Jersey City, NJ residents Tom Barrett and Lysa Opfer bonded over a shared love of ’80s and ’90s indie and alt bands like My Bloody Valentine, Yo La Tengo and Sonic Youth. This friendship soon led to a musical collaboration and Overlake were born. The duo’s debut album, Sighs, is out April 15 via Killing Horse Records. With the addition of drummer Scotty Imp (formerly of California’s The Imps), Overlake will be hitting the road and touring a city near you soon.
Ghettoblaster recently caught up with the warm and fuzzy duo to discuss the record. This is what they told us.
When did you begin writing the material for Sighs?
Tom: The songs first started coming together in early 2012, when Lysa and I first started playing with our friend Mike DiTullio. We got together and jammed, came up with some cool ideas and progressions, and those ideas and progressions became songs. The first three songs on the record came from those jams.
What was the most difficult song to take from the initial writing stage through recording and mixing? Why was it so troublesome?
Tom: “Fell Too Far,” I think. The original version was a little overlong, and it took a few tries to whittle it down to its current state. It’s also a bit darker in tone than the other songs. Some people thought it might not even have a place on the record, but it was part of the grand scheme, as far as I was concerned. It was essential to the nice ebb and flow we’d worked out in our heads. Fortunately, it worked in reality.
Lysa: Being able to get inside the songs in the recording process really helped with this particular one, too. There were some things that we tried that didn’t work and obviously things that did.
Which of the songs on the LP is most different from your original concept for the song?
Tom: No one song is radically different from its original version. They’re all slightly different, only because you never know what a song really needs or doesn’t need until you’ve reached a certain point in the recording of that song. Like, I never thought we would’ve needed to throw keys on the ending to “Not Enough,” but they were needed. Again, I’d say “Fell Too Far” would be the most augmented, only because of all the tinkering and editing that was involved.
Did you have any guest musicians play or sing on the record?
Tom: Nope. It’s all me and Lysa.
Lysa: What he said.
Who produced Sighs? What input did that person have that changed the face of the record?
Tom: We knew what we wanted the record to sound like, but our friend Thomas Unish helped us achieve that sound. He has an incredible knowledge of gear, as well as access to a ton of it, and we park our cars in the same garage. If I wanted a guitar sound that was reminiscent of, say, Lee Ranaldo’s on The Diamond Sea, he knew how to get it. He also knows both Lysa and I very well and he knows when to crack the whip and when to just lay back. He always brings an even temperament to the sessions, which is good for me personally because I hate the recording process sometimes. It’s good to have another friend there with you when you might not be enjoying yourself so much.
Lysa: … whereas I love the recording process, and having Unish with us helped bridge the divide. There were moments that were especially freeing for us, when we all kind of looked at each other and said, “OK, let’s try it!” Sometimes what we tried would work, sometimes it wouldn’t, but it was really cool to get to that place together.
Is there an overarching concept behind the music that ties the songs together?
Tom: Not really. We just wanted the record to have a nice ebb and flow to it. I can’t stand when records are front loaded, or when people discredit the importance of track sequencing. To me, it’s the most important thing ever. There are nine songs on the record and the second single is song eight. It’s there for a specific reason, but we’ll leave figuring out whatever that reason may be up to the listener.
Lysa: For me, there is an intrinsic water/life thing that’s threaded through, but yes, this is almost incidental to the need for having crafted the album as a whole, in terms of connecting the musical themes within the two acts.
Have you begun playing these songs live and which songs have elicited the strongest reaction from your fans?
Tom: We’ve been playing these songs since 2012, and of all the songs we play, the one that always elicits the strongest reaction is our cover of “From a Motel 6” by Yo La Tengo. People enjoy our songs, but faces really light up whenever we play that one.
Lysa: Also, I think people are surprised to see what we can do with the songs live, as a three-piece, and without backing tracks or pre-recorded samples or things like that. Obviously you have the studio versions of everything, but pretty much everything that happens with our songs live happens right there in front of you, warts and all. Who the hell wants to see a show that’s been pre-recorded and is controlled by a computer? I’d rather see musicians improvise a bit and take some risks and take the songs in a direction I never expected. Thankfully, it seems our friends are of the same opinion.
(Visit Overlake here: https://www.facebook.com/overlakemusic
Catch Overlake live here:
May 4 : Hoboken Arts and Music Festival (Hoboken), Observer Stage
May 19 : Baby’s All Right (Brooklyn), The Everymen record release party)