Ezy Reading:


 

Ezy Reading:
The Cud Interview- An Overnight Low Trilogy
Evan Kanarakis

 

When we last checked in, An Overnight Low was busy winding up recording on their second release, Piccadilly, which had been preceded by Euston back in 2014. Now An Overnight Low has returned with the third and final album to their ‘stations’ trilogy –Waverley. Recently The Cud’s Evan Kanarakis sat down with songwriter Chad Walls to talk about the band’s journey over the past few years, what has changed since their inception, and what’s next.

 

EVAN KANARAKIS: The band has clearly remained committed to the original trilogy concept and project. Tell us a little about your journey to this point. Was it a challenge for you all to remain invested in the concept (born from Chad’s many travels back and forth between the U.K and the U.S during Doctoral studies at the University of Manchester)?

CHAD WALLS: Up to Waverley, An Overnight Low was more like Gorillaz than Blur.  Sam, Mac, and Chris appear on Piccadilly, yet we were rarely in the same room while it was being recorded. That Light’s Gone Out was scrapped together from old Euston parts while Albert’s Square was recorded on the fly. I love that record and its spontaneous approach, but it was a nail-biter. The unintentional tension we created gave Piccadilly its unique sound, but it left my bandmates wondering about their roles in the band and questioning whether they were expendable.

EK: Three or four years can be a lifetime for a band –have you even kept the same personnel since the band was formed? If not, how has that informed and impacted the band’s sound over three albums?

CW: Mac started the band with me and appears on Euston. Sam and Chris joined us on Piccadilly and we added Mike (drums) and Tina (keys, vocals) soon after.  When we rehearsed as a six-piece for a few months to learn cuts from the first two records, I noticed immediately that a few of the old songs sounded superior to the studio versions, so I was motivated to introduce new material in hopes of getting them road-tested before we entered the studio again. The songs on Waverley have a new spirit, especially in the rhythm section.  Chris and Sam, who have very distinct approaches to playing the guitar, also found a way to compromise without sacrificing their individual styles.

EK: Given this was a project driven so much by your own experiences, was most of the songwriting also handled by you, or was it a more collaborative process? How would you compare the evolution of the band’s sound from Euston through to Waverley? I imagine over four years that even certain influences on your music have changed and become more or less pronounced?

CW: I come to each rehearsal with lyrics, chord changes, and a loose melody line.  I usually have a vague idea about how the song should sound, but if someone has a better idea, I’m game.  Centipede, a cut from Waverley, is a good example of another bandmate’s enthusiasm changing the direction of a song.  I wrote that song while listening to Little Creatures by Talking Heads and was ready to sell my bandmates on bright, arpeggiated guitars, until someone else had a better idea.  I’m not sure what influences brought Centipede to its fruition, but I do remember leaving that session getting a kick out of how it went from college rock to Black Sabbath.

EK: Tell us a little about the recording of Waverley. Three albums in –even with new personnel- I imagine you have refined the process considerably. Are you generally tightly rehearsed with songs and quite ‘final draft’ ready before landing in the studio, or do you find a little ‘chaos and flexibility’ (as a musician friend once put it to me) actually assists in giving your work the possibility for new directions and changes during recording? Did you opt to work with the same producers or engineers during this three album process or has that changed, too?

CW: I’ve learned over the years that you can only prepare for the studio so much. What sounds fantastic on a demo, in a rehearsal space, or even in a venue doesn’t always translate well in the studio, and you can spend hours wondering why you are having difficulty recapturing a particular sound.  We try to rehearse the rhythm section as much as possible and leave room for some guitar/vocal experimentation.  There’s a song on Waverley called Jazz Held the Traffic Back that was recorded (almost) live in the studio and another called Some City Center Phone Call that received a new layer at each session. We’re working with Jon Wyman at Halo again for this record.  He understands our aesthetic and that we’re six egos trying to compromise with big ideas on a limited budget.  At this point in the game, Jon has no problem telling us something isn’t working and we all respect his notes and criticisms.

EK: When we first spoke with you about Euston a few years back, you mentioned that it wasn’t necessarily your original intention to even have those songs performed live. While you’ve spoken before of the challenges inherent in finding venues for regular gigs in Maine, the band has clearly developed a respected live music following since 2014, even if the shows have sometimes been spaced apart. What can you speak to on the band’s live music evolution?

CW: We have such high expectations for each other that we often wear ourselves out at rehearsal.  Four-part harmonies?  Extended guitar solos?  Songs blending into each other?  I was listening to a live recording of us playing at a small club recently and I was pleasantly surprised by the way we sounded and the way we were received. With the bar that high though, it’s easy for us to fall flat on our faces.  I’ve heard those recordings too. Yikes!

EK: And what of those continued challenges to keep a band performing live in a city and state (Portland, Maine)  that certainly loves its music but isn’t home to venues as busy nor as numerous as, say, a Boston or Austin? Are you ‘performing’ consistently in the practice room to maintain your live chops?

CW: There are only a few mid-sized venues in town and there are a number of local acts trying to book them. The other options are unsuitable for an indie band with a moderate following:  we can play in a small venue to forty people on a stage that isn’t big enough to fit a band, or a venue that can accommodate four-hundred people that expects that you’ll sell tickets to capacity.  Playing music under these conditions is frustrating and can often lead to bands imploding, so we try not to put too many of our eggs in that basket. There’s a song on Waverley that deals with this matter called My European Flat.

EK: What, for you, are you most proud of about Waverley and where it sits among your catalog to date? Any particular song highlights you would like to speak to?

CW: I’m still trying to wrap my head around Waverley.  I’ve been listening to the mixes in my car and I’m still trying to determine its song order, but I believe that Waverley ends the trilogy like Return of the King and not like Godfather 3 Jazz Held the Traffic Back really stands out.  It’s not an obvious single, but I think it really features the best of our individual contributions, so we hope to let the world hear that song first.  I’m also really surprised by an intended B-side called Iodine that contains cool harmonies and a trumpet solo.  My heart, however, is with The World Hears Gold, a song that really captures the spirit and sound of Edinburgh.

EK: And what of plans to launch the album this summer?

CW: We have a lot on our plate. We’ve got two videos ready to launch in June and July, and radio show bookings in the US and UK lined up.  We hope to debut Waverley in its entirety live on the air at Salford City Radio (UK) sometime in August.  I’m also headed to Ireland to meet with our new publicist, then back home for a CD release party in September.  We’re currently ironing out these plans, so who knows how it will (or might) all come together.

EK: Last of all, what’s next for the band? With a trilogy now out of the way, how do you approach your next songwriting and album plans?

CW: Good question. We’ve got enough material to begin a new record and I think we’re all keen on being a bit more spontaneous in the studio, so I wouldn’t be surprised if we release something again soon.  I’ve been listening to The Pogues a lot lately and I’ve been thinking about the possibility of Tina learning the accordion.  I know my trip to Ireland this summer will light that fuse, and I’ll be staying near a train station in Dublin where I wrote a bunch of songs last year.  Connolly? 2018?  Maybe.

 

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