Overcoats are ready to fight, and give the world hope in doing so
On their second album The Fight, the Brooklyn duo step forward as a source for anger-fuelled music in trying times.
In 2020, there’s a lot to fight about. As we write this very sentence, the world is shutting down over a pandemic that’s reduced the international economy - especially in regards to art and culture - into a slither of what it was before, and yet despite this, the ‘badness’ in the world isn’t slowing down. International conflict is still ongoing, for example, and the communities that are finding themselves in a battle for rights and recognition - battles in poverty, race, queerness, gender and the list goes on - have been pushed aside; their needs left behind as governments dedicate themselves entirely to the pandemic at hand.
In times like these, however, music often prevails - even if the industry and artists that surround music are in trouble themselves. Over the last week particularly, we’ve seen increased encouragement for people to support local artists - streaming their music, buying their merch - and there are no doubts that some of the music to come out of this time (artists are now finding themselves with more time than ever to inject into their music) will capture the emotional essence of this time: the hardship and heaviness, but the hope that underlays it.
For a band like Overcoats, however, their new album The Fight - despite being recorded months ago - is turning into an entirely different beast considering the circumstances it’s released upon. On The Fight, the Brooklyn duo musically bring to life the idea of fighting and everything that may encompass, from the internal struggles and fight against your inner demons to the large-scale issues that affect widespread life, such as climate change. It’s rich with a sense of anger and frustration, directed both at themselves and society as a whole. Overcoats are ready to fight, sums up the whole experience, whether it’s “for who you are, what you want, and what you hope to see in the world.”
This sense of fighting encompasses the record, even in ways that don’t seem so obvious. On Overcoats’ debut album YOUNG, the duo swept together the worlds of soft electronica and gentle pop, placing songwriting and lyricism at the front of the sweeping sounds that moved underneath. As a result, the record was incredibly - almost indulgently - potent, rich with emotion displayed in a way that makes you feel how they’re feeling too; every moment of joy, sadness, and whatever’s in-between conveyed in a way that brings it into your life simultaneously.
On The Fight, this happens again - but in a bit of a different way. You can feel the anger and frustration built up in the backbone core of the record, both through its lyricism - “There's a fire, there's a fury / Sky is falling but we'll get through it,” they yell on the album’s captivating Fire & Fury, in one of the record’s most stand-out moments - and through its instrumentals, which time around, growl with heavier darkness. There’s an added emphasis on the crunch that comes with guitars and the rawness of live drums; the soft, folk-aligned electronica of their debut pushed aside for something darker, something that mimics the chaos they’re trying to fight against.
It’s a timely record that couldn’t impact harder than it does now, and with its recent arrival, we chatted to the duo about the record, the concept of fighting, and what’s next:
I wanted to start this by going back a bit, because The Fight is your second album now - with YOUNG, your first, coming out three years ago. A debut album is a big moment for a band, full of learning curves and growth. Is there anything you were able to take away from that record and apply to this one once you started to plan it out?
Our first album was a lot more reserved, sonically and lyrically. It was grounded in electronic sounds, folk harmonies, and writing only about our own very personalized experiences. After releasing that album and TOURING it for two years, we found ourselves wanting to slam on guitars, write about the worlds we were seeing and meeting, and generally be a bit more unapologetic.
I was reading that a few takes on this album were scrapped in the conception stage, because you didn’t really feel like they encapsulated what you were trying to say. Was there a certain point in writing this record that you were like “Okay, this is the one.”? How did you know that was the point?
When we wrote The Fight (the title track), we knew that the concept for this chapter of our story had made itself known to us. Suddenly we felt like we understood which 10 of the 30 songs we had written, had a place on this sophomore record. We scrapped some songs and some versions of songs because they were too arena rock, too electronic, too something….and we were left with a nice mixture of classic rock, electro-folk, and 90s punk grit.
The central concept around this record is ‘the fight’ - the word itself features in every track, and much - if not all - of the album is about some kind of fight or conflict: internally, externally, politically, socially and so on. When this record was being written - and even still now - there’s a lot to fight about. How did this concept first begin, and did it feel like the natural thing to write about considering the context the album was written in?
It crept into every song in one way or another. And because of its multifaceted definition, the word applied to most of what we were experiencing. We had a tough couple of years. We lost friends to gun violence, and we lost family to suicide. We saw Trump get elected and a global political trend toward isolationism and racism. The word “fight” captured all of that.
A lot of the fights the record seems to grapple at are individual and personal, but a lot of them are also wide-ranging and societal. Was that balance something that came naturally, or was it something you both sat down and kind-of went “okay, we’re going to cover a lot of different aspects of fighting on this record.”?
It happened mostly naturally and in a way, we didn’t fully realize how broadly the lyrics could be applied until the songs were done. That being said, we did have a conversation about how we felt that we could write about things that were affecting us as a generation and a society on this album….in a way that we never felt privileged to do on our debut album. Fire & Fury was originally about a fight with a significant other, but morphed, as we were developing the chorus, into a plea for solidarity and action against the climate crisis.
With fighting - particularly societal and political, which this album does dip into - a common by-product is a sense of hope. It feels - and sounds - like this factors into the record just as much as the ‘fighting’ does. Is that right?
We said from the beginning that we wanted to make an album that could break your heart but also put it back together. We didn’t want to write escapist lyrics, but at the same time, we felt a responsibility to our listeners (and to ourselves) to make a body of work that could uplift. And we could not have predicted how apocalyptic our current world would feel, but hopefully, The Fight can bring some hope.
Another major side product of fighting - particularly in regards to internal fights - is this sense of catharticism and therapy. Now that we’re sitting on the other side of this record, do feel like it was a cathartic process to put it out?
Sort of. And it feels really symbolic that it was a mixed bag, because the fight is never really over. It felt amazing to put out this piece of work that we've been working on for so long...but we also are putting it out in the midst of the coronavirus outbreak, in the midst of the primary elections in the US, in the midst of new climate disasters happening every day...we took a night to celebrate, at our release party, and the next day we continued to fight.
Sonically, this album feels a bit heavier than the first - it’s more centralised on guitar, rock’n’roll, and the energy that comes with these. Was that a by-product of writing an angrier record?
It was definitely a by-product of writing an angrier record. We really tried to let the lyrical content dictate what the sonics should be. We were writing more impassioned lyrics, and so angstier instrumentals just made sense. I think our long journey of touring our first record also contributed. We started to love the feeling of playing instruments live (we made our first record entirely on a computer). We wanted to bring that newfound joy and interest in organic instrumentation into the new music.
A big moment that kicked off this record and really defined it was The Fool, which saw both of you shave your heads in the video clip. I feel like shaving your head has a lot in common with this idea of the fight - people may shave their head for emotional reasons, political, charital - often because of something happening in society, self-empowerment etc. What was the thinking behind doing that for the video? Do you feel like it ties into the record’s full theme?
Yes, definitely. You've hit the nail on the head! We wanted to bind ourselves together, as warriors fighting for the same cause. We also were really interested in doing something that othered ourselves, as we were already feeling a bit othered in our communities - being some of the only musicians, as well as only female musicians, that we knew. It felt like a way to empower ourselves, which is what the record is all about.
We started this by talking about what you applied from the debut record onto this one, so to finish it, I think it’s a good idea to look forward. A sophomore record is quite an undertaking - the added pressure and expectations, for example, can make it quite a difficult feat. How do you think this record is going to shape and define the future of Overcoats?
Yes, the debut is scary. The follow up is also scary, because it's supposed to beat the debut. But now, we feel like we really have room to grow and experiment. Fans can get a sense of who we are and what we sound like from these two records -- we look forward to expanding what that means.
Overcoats' new record, The Fight, is out now via Loma Vista Recordings / Caroline Australia.
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