The frontman of Belfast punk band The Outcasts has told how the music biopic Good Vibrations helped reignite their career and draw in a new generation of fans.
Greg Cowan, lead vocalist and guitarist, said the band had already reformed prior to the film’s release in 2012, but after the indie flick’s success and subsequent Bafta nod the number of gigs and festivals they were asked to perform at “shot through the roof”.
Cowan was talking ahead of an upcoming gig featuring The Outcasts and British punk royalty UK Subs at Voodoo Belfast.
The event will give fans of punk the chance to see two of the genre’s original trailblazers up close and personal and comes hot on the heels of the release of Good Vibrations on Disney+.
The Outcasts, formed in 1977, were signed to Terri Hooley’s legendary Good Vibrations record label at the height of the punk movement more than 40 years ago. They are one of several local bands featured in Glenn Leyburn and Lisa Barros D’Sa’s heart-warming film about Hooley’s record shop and label, launched against the backdrop of the Troubles and the emergence of punk in the city.
Cowan, whose brother Martin is in the band alongside JP and new guitarist Buck Defect (Ian Murdock), is still a diehard punk who says music has become his full-time career since the release of the biopic 10 years ago.
And he says he believes the film’s addition to Disney+ will introduce even more new fans to the band’s music and the punk genre.
“What the film Good Vibrations did for us was unbelievable,” Cowan told the Belfast Telegraph.
“We went from being this band that had just started back-up and was playing a few gigs to pretty much full-time musicians, gigging regularly enough that I can describe myself as a professional musician.
“From what I know, the success of Pistol on Disney+ — the series about the Sex Pistols — took them by surprise and the channel’s bosses went actively looking for more punk stuff and found Good Vibrations.
“As a direct result of the film being released 10 years ago, we’re constantly touring in England and will be heading off soon to France and Switzerland.
“This is my life now, sometimes gigging five days in a row, which isn’t bad for a band who are mostly in their sixties.”
Supporting UK Subs has been a “surreal” experience for The Outcasts, who have been huge fans of the punk icons from their early days in the late 1970s. But Cowan says that bringing them to Belfast to perform will be extra special.
“We’ve gigged in some amazing places, but playing our hometown is always the best experience and we’re delighted that UK Subs will be at Voodoo too,” said Cowan.
“We’ve become friendly with the guys now and their frontman, Charlie Harper, has such amazing energy. It’s hard to believe that he’s 78.
“People talk about Mick Jagger and The Rolling Stones, but they haven’t seen Charlie Harper in action.”
At a recent gig in Poland, Cowan said he noticed that a large section of the crowd was young. Similarly, when they played a recent festival in Cardiff, many of the fans were in their teens and early twenties.
Cowan believes that online accessibility to music has helped younger fans to discover punk, coupled with a limited choice of current bands with anti-Establishment messages.
“I think many younger fans of punk have picked a genre and worked their way backwards,” he said.
“Bands nowadays don’t have that same rebelliousness. Back when we began, we were basically against everything — religion, sectarianism, politics. And because we were punks, we didn’t have to give an explanation. That’s just the way it was.
“In Northern Ireland, with the Troubles going on around us, being a punk took on a certain resonance. We had more to rebel against, so there was a real authenticity to what we were about.
“These days, none of the young bands are like that, so kids are having to go back to the past to find some kind of meaning in their music.”
Early next month, The Outcasts will perform at the four-day Rebellion Festival in Blackpool, where new member Buck Defect will make his UK debut. The 58-year-old guitarist, the ‘youngster’ of the band, replaces long-time member Petsey Burns, who is stepping aside.
The Belfast gig on Saturday, August 20 will mark Buck’s first outing as an ‘Outcast’ in his native city, then the band will hit the road again for a series of dates in Europe.
In addition, the punk foursome has lined up a gig in Montreal next year and is hoping to take in a tour of North America, something which was on the cards before the pandemic hit.
With Good Vibrations premiering on Disney+ on Friday past, Cowan is expecting even more interest in punk, particularly the Northern Irish scene which Hooley so famously championed.
“Good Vibrations is a brilliant film about the punk scene back then in Belfast, when no bands came here to play so we had to do it for ourselves,” said Cowan.
“The film helped revive The Outcasts and since then the number of gigs and festivals that we’ve been asked to play at has shot through the roof.
“The gig with UK Subs will be a great night in one of the best places on the planet for punk.
“It’s the gift that keeps giving. Punk will never go away.”
The Outcasts and UK Subs will perform at Voodoo Belfast on August 20, 2022. Tickets are available from eventbrite.co.uk