Sisterhood is always a lovely thing. Finding it through your college roommate is even better. The New York-duo Overcoats first met in 2011, and since then they’ve combined their vocals into sweet electro pop. And it’s all be leading up to this, their debut album, YOUNG. If that wasn’t exciting enough, the band have just announced they’ll be playing a headline show at St Pancras Old Church in London on May 24th, so we thought we’d talk to them about their thriving future and how the past made that happen.
Your most recent song ‘Hold Me Close’ builds slowly before turning into a punchy electronic track – it’s fantastic! Can you tell us a little about how the track came to life?
Hana: The song came together over a period of months, with changes to the melody, lyrics, chorus, background…we needed to get the song sounding exactly how we thought it should feel.
JJ: We were inspired to write a bit of a manifesto (the verses) about the way men walk this world and we wanted to combine it with a chorus that would provide space for release and reflection.
Hana: Often the verses to our songs are more folk while the choruses crossover to electro-pop.
JJ: Yeah, that being said, I’m not sure how much of this was actually calculated versus us just reflecting on how the song turned out!
The lyrics to ‘Hold Me Close’ are rather defiant; were you inspired by anything in particular when it came to writing the lyrics?
Hana: We just try to write honestly and from the heart, and that moment in time, JJ and I were both experiencing the frustration that can come with choosing one’s path in life. Or perhaps in feeling like you don’t have a choice?
JJ: We felt a bit lost and we wanted a way to sing about that uncertainty in a way that did not mask the vulnerability but rather embraced it.
Your music is a very fresh take on electro-pop (not too dissimilar to MØ). Electronic music can often feel interchangeable, but yours stands out – what do you think makes your sound unique and what do you do to achieve that?
Hana: We talk a lot about wanting to bring lyrical songwriting and storytelling into electronic music. We want the corporeal feelings that come from a good beat, but without losing the honest lyrics that are such a big part of who we are as musicians
JJ: Yes I totally agree, I love a lot of electronic music and i appreciate every musician making art because it’s a hard thing to do, to put yourself and your work out there. But I’m happy to hear that our sound is unique. I don’t think there’s a recipe to it. We just try to believe in our project and follow our sonic intuition… and because we are Hana and JJ… and we trust each other and ourselves, our music feels true to who we are as people, as friends, as musicians. It’s ours.
You have both known each other since 2011 and see yourselves as best friends with a sisterly bond. How did you meet and what made you want to collaborate on music?
JJ: We met freshman year of college. Our first conversation was walking back from an anthropology class in the first week of school…I don’t remember what we were talking about…all I know is that we walked into a tree. We had to be friends from then on because it was too awkward not to be.
Hana: Yup. Our first time hanging out as friends, we discovered that we had the same favorite song: You Know I’m No Good by Amy Winehouse…and the rest is history! We sang covers together all through college but never tried writing original songs together until our senior year.
JJ: The first song we sat down to write together was Little Memory. And that song is now going to be on our debut album.
You co-write your songs. You’ve stated that you share a close bond, but how does this translate into creating music? Has it ever been difficult or uncomfortable experience?
JJ: I think for the most part, writing together comes naturally…and is pretty cathartic for both of us. At times, it can be hard. Probably because it takes a lot of vulnerability to share your ideas with another person…you really hope the other person likes your melody idea or lyric. We are good about treating one another with tenderness and kindness and we are usually on the same page about everything.
Hana: It can also be challenging to write together because for us, a good song is one in which you reveal an ugly truth about an experience or about yourself. And talking about that with one another takes trust and vulnerability. That’s why we’ve become almost like sisters.
JJ: Chicken or the egg… Maybe we were able to write together so well because we have always been able to share really difficult truths with each other. Or maybe we have become close as a result of building this trust. It’s probably a bit of both!
In your press release you state that the first time that you heard each other sing was like an epiphany. Can you describe that moment and why it was so special?
Hana: The first time I heard JJ sing, I was absolutely floored. I had never heard anything like it. I was so amazed and inspired. Then, when we started singing together, that was like a second epiphany. My voice got lost in hers – when we sing together, it feels like we are once voice.
JJ: I felt exactly the same way. Singing together only amazed me even more – I was like, how is this possible right now?! We have very different voices, but when we sing together, they come together in this special way that’s larger than the sum of its parts.
You are releasing your debut album YOUNG on 21st April! Congratulations! How was the writing and recording experience?
Hana: The writing and recording experience was really difficult and also very rewarding. We have known we wanted to record an album ever since we started writing together back in 2014, and so the album ranges over that whole period of time – the first song we ever wrote together is on there, as are ones that were written very recently.
JJ: We had the songs demoed for the most part, but getting in the studio was a whole other ball game. There’s so much pressure in there to get the perfect product, it can be really emotionally taxing to be so engrossed in this like, first big piece of art. We were very nervous about changing anything at first [from the demos]. But as soon as we started to trust in Nicolas and Arthur [our producers] and our own ideas as well, everything flowed.
YOUNG is about growing up under a female lens; what were your own experiences of growing up? When did you feel that you came into your own?
JJ: Hana and I had a lot of similarities in how we were raised. We both traveled a lot, and came from very loving families that instilled a lot of the same values in us. Both of us had a similar experience in how we related to our parents as well — often gravitating towards our fathers when we were struggling, looking for advice to make us tough, and able to handle the ways of the world. For both of us, a lot of growing up and especially growing into women was starting to understand our mothers more and what they go through as women, wives, and daughters. A lot of the songs on the album have to do with looking at what your mother went through and thinking, am I the same? Am I different?
Hana: As for growing up, we’re definitely still coming into our own! I remember I once asked my mom, “when did you start feeling like an adult”? And she was like, “I still don’t feel like an adult.” I think it’s a lifelong process.
You are heading out on a US tour in the spring in support of Tennis. What can people expect from your live experience?
Hana: We’re really excited for our new live set. Arthur [Autre Ne Veut, one of our producers] MD-ed our new set and it feels so good to play! There’s a lot of moving around, a lot of dancing, a lot of connecting with the audience.
JJ: We can’t wait to hear how people react to the new music.
Hana: Also, we’re OBSESSED with Tennis.
JJ: Yeah, gonna fan-girl out for sure.
Who were each of your favourite artists that you have ever seen live?
Hana: That’s a tough one. Maybe Chet Faker, Jamie Cullum, Honne, Empress Of…
JJ: The Staves were also incredible live.
Hana: Also, we love Lake Street Dive. They’re transcendent live.
Is there anything else that you would like to add?
Hana: Pre-order YOUNG!
JJ: We can’t wait for you to hear it! Also, follow us on Instagram @thisisovercoats, we post a lot of dumb shit.
Hana: Yeah, you won’t regret it.
Overcoats will headline St Pancras Old Church on 24th May. Their debut album YOUNG is released on 21st April.