Interview with Tom Barrett of Indie Rock Group Overlake

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Overlake

Overlake is a Jersey City indie rock three-piece formed by Tom Barrett, Lysa Opfer, and Nick D’Amore. Recently, frontman Tom Barrett talked a little with us about Overlake’s journey to recognition and the bright future that follows them. In this Q&A, he gives us some insight on the new record Fall, available now from Bar/None Records. He also shares a unique look into the groups writing process, tour, and future aspirations.

Lizzi Pena: What we have heard from you guys so far sounds almost cinematic. Are there any TV shows you’d like to hear your music featured on someday?

Tom Barrett: Haha, I don’t know. I’ve never really thought about that. My current favorite show is Silicon Valley, but I’m not sure how we’d fit in. Lysa and Nick are really into the Leftovers. That could maybe make more sense somehow. But it’s almost over, so… Bummer.

LP: Do you hope to make audiences feel a certain way with your music? If so, tell us about that.

TB: The hope is definitely that people who hear it will feel or experience something through listening to it, but whatever, that is isn’t up to us. I’d love for folks to be moved by it the way we’ve been by records that have inspired us, but we can’t be worrying about that. It’s out of our hands.

LP: What kind of emotions or events motivated this record?

TB: Well, you always want to be better than your last effort, for one thing. We still love the first record, but there’s always room for improvement. The same goes for whatever we do next. It’s a constant learning process. It was also just time to make another record. If certain things had fallen into place earlier on like finding Nick, there would have been less space between records. I’m not sure that would have led to a better outcome, though. We had some time to gel and record as a band which was really important for us to do this time out. Nick’s a great drummer who brings a unique energy to the fold so that needed to be captured.

LP: Who writes the lyrics for this record? Is the feeling of the record driven mostly by the lyrics?

TB: I wrote the lyrics for this one, but words have always been somewhat secondary to me. Maybe that’s because I tend to think less about their meanings and more about how they sound on top of the music. Lysa and I would collaborate more on words in the very early stages of the band, which is something I’d like to try and do again. I personally see us as being more sonically-driven than anything else, mainly because the music always comes quicker than the words, but it really depends on the listener. We generally hear more feedback about the music than the words, though people will occasionally tell us about how specific lyrics resonate with them in some way. It’s nice to hear. I’m very self-conscious about the lyrics, so that aids my confidence a little.

LP: How does the rest of the writing process usually work?

TB: For this record, I’d demoed all the songs prior to actual recording. Lysa wrote the main part to “And Again” and we built the rest of the song around that, but mostly I just ended up writing a bunch of songs that had flowed really nicely together. I had kind of a small surplus going. It made for a sweet record.

LP: How is the audience energy at your shows?

TB: People are pretty into it, from what I can see. Having them out there and feeling their energy certainly helps us deliver a better set, for sure. And when there are just a few people, you do well because you just want to make it special for them. Like the Christmas lights that we put on our amps. I used to think that if the turnout was super-weak, that we shouldn’t be breaking those out, but those are actually the shows when you need them the most. People are people regardless of numbers. It’s gotta feel special for everyone.

LP: Do you guys deliver your sound differently live?

TB: We try to present the songs as honestly as we can, given that we’re just a trio and there’s so much more happening on the records, sonically. To us, recordings and shows are two separate entities. Most bands have trouble recreating the recorded experience in a live setting and vice versa. That’s where you need to draw a line. There are some songs we just can’t do without either adding more players or reinterpreting the song altogether, but the live versions are pretty honestly recreated for the most part.

LP: Would you consider releasing a pop crossover record one day? How about a heavier record?

TB: Eh, not really. If we miraculously wrote a song that caught on in some huge way, that’d be cool, but it’s unlikely. I don’t know if we’d make a heavier record at some point or not. Ride went heavy with their fourth record and the results weren’t too great, as I remember. I’m not sure I have that in me. I have thought about it, though, especially with Nick and Lysa having some heavier tastes than I do. Maybe it can be done. I’m not really thinking about that right now, honestly.

LP: You recently played at one of my favorite pizza places in Baltimore. How was that experience and did you enjoy their pizza?

TB: Yeah, we played at Joe Squared. It’s in a new location right up the street from the old one. That show was a lot of fun. Lysa and Nick both have friends and family in the Baltimore area, so we had a nice little crowd. Their pizza was very good. We enjoyed ourselves a lot.

LP: Tom Beaujour has worked with some pretty cool artists in the past. What was your experience like working with him?

TB: It was excellent. You really couldn’t ask for a more fun and productive experience making a record. He has a much more calming presence than he’d personally admit, I think, and he brought some nice ideas to the table. Like the sparse piano at the ends of both “Unnamed November” and “Can Never Tell.” I’ll admit he made some suggestions that I’d sort of nixed without even trying them out first. I don’t want to do that so much next time. I’d like to let myself be more open-minded in general and not be so guarded and so overprotective of everything, particularly with Tom because we’re great friends, he really cares about the music and wants everyone to be happy with the end result.

LP: What’s next for Overlake?

TB: We have some shows happening in and around Jersey City in May and June, then more touring in July, and again in the fall. Maybe we’ll work on some new songs at some point. I have one so far. It’s a start.

Overlake’s new album is now out on Bar/None Records. To purchase, click here. For a full list of upcoming shows and links to tickets, click here!

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