The first thing that might jump out to a viewer of the music videos for “Winner,” the newest album by indie pop duo Overcoats, is the art direction. Elegant attire, colorful set dressing, or open fields feature heavily in all of them.
“We were binge watching ‘Bridgerton’ at the time of recording so that kind of got in there,” says Hana Elion with a smile.
Elion and JJ Mitchell, who play a show in Rochester tonight, did the art direction themselves, drawing inspiration not only from the popular Netflix show, but also the American West themes and style, which feature heavily on the new album.
“We recorded the record in Nashville with a Nashville-based producer, so we definitely wanted some elements of Americana, prairie, and Appalachian fashion. But we’re also from New York, so we wanted to keep that both gritty and posh city look too,” Elion says.
“It was playing with these sort of western tropes in a modern way,” she continues. “Taking them from a time when women didn’t have a lot of rights and using that ascetic to sing about things that are more feminist and more modern.”
While the New York City-based duo’s music has been in that Americana space before, they both agree “Winner” is the most influenced by it. For example, the acoustic guitar of “Horsegirl” paired with lilting harmonies evoke a band like the Chicks, a group that Elion and Mitchell both admire.
Even with that Americana vibe, “Winner” still falls into its own category of music. The use of electronic synths and bass, the lyricism and their iconic harmonies work together on the 11-song album to create a unique sound.
“I think the harmonies and the way our voices enmesh is why we decided to become a band,” says Mitchell, recalling their early days performing with groups at Wesleyan University. “Before we even wrote any original music, we had a long time where we just sang together. The main thing we were listening to was how cool it was that our voices fit so well together.”
“It’s definitely the core of what we do. If you strip away all the instruments, all the electronic sounds from our first record, the walls of guitar from our second record, you’re left with the core, which is us singing together,” Mitchell concludes.
The album itself similarly weaves the duo’s experiences to create something new and multifaceted. While having a wide range of emotional threads, one of the major themes of the album is rejection; or more specifically, the process of starting over once more after rejection has happened.
As such, some songs were inspired by personal relationships while others were born out of their professional struggles. Music labels remain a “boys club,” the duo says. The song “Better Off” sounds like a romantic breakup ballad on one level, but negative experiences in the music industry influenced it too.
Elion and Mitchelll say their current tour is both relieving and invigorating after three years of limited live performances.
“We’re really excited. Both bands and fans alike are really happy to be there. Which is nice for such old and jaded people like us,” jokes Mitchell. “There’s a renewed sense of excitement to be playing music live. Everyone is like ‘Wow, I get to be at a venue again.’ Overall, there’s this atmosphere of gratitude.”
acob Schermerhorn is a Rochester Beacon contributing writer. The Beacon welcomes comments and letters from readers who adhere to our comment policy including use of their full, real name. Submissions to the Letters page should be sent to [email protected].
It’s interesting to note that very few singers can be successful without the theatrics. Few can command an audience with their voice or voices alone. While the Overcoats voices are good, would they be a success without the mattress in the pasture? It’s different and that may be the hook. The attraction with too many singers is anything but the voice. They refer to this aspect of singing as the “art direction.” The “uniform” and the setting. It’s not my cup of tea. I guess I’m old fashioned to which I have right, I am old.