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An Interview With... Overpass

The Exchange, Bristol - 15/03/2024


We catch up with rising Birmingham quartet, Overpass, to chat all about their debut EP, From The Night, the writing and recording process and the influences behind it, as well as touring with Inhaler and the importance of championing where you're from ahead of their biggest headline show to date at the end of the week.


A polaroid of Overpass sitting on a sofa backstage

Picture the scene. It’s 2022 on a dark, crisp, mid-week evening in November, and I’m sitting on a train departing from my shitty retail job to the next city. Why? Because I’m impulsively going to watch a band with a following of a few thousand play in the upstairs of a Southampton bar. As you do. I know maybe three songs and it’s now becoming a morning ritual to brush my teeth to their single, On Your Own, a feat to introduce more positivity into my day before I clock in and contemplate what the fuck I’m doing with my life. 


Surely it’s a bit of an extreme move? And how would I explain at work tomorrow what possessed me to put all that effort into a band who at the time, didn’t even have a full-body of work out; especially considering half the evening was spent staying warm in a nearby McDonald’s, and my friend and I missed the last train home.


Looking back now, was it worth it? Absolutely. I’ll always stand by the fact there is no better gig than a sweaty, sticky carpeted bar, and no better feeling than watching a band organically grow their following. 


Fast forward a couple of years and Birmingham indie-rock quartet, Overpass, are on the road again, visiting some of the UK’s greatest grassroots venues, just this time with debut EP, From The Night, up their sleeve and filled rooms rather than the around 50 we found ourselves amongst back in 2022. I’ve since quit that job, moved city, and am now finally pursuing music, so as I walk to Bristol’s The Exchange on a Friday evening, the first glimpse of spring imminent, I can’t help but feel a little like a fangirl, buzzing to watch the band I’ve been hyping to everyone I know for so long, again. 


Arriving at the venue, I’m fortunate enough to have time to catch up with the band to talk through the whirlwind of the past couple of years. Soundcheck is running over and I’m sitting in the dressing room, staring at the walls to the point I can clearly picture them as though still there a week later; there are no windows and no mirrors in the venue whatsoever, and I start to think wearing a faux leather skirt and opting to sit on a leather sofa might’ve been a mistake. 


Lead vocalist Max Newbold and guitarist Elliot Rawlings are the first to enter, the frontman quick to acknowledge the elephant in the room. “It’s got a light show on it as well!” he exclaims, alluding to the massive bluetooth speaker taking up half of the table in the centre of the room, making the seats in the corner the best spot for the interview. Speaker demonstration over, and bassist Indie Armstrong and drummer Jake Bishop complete the line-up, sitting down beside Elliot on the adjacent sofa, Max opposite on a metal frame chair. 


“The last time we were in Bristol, we played to about 80 people so it’s nice to be coming back and playing in a bigger venue!” Max explains. 


Tonight marks the second show of the UK tour, the band having played London the night before. “It was the first headline show since we released our EP, so to have everyone singing along to those songs even though they only came out a few weeks ago, was just really emotional and nice to have that kind of reception.” adds Indie. 


The band formed weeks before the world went into standstill and entered lockdown for the first time, following Max’s call for bandmates on Instagram stories. Himself and Indie had previously played in bands together, but Overpass was formed when Elliot responded to say he’d join them in rehearsals. The band completed their line-up when drummer, Jake, joined through mutual friends. “It’s so random because none of us went to school together, so it’s just like it could’ve been anyone” Indie explains before Elliot adds, “We’re all from slightly different areas, different schools and stuff so it’s cool!”


“We were gonna play The Sunflower lounge in March 2020.” bemuses Max. “We sold it out! And then suddenly we went into lockdown. I’m glad we didn’t play that though because it would have just been ten Catfish [And The Bottlemen] covers!” 


Although they spend the interview constantly joking around, a sign of their tight knit relationship, the band members take a moment to reflect on that period of their formation, agreeing that in a way, lockdown was good for them, allowing time to actually practise lots and get some original material. 


“When we played our first gig, we actually had originals and it felt worth it. We were tight. Because we hadn’t been going for that long, we didn’t really have any negative consequences in that regard. It was a bit of fun because we hadn’t got started yet, so our first show gave us something to look forward to.”



A polaroid of Max from Overpass sitting on a sofa backstage

Despite being from different areas of the city, the band are keen to incorporate their hometown within their musical identity, the band name being directly inspired by Birmingham’s motorways as Max explains, “In Birmingham we’ve got Spaghetti Junction which is a big motorway, so we thought let’s just pay homage. And also it’s cool, it’s one of those one-worders that are just good. If it was The Overpass, we wouldn’t be here now!”


After touring extensively in the UK for the past couple of years, with only singles and covers in their set, the band have just released their debut EP, From The Night, five songs exploring growing up, reconnecting with old friends and having a positive outlook for the future. 


We begin by discussing everyone’s favourite tracks. 


“I think mine is Beautiful because I think that was one that just blew me away when I first heard it.” explains Indie. 


The question is answered anti-clockwise around the room, with Jake going next, “Wide Eyed because for me there was a lot of drumming work on it, especially during the recording process.” 


“See I like Stay Up,” begins Elliot. “Just because of the way it was written - it was me and Max in the shed. He played the chords and then the riff just came out of nowhere and it just kind of clicked and it was awesome!” 


From The Night just because it’s got that vibe. It’s got something to it. It’s almost a bit Irish, as well, I’ve always thought that it’s got a bit of a jig in it.” Max concludes, before Indie starts working out the time signature, the band rhythmically clapping their hands. 


“The writing and recording process was a bit of a mix,” explains Max. “A few songs had already been written, like Elliot wrote Alright, and that was like one of the first that we had in the locker ready. And then you just pick up songs on the way. We built a big bank of songs that we had, and we just listened to everything and realised they all kind of had the same vibe, so we started putting the strongest ones together.” 


Work on the project started in August at Liverpool Kingston Street, across two weeks, with a lot of the drums and bass being done in the first. Alright was the first to be finished, as the band knew from the start it would be the first single. Returning in September, the other songs were then planned out. 


EP closer, Beautiful, was a last minute addition however. “You wrote Beautiful quite close to the end though.” Elliot directs to Max, sitting to his right. “That was a last minute thing! But all of the songs feel like they’re together now. Even Alright feels part of that, even though we’ve had that one for ages.”


In relation to this, Max is keen to explain how the songs weren’t written for a project in particular: “I think you just write and write.” Indie agrees, “It’s not like we have to write things for a certain project, otherwise you’re just forcing songs to exist out of nowhere.” 


“I think it’s just natural if you just wait and then get songs together, and if you like it and you’re feeling it, then that’s the best way to just do it naturally.”


“We write a middle 8 and think, ‘how can we build this into the last chorus to make sure the crowd sing-a-long” Elliot describes of the writing process and how it correlates with a live audience. 


“I think that’s what it is. It’s like we want it to be anthemic and you want to sing the chorus and put your arm around your mate, absolutely. And I think that’s what we want our gigs to be like, and there is a hint of that. But naturally, like the songs we like, and especially the ones I like, like Kings Of Leon, Stereophonics, The Killers and all that, it’s like you can sing those choruses, and that’s definitely what we tend to think about.” the frontman and predominant songwriter elaborates.



A polaroid of Indie from Overpass sitting on a sofa backstage

From The Night was selected as the overarching title for the EP because it was “the best name we had” Max claims as the others begin to laugh in agreement.


“Partly that!” Indie laughs, “But we also just thought that From The Night  is quite positive, and it’s like this optimistic look on things. And I think because a lot of the songs are about reconnecting with old friends and the chance for things to blossom in the future, and some of the earlier stuff we were releasing was maybe more negative, From The Night just feels like moving past that negativity into something new.” 


“But also representing us and our maturity, especially with the sound we’re going for. It kind of feels like we’ve grown up with our songwriting.” acknowledges Max. 


“Lyrically, our music is more mature now, because I think we were putting more effort into the words. We want to keep it quite down to earth and relatable, and write about experiences that everyone has and goes through, especially at this age. You know what it’s like when you have that song and you go, ‘That’s me, I relate to that!’ and I think that’s what we want for our music.” 


The band explain how every song they’ve got out has come about in different ways, with some songs being written by Elliot, some by Max, sometimes by the two together and later brought them into the studio, and some songs starting off as a jam between the four. “We’ve done every single way possible. I think it just depends on the vibe when it happens.” explains Elliot. 


“It’s just a natural process,” Max adds. “It’s always magic when we all play it in a rehearsal together, when we actually play it for the first time. It’s weird because you get so many different versions of a song. We’ve got the first recordings of like Right Time and it’s completely different from the release.” 


“I remember From The Night because Max sent it to me and it was an acoustic song, and I remember replying and being like ‘yeah, it’s cool, maybe it could be more of a solo thing than a band thing’ because it sounded so cool acoustic. I couldn’t imagine it as a full band song. But now, it makes sense!”


When it comes to the lyrics for the songs, the band explain how again, it’s a natural process, however, Max writes the majority of the words. “That’s just because I like writing, so I do most of it, but Elliot’s done a lot as well. But I don’t really have anything else to do, to be honest. I don’t go to uni or anything, so I may as well make myself useful.”


The other members of the band are currently all studying at uni, whilst balancing writing, recording and touring. “This is Indie’s question!” laughs Elliot, whilst fellow BIMM student, Jake, jokes, “We just don’t do the work!” 


“It’s kind of hard. My dissertation’s due in like a month and I’m on tour! I think you just have to kind of get through it. But yeah, it’s pretty hard!” laughs Indie. “I look at it as there’s four of us, so we can spread out the work. And sometimes if I’m really busy at uni, then I’ll ask the others to look after socials for a bit or do whatever. But yeah, it’s definitely been a challenge but we’ll be so proud of ourselves when we graduate!”


“You’ll be wearing the caps, I’ll be there leathered!” Max adds as everyone bursts into laughter, a reaction that keeps making it necessary to wait for it to surface before further questions.



A polaroid of Elliot from Overpass sitting on a sofa backstage

In preparation for the interview, I looked back on my notes from that first time I went to see the band at Heartbreaker’s in Southampton, and noticed I’d likened their sound to Arctic Monkeys, The Strokes, Inhaler and Sea Girls. 


“Our influences change a lot,” begins Indie, when I mention these similarities and whether the band have consciously aligned themselves with these other recognisable bands of the genre. “Some influences we’ll have and it won’t be that obvious how it has influenced the music. Like Interpol we really really like.” 


“Because they’ve got a vibe, haven’t they?” suggests Max. “We’ve got a song in the set tonight that’s kind of loosely going towards that. But I like my old classic songwriters too - like your Dylans, Springsteens.”


When the songs are introduced to a live setting, the band explain how they look up to the way different artists they’ve been influenced by, regardless of their genre or similarities to the band’s own style and sonics, and aspire to it. “You really want to replicate it, and it might not be because you think you sound like them, but instead because you think their stage presence or the way they dress is cool.” says Indie. 


“I mean you look at Fontaines, and they don’t say a word on stage, but when you’re watching you’re just mesmerised. He doesn’t say a word!” says Max before Elliot adds, “But it’s like the opposite of that is watching The Killers. That’s a great show, jumping around!” 


“We’re somewhere in the middle!” Indie laughs, settling the chatter leaning slightly off-topic about the charisma of various performers. 


“We want to be cool and mysterious!” Max jokes as Indie concludes, “But not too cool. We need to be friendly as well and find that balance.”



A polaroid of Jake from Overpass sitting on a sofa backstage

The band explains how imagery and aesthetics are also a big part of their identity as a band. Alongside the singles for the EP, music videos have accompanied. More specifically a video for  Alright was released in the run up to the EP release, a video with fun, retro vibes with the band moving around various Birmingham locations, eventually ending up playing arcade games in a really fun final scene. 


“We thought the song was quite positive with bright colours, feels a bit 80s and had this upbeat feel to it, especially with the middle 8 and last chorus.” begins Indie, before she starts to describe her original ideas for the video’s aesthetics.


“My actual idea was different - I wanted cheerleaders and basketball and an American vibe, but we didn’t quite have the budget for that! So instead, we went with independent businesses around Birmingham, such as Mockingbirds Cinema, Cherry Reds Cafe, and it was just nice to go to a bunch of different spots in our hometown.” 


“It’s nice to have a video of our hometown and the places we always go, and that’s where we’re from and we want to show it off. And it’s still quite DIY and done on a budget.” Max reflects. 


He goes on further to explain how it was important for Birmingham to be at the forefront of the music video because musically, the city can often be overlooked and isn’t often known for having the bands in the same way Manchester, Liverpool and Glasgow are regarded. “I feel like it’s good to champion where you’re from and have somewhere to come back to that’s your own, and that’s where the people who support us the most are - our biggest gig we’re doing is in Birmingham. It’s good to shout about it.”


“I think the people who come and see us feel like that as well. And even the Birmingham flag Max has got… It’s just nice to show your roots.” offers Jake.



Since their debut single, One Night Lover in 2021, the band have gone from strength to strength, building up their fanbase through extensive tours of their own, but also through landing support slots alongside some of their biggest influences. 


Most notably, their opening slots for Inhaler, this time last year, during their UK tour. Overpass hopped on the Birmingham and Bristol shows, weirdly the two gigs I was at, and even weirder, it was as though I’d manifested it; walking out of Heartbreaker’s discussing with my friend how the band would be the perfect opener for the Irish quartet. The announcement was made just under a couple of months later. 


“The first night, I was so nervous,” Max recalls. “And nervous to meet them as well, to be fair. But I just really enjoyed it because playing in your hometown is just always good. It was just such a surreal experience.” 


“When we first started a band, we said some of our goals would be supporting Inhaler and headline the Institute. And we did one, and we’re about to do the other.” Indie laughs in bemusement.


“We need some bigger goals!” jokes Max. 


“Inhaler were really nice and down to earth, though! And their fans and crowds are so nice and supportive. So many of them, they’ll be here tonight, so that’s the thing that’s really good!”


“I think the advice we got from them is always be nice and friendly because like they came into our dressing room and said hello and offered us a drink, and that goes a long way.” recalls Elliot, before Max adds, “Whoever you are, it doesn’t matter. It’s not hard to be nice to people and just have the time of day, and I think that’s a lesson in itself.”


The band’s previously referenced biggest gig at Birmingham’s 02 Institute is this Saturday (6th April 2024) at Birmingham’s o2 Institute. Indie explains, “We’ve played on that stage before supporting another band, but because I grew up in Birmingham, obviously my first ever gig was at the Institute seeing The Maccabees. So to now be up on that stage for our own headline show, and everyone’s there to see us is just crazy!”


So now that they’ve ticked a few of their dreams off the list, what do the band want to achieve next? “Lots of gigs and just keep building momentum. We want to do this until we’re right at the top, and we’re really happy with what we’re doing. I just feel like there’s so much more we can do.”


“And just to keep growing it organically.” says Indie. “We’re so proud of coming this far from like Heartbreaker's and doing those shows on that tour, to being here! And it’s actually crazy how recently that was.” 


Max brings up the Louisiana show from that same UK run, comparing it to tonight’s sold out show in a 200 capacity live room, “In a short space of time, I’m just really really grateful for that.”



There’s a moment during the show tonight where the crowd sings the chorus of EP closer, Beautiful, completely by themselves, with only the song’s guitar chords to accompany them. 


As the voices of 200 people packed into Bristol’s The Exchange on a Friday night sing the words back in unison, you can tell just how much it means to the band just by their expressions. Looking across at each band member in isolation, they each beam, the vocals still echoing serving as surreality. It feels as though we’d just witnessed an ‘I made it’ moment for four friends who’ve always dreamed of just making music. 


And as I reflect on that first show of Overpass’s that I attended, I can’t help but think about how far they’ve come from the sparse crowds, half made up of the support bands and their friends, in the upstairs of a bar; to selling out a headline tour where the crowds wearing their t-shirts sing the songs back.


With the release of their debut EP, their biggest hometown headline in sight, and a packed summer of festivals, there’s still even further for the Birmingham quartet to go. And I can’t wait to see it.



Overpass’s debut EP, From The Night, is out now! 


A handful of balcony tickets for the band’s biggest headline show to date at the o2 Institute Birmingham on Saturday 6th April 2024 are still available. Sell the show out and treat yourself to a ticket here


Where to find Overpass: 


Instagram: @overpass.band

TikTok: @overpass_band

Twitter: @overpass_band

FaceBook: Overpass.

Spotify:


KATIE HILLIER



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