For Arkansas natives, The Overseer, their newest album is the band stepping into their own and creating a sound they’ve always known they wanted to make. Their sophomore album promises many changes, from the way they approached how they wrote songs, to lighter and ambient influences. But even though the songs may feel somewhat different, The Overseer promises that if you dug their first album, you’ll like Rest & Let Go just as much. We got a chance to talk with bassist Bradley Riggs about the new record, craft beer and how they finally made the record they wanted to all along.
Substream Magazine: So have you guys finished the new record?
Bradley Riggs: Yeah everything is done. All the art is done and now we’re focusing on the marketing side now.
SM: How will Rest & Let Go be different from We Search, We Dig?
BR: With We Search, We Dig, we had written a lot of that record over the course of many years before getting signed to Solid State. I think we went and did that record in January of 2012, so we had written a lot of the music over the last couple of years and as that record came out and as we toured off of it for the next year and a half, we were able to dial in what we wanted more for our sound. Each song on Rest & Let Go fits what we were trying to do with the first record, we just didn’t know how we wanted to do it. It’s still the same band, you can tell that it’s the same dudes that wrote both records, but Rest & Let Go is what we wanted to do. We’re completely happy with how it turned out. It’s got heavier moments to it, more melodic moments to it. It’s what we wanted to achieve since our band started.
SM: What kind of impact do you think having a shorter amount of time to write/record this album will affect the final product?
BR: Yes, it definitely forced us to sit down and have writing sessions whereas, with the first record, we wrote casually and as it came to us, then went into the studio with all of the material and recorded it. With this one, three months before going into the studio, we still had to write half the record. We had to put specific time towards writing and we even wrote some stuff in the studio and we had never done that before in the past.
SM: Where did you guys record the album?
BR: We did it at Glow in the Dark Studios in Atlanta. That’s where we also did our first record with Matt McClellan.
SM: In one of your studio blog updates, you mentioned how you’ve been listening to a lot of ambient music. Has it impacted some of your writing?
BR: Yeah, that’s very apparent. You know, touring a lot steered us away from heavy music. We see it so much and it’s kind of genre we’re locked into, so we don’t really listen to as much stuff as what we necessarily play. We listen to a lot of Radiohead, and Thrice is one of all our favorite bands. Stuff like Nine Inch Nails, stuff that’s outside of the genre blended into how our record sounded.
SM: What experiences did you guys have that helped influence the direction of the album?
BR: The entire album is themed around death, which kind of gives a gloomy vibe to it, but that’s not the side of death that we’re trying to focus on. In 2013, we found out our drummer’s dad was diagnosed with cancer, and then about five months later, he passed away. It was really unexpected, because he was healthy his whole life and only in his mid-fifties. It definitely impacted all of us really heavily. If there is a family in the band that we’re all close to, it’s our drummer’s family. That’s where we’d always practiced since we were in high school, so they were just as much our family as they were his. Our vocalist, lyrically, themed the entire record around a few experiences he had dealt with in high school with some of his friends who committed suicide, all the way up to this past year with our drummer’s dad dying of cancer. The record is themed around death, but it’s not about necessarily death being the end all or this huge, negative thing. As gloomy as the record seems, it’s still a record with a lot of hope.
SM: Why should you fans be excited about this new record?
BR: The Overseer has evolved in the last two years. Through bands that we’re toured with, bands that we’ve listened to. They’re definitely not hearing the same record again as they heard before , but they’re definitely hearing, for us personally, the stuff that we wanted on We Search, We Dig, and we took it and transferred it to the next record, but made it better. I think that’s how fans are going to perceive it too. If we gained their interest from having a post-hardcore sound, that sound has evolved even more with more influences.
SM: What’s your favorite part about creating new music?
BR: Our guitar player and I, we’re really big gear heads, so we buy old guitars and pedals all the time. We’re constantly buying new gear and so obviously we love using that new gear. You can buy gear and use it for stuff you’ve already written, but in your head, you’re still going to hear it the same way that you wrote it. We buy new gear and it inspires us to create new sounds with it and write new sounds with it. It’s almost like kids playing with new toys, I don’t think you ever grow out of that stage. I used nine different bass pedals on the new record, so there are a lot of sounds, a lot of tones that I’d been looking for my whole bass-playing life. That’s probably one of my favorite parts is trying to make the sounds that are in my head.
SM: What’s your favorite track off of Rest & Let Go?
BR: There are two of them, and they are my favorite for different reasons. The second track on the record, “Paper Thin Houses,” I think is the most unique track that we’ve ever wrote as a band. It goes all over the place, from adding a little Rage Against the Machine feel to Red Hot Chili Peppers, to Muse, almost to some Blindside spots, so there’s a lot of weird influences. We wrote that song in the studio when we had gotten off a few extra days early off tour and basically locked ourselves in a room around 2pm, and came out at 5 in the morning the next day. We had finished the entire song, start to finish, everything about it, even the melodies for the chorus. So that was a lot of fun. The first few hours, nothing was happening and we didn’t come up with anything. Then one little thing lead to an entire song and it was definitely the most fun I’d ever had writing a song in our band’s existence.
Listening wise, if I was not in the band I didn’t play anything on the record, I would say it’s probably the last track on the record, “Depraved.” That one is basically a song that we said we don’t care what label we’re on or what genre we’re under, we’re going to make a song that if any musician got a hold of it, like if we were writing a song for someone else, anyone could play it. We basically made a song with no strings attached to it. It turned out really cool, I like the closing feel to it and it really ties the record together.
SM: What did you do in your down time when you making the record?
BR: One thing that jumps to my mind, most of us aren’t really big into video games, but every time we go to this studio in Atlanta, they have an N64 with Mario Kart. We are avid Mario Kart players. We let it all go on the race track. We would drink pots and pots of coffee all day long and play Mario Kart any time we had down time. Also, the NBA season started while we were there and we’re all pretty big NBA fans and they’ve got NBA Ticket on the cable package there. We’d watch tons of mind-numbing basketball.
SM: What’s your team?
BR: Most of the dudes in the band are Oklahoma City Thunder fans. I don’t necessarily have a team. We’re all Arkansas Razorback fans, but pro wise, its fun to play fantasy basketball in a league together, so we follow individual players a lot.
SM: You’ll be going on a short Midwest/East Coast Tour in early March with Lola Rath. Are these new spots for you, or have you played in these cities before?
BR: Most of those are places that we’ve hit numerous times in the last couple years and felt good about. We wanted to cram a really solid weekend for week the record came out, that way we’re on the road promoting it and selling hard copies. It should be a short, jam-packed week and a lot of fun. Lola Rath is from the same hometown as us and they were interested in going out with us. We’re excited, that we get to take our friends on tour with us.
SM: Which one are you the most excited to play again?
BR: Annapolis, MD, if I just had to pick one day. It’s one of the first shows we confirmed on the tour. I know that show is going to be awesome. Columbus is going to be fun and we have a lot of friends in that area too. I know those two dates are ones we’ve circled on our calendar.
SM: Is there a place that you want The Overseer to play that you haven’t yet?
BR: The Overseer has never gone to Europe. Three of us have been hired by other bands to go play in cities in Europe, so we’ve seen most of the world, but The Overseer has actually never gone there. Hopefully, at some point we can make that happen. In the States, we’ve played forty-six of them. All we lack is Montana, Maine, Alaska and Hawaii. Maybe we can check off all fifty off before it’s all said and done. But Europe is definitely at the top of our checklist.
SM: What’s your favorite part about being on the road?
BR: We are all avid craft beer fans. I bartend whenever I’m home at a craft beer bar and we’re all really into craft beer, so we tour breweries all over the country. Most of the times they’re free and you get to learn about the region of the country based on the brewery, so for the last couple of years we’ve gone to twenty plus all over the country and it’s something that we always try to do. We pick one or two towns that we know of a place and go try to get some free stuff out of it. That’s one of those things that even after my life of touring, I’ll always try to knock out a brewery here or there.
SM: Other than the album and the small tour in March, what are your other plans for 2014?
BR: Right now, the main focus after the record comes out is all the summer fests. We’re lining those up first, then we’ll work our way backwards into May and June.
SM: What would you like to fans who are thinking about buying the record but aren’t sure yet?
BR: If there are fans that are in their mid-twenties like us that miss bands like Thrice and Thursday and all of those early post-hardcore bands, they should definitely check us out.
SM: Thanks so much Brad, good luck with the new album!
BR: Thanks you!
Rest & Let Go available on iTunes on March 4th!
Interivew by Stephanie Roe