There’s an indie scene that’s brewing in the college town of Bloomington, Indiana. We caught up with one Bloomington-based band recently – Outdoor Velour, the self-described “fuzztown” indie pop band comprised of a chatty, married Midwestern couple. Greg Simpson and Cara Kinnally have only been playing together as Outdoor Velour since late last year, but since then, they’ve released their first EP, Don’t Panic, and they’ve kept busy playing regional shows. Now, actively using the Internet as a tool for self-promotion and communication, Simpson is increasingly able to focus on getting the attention of new fans around the country. It may pay off in the end, now, Simpson and Kinnally are just enjoying the fact that they get to play music together.
Greg Simpson: This is our first interview so no tough questions.
BIJLM: No problem! So when and how did you guys start making music together?
Cara Kinnally: Back in college, like 2002 or 2003, neither of us played anything, like the guitar…
GS: I kind of did.
CK: We just started off going off into this park nearby and playing acoustic guitar, Partridge family-style.
GS: A bunch of white people playing acoustic guitar in the park… In 2004, we came up with the name. Partly because we liked Mates of State, another male-female married band. We recorded one song…Then we forced Cara to pick up the bass.
CK: I wanted to. I had never picked up a bass before.
GS: She was actually borrowing a bass before getting her own. We also used to be in a band called Take Manhattan. We went on tour and everything, but like a lot of bands, the touring aspect is what breaks them. Cara quit after the tour….and then that became a good opportunity to do Outdoor Velour as a real band. But we’ve only been playing live since December.
CK: And we had only been writing songs since November of that year . We haven’t even been officially together as band for a year.
BIJLM: When did you release your EP [Don't Panic]?
GS: I believe it was February. It was just kinda random. We recorded backing tracks at our friend’s studio. We recorded drums. Cara recorded bass. I recorded horns, and some friends came in to record miscellaneous stuff. We recorded these backing tracks and we would use those to play shows. Then I home recorded a bunch of stuff on top of that, and we kind of created this EP and sent it away to be duplicated.
BIJLM: How would you describe your sound?
GS: You do this one [to Cara]. I’ve been reviewing CDs for a while and the stupid genre thing is annoying.
CK: In the most basic terms, I would say it’s fuzzed-out pop. And…what was the genre you came up with [to Greg]?
GS: Fuzztown, ’cause there’s also Motown in there.
BIJLM: Who are some of your musical influences?
GS: We really love The Raveonettes. We’re actually starting a Jesus and Mary Chain tribute band. We’re getting another guy to join. A lot of people say we sound like The Vaselines and I like them.
CK: But I don’t really listen to them.
GS: We’re starting to think more of…Cara has written some stuff based on poems. A lot of those musicians we like write fictional stuff… Belle and Sebastian.
CK: Los Campesinos. As far as pop and twee, definitely those bands.
GS: And of course the ’50s Motown stuff: The Temptations, The Supremes. And some of the more acoustic stuff like Mountain Goats, too.
BIJLM: You’re based out of Bloomington, Ind. That’s not exactly the place I think of when I think of indie pop. What’s the music scene like there?
CK: Well Bloomington has an awesome indie scene because there’s a university here.
GS: And the music school is nationally renowned.
CK: Bloomington is not like the rest of Indiana. It’s really liberal. The music scene is really vibrant. Pretty much every night of the week you can go out and not just see one show, but multiple bands playing.
GS: There’s a great all-ages venue, there’s a great over 21 bar that does shows. And everyone knows each other. It’s a very kind of incestuous scene. And everyone, for the most part, except us, is in like three bands.
CK: As far as indie, though, we have a great scene here. We have a lot of good bands coming out of here. It’s kind of a hidden…
GS: A hidden gem. Bloomington isn’t big, but there’s a lot going on.
BIJLM: How important is your live show to you guys as a band?
GS: We love playing, but recently I’ve been finding ways to get new fans through social media. Recently my latest addiction is Turntable.fm. I connect with people and chat about our band. People do go and listen to your stuff. Every once in a while, I’ll spin one of our songs. And people have been responding to our stuff really well. We find a lot of new fans through that, more than at our shows… I love playing shows. I love being on the road. Outdoor Velour hasn’t toured yet, but we’ve played Chicago, Indy, Columbus [Indiana]. We just haven’t toured properly yet… People don’t really buy records anymore. Or they want to buy them with a credit card. Online is the way to go. It’s given us more opportunities to reach new fans than by playing a show where 30 people will show up.
BIJLM: What else do you do when you’re not playing music?
CK: Well I’m a graduate student. I’m doing a PhD in Spanish and American Studies. I also teach undergrad classes at Indiana University. Besides that, we have a dog and…
GS: She loves taking pictures, mostly of our pet. I’m a music teacher and I just got a new job. I was teaching 6th grade music, but I was commuting an hour east and that was grueling. But now I got a job in town, a bike ride, away. Besides that, I read about music, I write about music for PunkNews.org. And when I’m doing something not music related, I watch TV shows like Mad Men.
CK: We also spend a lot of time together. Mostly eating…
GS: Bloomington has a lot of great restaurants so we do go out to eat a lot.
CK: We have two cats and dog.
GS: All named after Futurama characters.
BIJLM: What are your musical guilty pleasures?
CK: I’m not ashamed of anything I listen to.
GS: I’ve been on a ska kick lately. I’ve been into a lot of third wave ska lately. I wouldn’t say that’s a guilty pleasure, but…
CK: I can’t think of anything that’s a guilty pleasure.
GS: Best Coast?
CK: Ok, yeah. Best Coast…I like their music, but their lyrics are so dumb.
GS: I listen to a lot of weird synthesizer music, too. Not like electronic, but more like The Rentals. I’d highly recommend their first album. Also teaching music to kids, I hear a lot of goofy songs.
BIJLM: What do you guys have planned for the rest of the year?
CK: We have some more songs in the works. A couple new ones.
GS: We’ve been thinking lately that we might do more short term releases like EPs. And since people don’t buy albums anyway, why wait two years for 10 songs? Might as well just put out two or three songs as they come up. We may be able to get a 7-inch EP out in the winter if we scratch up a little more money. What I was thinking is we can start a Kickstarter. Have you heard of it?
BIJLM: Yeah, it’s not just for music, right?
GS: Right. It’s for any creative project, really. If we treated it like a pre-order, then we can give people a copy when it’s done for what they’ve donated. We’ve got about four songs right now. We’ll see. We’ve got a few shows coming up, too. Where are we playing again [to Cara]?
CK: You know better than I do. I just show up.
GS: Last night [at Robapalooza in Solsberry, Ind.] was crazy. There was guy with an AK-47. He bought it when it was still legal. If you look at our Facebook, I put a photo of the host of the show, shirtless holding a AK-47. And there’s a lot of dorky indie kids firing off, too. These guns were so loud.
CK: Yeah, that was crazy.
GS: But the show was fun and everyone was really nice and wasted. It’s just out in the country instead of at a bar. And people had guns. We both grew in Chicago, I don’t know if I mentioned that. So we were two suburban kids kinda scared about people with guns.
BIJLM: Any addictions or obsessions?
GS: Turntable. What about you [to Cara]? Mexican food? Your dog?
CK: I’m not addicted to my dog. You’re addicted to Facebook.
GS: Well when I’m running all of the Outdoor Velour stuff, you have to spend a lot of time online.
CK: I can’t think of anything.
GS: Harry Potter?
GS: Yes you are obsessed with Harry Potter.
CK: Not as much as other people. I’m really into watching documentaries.
GS: They’re all so depressing.
CK: Yeah, they kind of are depressing. I watch them about like, Rwanda [laughs]. I guess that’s my most recent addiction. Also, like I’m obsessed with 16 and Pregnant. That’s definitely my guilty pleasure. That’s my secret addiction. Before that…what was that Bret Michaels show?
GS: Rock of Love.
CK: Yeah, Rock of Love. It’s a train wreck. Luckily that show isn’t on anymore. My other guilty pleasure is the Twilight series. The whole time I’m reading it, I’m like, “this is terrible.” But it’s just so addicting. I can’t stop. I have two addictions: One is depressing documentaries and one novels.
GS: I guess my real obsession, though, is The Jesus and Mary Chain. And that’s kind of what we do, too.