The Drop: The Weirdos Band Together In Au/Ra's "Outsiders"

Photographed by Jeen Na.
The song "Outsiders" by Au/Ra is an anthem of solidarity in loneliness. Being on the fringe, the song suggests, isn't so bad, especially because the rest of the world is right there with you.
"We might be the outsiders, but the in-crowd is so out right now," Au/Ra, whose real name is Jamie Stenzel, sings. The song has the murky, wilted sound of 2017 pop, but the acerbic lyrics of an earlier era. Stenzel is direct with her inspiration: She samples Pink Floyd's "Another Brick In The Wall" in the latter half of the song.
Where "Another Brick" is aggressive, though, "Outsiders" is warm, almost cozy. It's an anthem, but it's also a reassurance: a welcoming into the world of weirdos.
Stenzel explains over the phone from Germany, where she's visiting family, that she wrote the song because she herself is a weirdo. "Weirdo" is subjective, but Stenzel is certainly out-of-the-ordinary. She's fifteen, and she's already actively pursuing a music career. She's been schooling herself online for the past two years — yes, since she was 13 — so that she can focus on music. When we speak on the phone, she's been away from her home in Antigua for the better part of a month. She's been busy with meetings and promoting her new music.
The music video for "Outsiders" premieres today. To coincide with the release of the video, which you can watch exclusively here, Refinery29 spoke to Stenzel about high school, being a weirdo, and Pink Floyd.
Refinery29: "The Outsiders" speaks to the experience of high school, but that isn't a world you're even connected to much anymore. Do you feel like your own life reflects high school anyways?
Jamie Stenzel: "I only ever really did one year of high school in actual school. I guess I can kind of relate to [the high school experience] from that, but I can also relate to people who are homeschooled. And who kind of don't have the same social life that somebody who goes to school might have, or the same experiences, of course. But 'Outsiders' was kind of about me accepting that I'm a bit of a weirdo. So, I just wanted to make a song that other people could relate to. It was representative of more of a unifying thing and not a lonely thing. Because usually being an outsider is perceived as being lonely. But, if you're a group of outsiders, then it's not so lonely!"
The video follows all these "outsiders" that then gather in the woods, where you've summoned them with a tattered flag. Was the concept that outsiders have their own fringe community?
"Yeah, it's basically saying, 'If you're an outsider, you don't have to be alone.' You can still be a part of something. You don't have to feel alone. The flag really is a representative of this thing that [the outsiders] see. I don't know if you noticed this, but every time that another outsider is introduced, they look upward as if they sense something. And then they kinda sense me and that presence. But then the flag is really a symbol for the outsiders, and they can feel it calling it to them. It's not like they can see it on the mountain from where they are. That's unrealistic, but it really just symbolizes the outsiders symbol, which is carried on throughout the video. You'll see the symbol hidden in places every now and then."
Like a bat signal.
"Yeah, kinda like that." [Laughs]
The song samples "Another Brick In The Wall." How do you feel your song and "Another Brick" are connected?
"First of all, 'Another Brick In The Wall' is such an iconic song. And I feel like that song, back then it really — it said something that songs didn't really say. It was critical of the current situation in society, and the way people were being treated. For me, being able to put it in my own song is unreal. The fact that I was even able to do that, I'm forever grateful for it. I have huge respect for them. Their music just really resonates with me."
When you say the word "outsider," what exactly do you mean? Is that just an all-encompassing term for people who don't fit in? Is it for teens specifically?
"No, it's not for a specific age range. It's kind of just for everyone who feels that way, really. It's a calling. It's a calling out to anybody who feels left out in social situations or family situations or any situations they might have. And hopefully, they can relate to that, and feel like it's not just them that's going through that."
Was the song inspired by a specific situation that you were in?
"Yeah. While I was writing 'Outsiders,' I already had the storyline of the video in my head. Because that happens most of the time when I write songs. I look at it like a book, and try to see a music video while I'm writing it. And for me all along it was about this group of people coming together and showing that they're not lonely, although people are treating them indifferently. Because I just feel like that a lot of the time throughout my primary and later primary — middle school — years, and I still do, recently especially, because I've been traveling so much, so the song really meant a lot to me."
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Watch the full video for "Outsiders," below.
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