In Unison with Overcoats

Debuting in 2017, Overcoats, a musical duo comprised of JJ Mitchell and Hana Elion, have consistently gifted us with soft, melodic harmonies, their combined vocal unity presenting almost as a single voice. Ever-evolving, since their last studio album, the pair have gone through some creative growing pains, but persevering through, it’s safe to say they’ve come out of the other side better for it, with new single ‘New Suede Shoes’ delving into the feeling of wanderlust and the disenchantment that can come with getting older.

With the release of new album ‘Winner’ around the corner in April, Overcoats strip back elements of their first two albums to create more of an acoustic sound this time around, while still maintaining aspects of pop, country and rock in a way that feels more authentic. In this interview JJ and Hana discuss the musical and lyrical content that drove them on the new album, the key differences between their previous albums compared to the new release, and the creative challenges that can come with writing a simple pop song.

Hi JJ and Hana, thanks for speaking with us! Let’s go back to the beginning, how did you both meet and what made you decide to form a duo?

We met at university when we were 18 years old. We realized pretty quickly that we both loved to sing and that the sound of our voices together felt…eerily special. We spent years singing as we walked around campus or studied, but in our final year, we wrote our first song together. As other people were starting to apply for jobs post-college, music became the only thing we wanted to do.

Congratulations on the release of your new single ‘New Suede Shoes,’ it’s such a playful song, and funny that it actually stemmed from spilling coffee over your new shoes! Could you share some detail about the deeper meaning behind the song?

Yes! This song is really about the discomfort that comes with ageing and feeling like you haven’t accomplished anything or found happiness as fast as you should have. It’s also about the wanderlust that comes with these doubts – wanting to go out and see if changing your surroundings changes your life. 

We’re excited for the release of your next album ‘Winner’ – can we expect a similar pop-folk feel to ‘New Suede Shoes’ ‘Never Let You Go’ and ‘Horsegirl’ throughout, or will there be a mixture of other genres and influences?

This album is definitely leaning more into pop-folk, Americana territory — we relied more on acoustic guitars, real drum kits, etc. — things that we sometimes shied away from on our first couple records! However, there are still elements of other genres, as we always love to mix it up — a song called “Green Eyes” has some neo-soul, jazz elements, and “Don’t You Wanna” is a classic rock song. “Say My Name” incorporates some disco…we keep it all over the map. 

Do you each have a personal favourite song from the album, or is it too difficult to say?

So difficult…but we did actually just talk about this the other day so we can answer it! For JJ it’s Horsegirl — that song is basically the same as the first day we recorded it and she loves that we had the confidence to put it out that way. Hana loves the last song on the record, called “Vagabond,” because she feels it captures a feeling that we hadn’t captured before in our songwriting. 

Were there any songs on the album that were particularly difficult to create or any that had a particularly memorable conception?

Never Let You Go was a hard one. Sometimes the simplest, most “pop” tunes are the hardest ones to get right. You’ve really got to get the dynamics and the flow of the song working or else it just feels repetitive. 

Your music videos so far have been beautiful and transported us to your whimsical world, do you have plans to film videos for other tracks on the album? 

We might have bitten off more than we can chew, but we plan to release a visual accompaniment for every song on the record! We’re loving the way the visuals add to the experience of this new world we’ve created on the album. We love playing with concepts of femininity, girlhood, domesticity vs adventure (or can they be the same thing?), city vs countryside, and the juxtaposition of time and place. 

If you think about your creative process on your 2017 debut album, your 2020 sophomore album and your new album ‘Winner,’ what stayed the same and what’s changed?

Our harmonies have stayed the same–as has the desire to sing as one voice (the whole greater than the sum of its parts). We think the songwriting has also remained an attempt to get at the core of difficult experiences and moments of growth. The sonic backdrop has changed and morphed and evolved. Our first album was electronic heavy, our second album was rock guitar heavy, and our new songs feel more organic, more acoustic, returning to our country-folk roots. 

If you could go back to 2017 when you released your debut album and give yourselves advice, what would you say?

You’re so smart and talented : )  keep doing what you’re doing and don’t let other people (especially in the industry) tell you what you should do. 

Your North American tour starts on April 24th, you’ve already played a show at SXSW but is there a song from the album that you’re really excited to see translated into a live performance?

Really excited to play all the new songs! Can’t wait to play New Suede Shoes, especially that bass solo.

If you could collaborate with or tour with anyone, who would it be?

Right now, it feels like our top choice would be The Chicks.

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Words: Cleopatra Bailey