Overcoats Exclusive Interview - Doug Fir Lounge
You'd have gotten a pretty good chuckle out of me back in February had you told me I'd be interviewing electro pop duo Overcoats backstage at Doug Fir, or any artist for that matter. This was the scenario I found myself in with Hana Elion and JJ Mitchell, the women behind Overcoats, on June 12. The Doug Fir show was one of the final 3 stops on their West Coast swing, a mere 2 months after playing the West Coast for the first time ever in support of Maggie Rogers.
Lots has happened for the duo since that sold out performance in March. Debut album Young was released April 21, and has gone on to receive high praise from many music outlets since. When asked about the reception since Young's release in April; "It's been amazing. The internet is an amazing thing. To come to Portland and have the show be nearly sold out - it's really wild to see that all these people have heard it, it's incredible." The record was put out on the Arts & Crafts label, and they have also helped get Overcoats' singles 'Hold Me Close' and 'Leave The Light On' radio play.
Back when Hana & JJ opened up for Maggie Rogers in March, I noticed something that was a focal point of my show review that night. Their chemistry and on stage synchronization is incredible, and not for a moment seemed forced or fake. I asked them about how this bond was formed; "We met our freshman year of college - we lived in the same dorm too. We actually met sitting in a Political Science class. Hana was wearing a lot of jewelry. I remember thinking, 'This girl is cool.' At this point in the story, both of our interpretations vary slightly. JJ thinks we walked into a bush walking back to the dorm, and I think we almost did (laughs) - anyway, we both got embarrassed, and at that moment we became friends."
This wasn't the moment they decided to pursue music. In fact, they didn't even start singing together until shortly after when they both found out their favorite song was 'Back to Black' by Amy Winehouse. This was the prompt that got them singing together initially, for fun. I asked them if they had planned on pursuing music at this point in their life, or prior; "No, not at all." This changed as time passed and their relationship grew throughout their next 2 years of school.
Both of the women behind Overcoats, up until their Senior years of college, were pursuing their own interests; Hana's being Biology, and JJ's being Japanese History. Things started to shift during their senior year after spending time at the school's recording studio; "We put out a couple tracks online that we did at this recording studio that was part of our college, and it was getting reception. We didn't know what that meant, but it started to get exciting. We then started visualizing a future for the idea of it - and how we saw the music affecting others was a really special thing for us." As time wore on and the reception grew, they started to tour. Another thing I noticed several months ago prior to starting their set was their most public pre-show ritual - being a prolonged hug on stage. It started off as a counter to their stage fright, but as that has subsided, the ritual remains to help get them in the right headspace. Other pre show rituals include jamming 'Gold Digger' by Kanye West, as well as 'Thinkin Bout You' by Frank Ocean to help quell the nerves and get pumped up for their upcoming performance.
My personal favorite track from Overcoats is 'Leave the Light On', and I was able to get a bit of clarity as to the meaning behind it. Hana said; "It's about self-reliance and growing up, and convincing yourself that you're ready to go out on your own, and leaving your family or home. That was what we were experiencing as we were starting to tour and after leaving college. We wanted a song with the intensity of lyrics along with a beat that you can 'heal' to." It's a fantastic description, and most likely something that each and every one of us has gone through - leaving home for college, moving away from home for a job, taking a gamble and moving across the country where you know no one - all of it applies here.
The future looks as bright as a sunny day in Portland for these two. Over the rest of the summer Hana and JJ get to take some time off in July before playing a couple shows in August. September the group gets their first taste of the festival scene, and then in the fall they are heading out on Young Tour Part 2. For those of us in Portland - be patient, they will be coming back. I'll be the first to notify you.
As one last quick question, I just had to ask if there was any new music coming, amidst all this insanity that is touring, summer, and festival season. Much to my surprise, Hana responded, "We'll see about that" with a big ol smirk on her face. Listen to the full interview below to decipher for yourself!
Thanks so much to Hana and JJ of Overcoats for being willing to sit down for a quick talk and pictures. Thanks are also due to Hannah B, Tour Manager, for helping get it all organized. All 3 of you are wonderful people, and I can't wait until you're all back in Portland next!
Full Overcoats Interview Audio is below for your listening pleasure!
Overcoats Interview Gallery
Thanks to my dad, David Felten, for tagging along during the interview and snapping some backstage pics! Also thanks to Gaby, Hannah B (TM), and Hana & JJ of Overcoats for all the help in scheduling this and for being absolute gems of people. Looking forward to your return to Portland!