 'Teenagers Too'."

JA: "A solid team effort. The riff did come to me in my sleep, in a rare nap (they happen on a far smaller scale than when Dan breaks strings). I heard the lick in my head, and immediately woke up and picked up an acoustic guitar and figured out the notes and then the main rhythm. It sounds ridiculous, but it's 100 percent accurate. The original solo used to have Bobby using an octave pedal, but we scaled it back a bit for the album."

An older recording of the song, featuring the octave pedal solo.

Why did you decide to make it the lead single for the album?

BM: "Again, coming back to the hard rock element, we wanted to showcase this album as a hard rock album, and Jon and I had long conversations about which song should be the lead single, and we ultimately agreed that this was the hardest rocking song on the album and would make a good single."

JA: "Bobby has mentioned many times on stage how he and I argue about virtually everything. This was one of those things. I was pushing hard for 'Outlaws,' and he was pushing for 'Another Deadbeat Summer,' which he was justified to do. I argued we needed to hit everyone with a punch first before unleashing what we thought was the catchiest song, which ended up working out well. We decided it would be best to go hard to start, and thus, 'Outlaws' was the first one released in April.

Describe the recording process for the song.

BM: "I went in and laid scratch guitar and vocal tracks down to a click. Then Giancarlo came in and laid down the drums to the scratches, and then we layered the bass, guitars and vocals accordingly from there. Usually, I am a "One Take Wonder," meaning that I am usually very quick when it comes to recording my parts. I take a lot of pride in this, however recording the solo for 'Outlaws' took a good 10 tries for me to get right." 

JA: "Actually, it was 13 tries...anywho, it was actually good that happened, because it taught us to have some patience and perfect every take we could. I personally chose to go an interesting approach by using Bobby's Telecaster for the rhythm track, then using my Les Paul for the lead lick. You can hear the single coil in the rhythm. Usually, it's done the other way around. It's also the only song on the album I use my rhythm pickup for, to give it a little more meat."

Where did you draw inspiration for the song?

BM: "I took a different lyric-writing approach for this song. I took a page out of Dylan's book, and used a bunch of different images and ideas and threw them into the melting pot. The lyrics cover everything from prostitutes from queens, 'The Poet' of Asbury Park, Mardi Gras, to one of my best friends and his girlfriend that he had at the time."

JA: "The name itself Bobby picked while watching an episode of 'Monday Night Raw' with me and the popular New Age Outlaws tag team was on-screen. He said he liked the name, and that was it. I had thought an outlaws theme would be cool, and it just so happened they came on-screen. I think it has a double-meaining too; there is definitely a coming-of-age mentality behind us recording this album for sure, the new age of rock."

The song is just before the turning point in the album. Why is that?

BM: "This song, at its core, is about people who live outside, not only laws, but also the social conventions that most people deem normal. It is at this point of the story that the main character is weighing his options: Either join this gang of outlaws, or go on his own. While the outlaws are not normal people, the main character thinks that even if he joins up with these social misfits, that he is still conforming to something, and he doesn't know how he feels about it. By the end of the song, he decides to go out with them for one night to see how it goes."

JA: "You can tell there is trouble on the horizon when the outlaws are around. And with the next track, it becomes very apparent there was some foreshadowing in this tune."

People have taken to the concept of the "outlaws" in reference to the band. How do you feel about that?

BM: "I think it is fitting. We are very different from most bands in our generation. I have always been influenced by 'outlaw' figures in music, such as Johnny Cash and Keith Richards. There is something appealing about different, and I like it."

JA: "I think it's pretty awesome. It definitely fits the motif we were going for. Maybe it should be on a t-shirt or something..."

What does "New Age Outlaws" mean to you?

BM: "Its a song about standing outside of people's social conventions, despite the difficulties that come with it. It is about doing whatever the fuck you want to do. Don't worry about what people expect you to do."

JA: "I take an enormous amount of pride in this song, and to me, it's the most sonically-pleasing on the album. It's badass, as the outlaws are meant to be. Love it."

Friends in Low Places is available via iTunes, Bandcamp, Spotify and various other outlets.

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