Friday, 4 November 2011

Interview: The Overtones

From paintbrushes to microphones, it’s been a long climb to the top for vocal harmony group The Overtones.

Despite originally hailing from all over the UK – Mark Franks is from Manchester, Mike Crawshaw from Bristol, Darren Everest from Essex and Timmy Mately from Ireland – the four lads got to know each other on the open mic scene in London seven years ago.

They decided to form a unique band, but it wasn’t until Australian born Lachie Chapman joined that it all fell into place. “We weren’t actually looking for a bass but Timmy met Lachie doing a promo job and had a bit of a brainwave that he’d be amazing in our group. He was the icing on the cake for the sound we were trying to create” says Mark.

But the group had trouble juggling their day jobs and the band. Mark was a professional dancer, Mike worked as a model and Darren, Timmy and Lachie were all actors. But being self-employed made it hard for the guys to make ends meet and so they we’re forced to do promo and bar work on the side. Working day and night obviously made it tricky for the band to all be in the same place at the same time to rehearse, but a clever business idea soon changed all that.

“Darren and Mike had got a bit of painting and decorating experience and so thought it would be a good idea to all get together and do a few painting jobs. It worked out great because we could rehearse and get paid at the same time. Although I’m not the best painter in the world, so I just made cups of tea” says Mark.

But little did they know, their new aliases would lead to a surprising big break. “One day we were decorating a place just off Oxford Circus and we were rehearsing for a gig that we had that weekend” recalls Mark. “Then a talent scout from WarnerMusic walked past. We didn’t know who she was at the time but she came up and asked us what were up to and it kind of went from there really.”

After debut album ‘Good Ol’ Fashioned Love’ was released last year, the boys ventured off on tour with 90’s pop sensation Peter Andre. “It’s funny to us because we didn’t think it was our typical audience. We’d not long released our album and to be honest when we were recording it we knew that we were really passionate about what we were doing but we weren’t entirely sure what our demographic would be” says Mark. “We possibly thought it would be the older generation who were around the first time all these classic songs were about. But what we found on the Peter Andre tour was that we got a load of really young fans following us that just really appreciated a good song.”

Mark also believes that the younger generation are getting back into old fashioned music. “I mean in the charts at the moment there’s lots of vintage sounding music, you’ve got Paloma Faith, Plan B, even Olly Murs and all those kinds of artists, their songs do have a vintage feel” he explains.

Although the band are a fan of all things vintage, they are trying to keep up to date for their more technologically advanced fans too. They recently released an iPhone app of games themed around their single 'Gambling Man’. “We’d had quite a good response to ‘Gambling Man’ so I think we just thought it would be fun to run something alongside that. It’s just a bit of fun really and also we have a lot of really dedicated fans that follow us on Twitter and Facebook, so we wanted to give them something to take home and hopefully enjoy.”

That fan base soon grew even bigger and so did the success of their album. Selling over 350,000 copies it became the 2nd biggest selling debut album from a UK group in 2011. And to celebrate, they have released a Platinum Edition of the record with six brand new tracks, one of which is a cover of Adele’s ‘Rolling In The Deep’. The band are big fans of the award winning singer-songwriter and count her as one of their influences.

“She’s definitely proved that you don’t need a load of wizardry and technology to produce a song. She did a performance at the Brits recently where it was just her and a piano and she sang ‘Someone Like You’. I think everyone watching it had goosebumps. We are trying to bring that sort of old school vocal harmony element to music, while giving it a contemporary twist as well. So it’s good to see that there’s artists that are still shining that have great vocal ability” says Mark.

October saw the band set off on their second UK tour of the year that included a stop off at Bournemouth’s Pavilion Theatre and a sold out show at the London Palladium. However, Mark insists that touring in ‘The Overtonesmobile’ isn’t as glamorous as you might think. “Well there’s five lads together so you can imagine what that’s like. We have a little DVD player on the van which is quite cool. We always have a bit of a squabble over what we’re going to watch. Normally it’s a bit of Family Guy” says Mark. “It’s not very rock’n’roll our lifestyle. Our rider when we’re touring consists of lemon, honey and ginger and a bowl of fruit. I usually put in an order for a bit of Jack Daniels for after the show though.”

Rather than being ‘rock’n’roll’, Mark prefers to think of The Overtones as ‘slick, stylish and feel-good’. And if those album sales are anything to go by, it looks like the public are feeling pretty good about them too. 

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