Interview: Overcoats

We catch up with New York based duo, Overcoats, to chat about their new single and upcoming debut album.

Best friends Hana Elion and JJ Mitchell are kicking off 2017 in the best way possible. Having been featured as a New Noise last year (check out the interview here!), Overcoats are constantly on the Wonderland office playlist. Now we’re even more excited about them with the release of their newest single, “Hold Me Close”. Stunningly poignant, the track is proof of how harmoniously the two work together. As their vocals entwine throughout the song, we get a unique look at their vulnerable and honest songwriting through the description of their differing perspectives on the complexity of love.

The single is the first track from their debut album, YOUNG. The album explores their shared experience of growing up and becoming women. Their strong relationship is clear throughout the album and produces a magical collaboration. Focussing on emotion, it is a startlingly honest look into the lives of these two young women, covering the complexities of love, inspiration, and the legacy of family.

With the album to be released in Spring, via Arts and Crafts, we sat down with Hana and JJ of Overcoats to talk about it and to find out how “Hold Me Close” is a perfect little teaser of what’s to come.

Can you tell us a little bit about your new single “Hold Me Close”?

JJ: “Hold Me Close” is a song about finding solace in the present when the future and past seem impossible to understand.

Hana: It’s about the loneliness and disillusionment that we can feel in relationships, and how we must persevere anyway in hopes of finding the beauty in love.

JJ: We first had the idea for the song about a year ago, and made many, many versions. The song went through a lot of transformations before it found its final form!

What was the inspiration behind writing this song?

Hana: I think the inspiration for “Hold Me Close” came from a few different things that were going on in our lives. For one, we were just starting to do music full-time, and we were worn down by the pressures of life and leaving home, relationships beginning and ending. We had just graduated college, and were learning what it was like to live in the world without a path laid out for you. Everything around us was changing.

JJ: Yeah. This song was inspired by wondering if things would get easier, and trying to find some temporary peace by accepting the present moment for what it was. “So hold me close till the night turns grey/different faces but the song is the same” is like – everything in my life is changing, but I’m with you here, so let’s be here now.

Hana: The verses of the song are a bit more metaphorical, they’re about feeling that frustration with the way things are, how life is just constant change, through the lens of a relationship. They’re about learning to live with the way things are.

“Hana can come to me with a kind of folky love song, and I hear this dance beat over it, and all of the sudden the songs just start transforming.”

It comes from your debut album YOUNG. Can you tell us a bit about it and what we can expect from it?

JJ: We’re so excited to finally release this thing into the world. It’s the culmination of a two year adventure.

Hana: We wanted to mix minimalism with depth…

JJ: Yes, and pit folk songwriting against electronic backdrops, find the sounds that would fill us up, make us feel whole. We wanted instrumentation that really cradled the lyrics, and lyrics that we were scared to sing.

Hana: The album is about the depth of love and the blessings of family.

JJ: And it’s about growing up. Everything we have each experienced and lived through separately and together helped us create this album.

Hana: Each of the songs on YOUNG tell a unique story. We tried to write honestly and with our whole hearts.

Was it easy to combine both your visions of how you wanted your album to be?

JJ: It was surprisingly simple. Hana and I seem to have the same musical intuition and sonic inspiration. We gravitate towards all the same sounds, melodies, we work in the same palette.

Hana: Yeah, I guess we’ve stopped finding it weird at this point…but we really do have one vision for our project. The album is the manifestation of that vision. We didn’t have different dreams for the album… that made life easier.

JJ: We had the same dream – from start to finish.

What is your songwriting process?

Hana: Our songwriting process varies. Sometimes, we’ll sit down together and write a song, start to finish. Other times, one of us will bring something they’ve been working on to the table, a lyric or a melody or an idea, and we’ll go from there.

JJ: It’s really fun for us when we write separately, because sometimes really cool things can happen when we’re not coming from exactly the same headspace or idea. Like, Hana can come to me with a kind of folky love song, and I hear this dance beat over it, and all of the sudden the songs just start transforming.

Has your style and sound changed since your 2015 self-titled EP?

Hana: Our style and sound have definitely changed since our EP. In a way, this upcoming album sounds no different to us than our older songs, but that’s because when we made our older songs, we were envisioning them sounding like this. We didn’t have the resources, producers, and maturity we have now when we made them – they were an approximation of this ideal sound we always had in our heads.

JJ: Totally – the album is still minimal and really honest like our old stuff – but it’s also more full, more playful.

The album is co-produced by the amazing Nicolas Vernhes and experimental R&B artist Autre Ne Veut, what was it like working with them?

JJ: Working with Nicolas and Arthur (Autre Ne Veut) was pretty incredible. We had basically never collaborated before, so working with one producer let alone TWO was really crazy – we had to all sit down before we started and be like, OK, what are we making here?

Hana: As much as we tried to plan how the whole thing would go, a lot of it had to just happen once we went in. Everyone brought so many different things to the table. We originally pictured Nicolas doing mostly recording and organic instruments, and Arthur doing all the percussion – and then, half the time, they would switch roles, and it would be amazing! It was a lot about leaving room for everybody’s vision to contribute to the final product. We had a strong sense of what we wanted the album to sound like, and with Nicolas and Arthur, we got a better product than we could have imagined.

What have you got lined up for the rest of 2017?

JJ: Wow, 2017…this is going to be a big year for us. We’ll be releasing a bunch of singles off the album, going on tour with one of our favorite bands, Tennis, releasing our album on April 21st, and then doing a headline tour to promote it!

Hana: Yeah, this is going to be our biggest year yet. We can’t wait to share what we’ve been working on.

Elly Watson