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Kansas City, Missouri, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2014 | SELF

Kansas City, Missouri, United States | SELF
Established on Jan, 2014
Band Pop Indie




"Album review: Outsides - Million"

Though it isn’t actually summer yet, it’s not too late to start that summer playlist. You know, that one you blast when you’re cruising the highways, the back roads, side streets; when you’re headed to the neighborhood pool, the grocery store, so on and so on. Million, by electro-pop band Outsides is the best place to start.

A simple six tracks, Million will grab you by the ears and guide you deep into those wonderful summer vibes. Swelling synth sounds and ethereal “oh oh ohs” kickstart the album. “Just Curious” incorporates simplistic and poppy drum beats from Ryan Shank with delayed synthesizers from Bronson Kistler. A plucky guitar from frontman Tim Ellis creates a flow for the song to rise and fall seamlessly into the chorus and verses, none of which seem the same and create a sort of mini-symphony with several movements under the umbrella of an encompassing theme. The sheer catchiness of this song is a bit outrageous. Smooth vocals keep the song chill and put a smile on your face.

In fact, the whole album is similar to the opening track. Every song sounds like an ‘80s one-hit wonder dance-pop jam waiting to happen, but turns out to be completely different and so much more. The synths are always prominent. The guitars come second, building roads for the songs to travel. The drums aren’t overpowering and are only there to keep your foot tapping and your waist wiggling.

“When It’s Time” offers up a different arrangement with cool guitar work opening up, leading way for the classic piano tones that hide themselves in the crevasses of the otherwise slow jam. The album finishes off with the heavy-hitter, “It’s Gonna Be Alright,” which is by far the most upbeat, fast-paced, and layered track on Million.

Million is six songs that—throughout the duration of each—are ever evolving. No chorus is the same, no verse similar, no musical element static. Each song is dynamic and urges you to move, sing along, and delve deeper into the lyrics and sounds. - The Deli Magazine

"Tim Ellis' debut as Outsides is a summertime escape"

Tim Ellis was trapped two years ago. He had a record deal with Warner Bros. but found himself lost in the shuffle as the major label acquired and merged its properties.

Warner Bros. bounced Ellis from label to label and forbade him from playing live shows to test new material that he'd been writing. Last April, Warner Bros. finally dropped Ellis. At long last, the shackles were off.

A month later, under the moniker Outsides, Ellis released "Seesaw" into the fuzzy white noise of the Internet. He wondered if people would notice. Did they ever.

The song was snapped up by hype-heavy music blogs and tucked into the regular rotation of KEXP 90.3 in Seattle. The opportunity that had seemed so promising with his Warner Bros. deal was finally happening, except Ellis was doing it by himself from his Kansas City apartment.

The irony isn't lost on Ellis. He sips black coffee in a booth at the Brick and laughs, flashing white teeth framed by dimples.

"'Seesaw' was a demo," he says. "But it had been so long since I had put something out because, for so long, I couldn't put anything out. So I cleaned it up a bit, took a chance and just threw it out there."

It's easy to see why the track has caused a stir (along with another song, "Pastures") since its November release. "Seesaw" is like a spoonful of raw sugar in a granulated pop world. Synths boom and soar alongside Ellis' silvery voice, destined for car stereos, sweaty dance floors and packed concert halls.

After being silenced by his record label, Ellis seems to have come out of nowhere with his synth-pop cocaine. But the suave-looking 30-year-old with a pompadour and a vintage leather jacket had a previous life as the frontman of Skybox.

Formed in 2005, Skybox enjoyed moderate commercial success and helped establish Ellis' music career while he was living in Tempe, Arizona. His tenure with Skybox lasted through a relocation to Chicago, until the release of the band's second full-length album in 2010. Skybox's members disbanded and scattered, with Ellis moving back to his native Kansas City.

"Towards the end of Skybox, I was really wanting to do some of my own stuff," Ellis says. "I had so many things in my head that I had been dying to just put down on tape."

Ellis' new sound, with an emphasis on upbeat, hook-heavy songs, bears some surface-level similarities to his old band. Where Skybox embedded quirks and twists — a vaudevillian flavor on one track, computerlike bleeps on another — Outsides is more distilled and concentrated.

"The reason that I'm so excited about this project in particular is because I feel like it's closer to me," Ellis says. "When I was in Skybox and I was writing the material, I was still writing parts with the mindset of, 'He might not like this song if I don't include these sorts of things or if it's too this direction or too that direction.'

"You sort of write for other people sometimes. With this project, I wrote what I liked and I wrote parts that I wanted to write, and as directly from my head as I possibly could."

When Ellis releases his self-titled debut EP as Outsides on February 1, he's likely to garner comparisons with Passion Pit and MGMT. But the four songs on Outsides are more than high-fructose anthems.

Ellis' bright synths compose the driving force in his music. But he reinforces them with elements from other instruments: electric guitar riffs rather than regurgitated samples, man-made drumbeats instead of drum machines. "Secret Places" starts as a pseudo-acoustic lullaby. These are subtle odes, Ellis says, to an unlikely influence.

"My dad was a producer and started as a folk musician, and then started making electronic music," Ellis says. "You wouldn't necessarily think of [that] when you listen to my stuff, but Americana and folk music is one of the bigger influences on my writing. It's also helped me focus a lot on lyrics — with some pop music, that's sort of a side thought, and for me, one of the more important things is the structure of the lyrics."

Ellis' words are (mostly) wistful. "Pastures," "Secret Places" and the 1980s-style "In a Dream" may sound like summer and the outdoors. But Ellis wrote them in his "dungeonlike" Kansas City apartment, recalling lost times and brighter days.

"I was just working in my bedroom and writing and recording, and it felt like I was in a basement — there was concrete everywhere in the apartment: a concrete floor, concrete up halfway on the brick wall," Ellis says. "Whenever I could get outside of the apartment and just walk around, getting out and feeling the fresh air, that's sort of the feeling that I wanted my music to give people — the freedom of that emotion." - The Pitch

"Outsides - Seesaw"

"Intricately layered, melodic, genre-crossing alt-pop of the highest order. " - The Sound of Confusion

"Outsides - Seesaw"

"MGMT meets Passion Pit meets Foster The People." - Tunes I Dig

"Outsides :: "Seesaw""

"Outsides will soon be on the rise himself, a gift for ear-worm melody and the distant synthesizer victories in the tradition of the Small Black and others mining the digital sky for treasure." - 32 ft. per Second

"OUTSIDES And The Upside Of Being In"

"Seesaw is a terrifically whip-smart pop song that has fallen into an endless, kaleidoscopically-hued, fog-filled chasm. Bouncy basslines, dreamy synths, drifting falsetto vox, the lot." - A New Band A Day


Still working on that hot first release.



Kansas City's Tim Ellis, who performs under the name Outsides, toes the line between organic and electronic production, writing guitar parts that were ultimately sampled and woven together with a battery of synthesizers in his home studio. The result is an ambitious collection of huge-sounding pop gems in the vein of Foster the People, M83, and Passion Pit that manage to dip their toes in shoe-gaze, psychedelia, and electronica without losing the exuberance of pure, hooky pop. Outsides is currently recording new material with producer John O'Mahony (Metric).

The band first caught the attention of Kansas City alternative station KRBZ with the self-released single Pastures.  This led to an invitation to their holiday concert at KC's iconic Midland Theater supporting Arctic Monkeys, Foals, and Bastille.  The song went on to garner airplay at KEXP and alt-weekly The Pitch raved that the band was "Like a spoonful of raw sugar in a granulated pop world. Synths boom and soar alongside Ellis' silvery voice, destined for car stereos, sweaty dance floors and packed concert halls."

Million, the debut release from Outsides, was released June 9, 2014.

Band Members