Sunday, July 29, 2018
A Ripple Conversation With The Over Unders
When I was a kid, growing up in a house with Cat Stevens, Neil Diamond, and Simon and Garfunkel, the first time I ever heard Kiss's "Detroit Rock City," it was a moment of musical epiphany. It was just so vicious, aggressive and mean. It changed the way I listened to music. I've had a few minor epiphany's since then, when you come across a band that just brings something new and revolutionary to your ears.
What have been your musical epiphany moments?
“I vividly remember being asked in fourth grade what my favorite band and style of music was, and I had no answer. I had heard a lot of Beatles and U2 growing up, two bands that I now regard as the all-time greats, but as a young kid I didn’t seem to get the purpose and sheer joy of popular music. This embarrassing fourth grade experience triggered a musical obsession in me, and I set out to find what I like. In the last 10 years of my ongoing search for song, I remember being shaken to the core by the opening guitar riff on Green Day’s “Holiday,” deeply intrigued by Old 97’s haunting outlaw anthem “Jagged,” almost moved to tears by the jangly glory of R.E.M.’s “Murmur,” and reminded of the everlasting power of Rock N’ Roll through Oasis’ “Definitely Maybe.” Though I have experienced many more musical epiphanies in my 21 years, that infamous day in fourth grade stands above the rest, as it awakened within me a never-ending drive to listen to, compose, and create good music.” – Sam Hellman. “I remember when Rock Band was a really big thing. Though it didn’t involve the playing of real instruments, I remember it really inspiring some kids to pick up guitars, during an era where the number of rock bands in the public eye was dwindling. I recall specifically liking the song it featured called “Don’t Look Back in Anger “ by Oasis.” I still love that song today, and it inspired me to get into other music that ranges from the Beatles to traditional Irish.” -Mathew
Talk to us about the song-writing process for you. What comes first, the idea? A riff? The lyrics? How does it all fall into place?
Songwriting is my absolute favorite pastime. I never grow tired of the indescribable and mysterious experience of pulling a new tune out of thin air. With this said, I am compelled to write every single day. I do not believe in grappling with songs for extended periods of time until they reach an unattainable level of perfection, as most often my best songs come pretty much complete in a matter of minutes or hours. However, generating a steady output of solid material still requires the discipline of taking time each day to spend time with your instrument trying out new ideas. I always start with an appealing melody and chord progression on my guitar and take it from there. As I have written more and more songs, I increasingly find the starting place to be a chorus melody that just pops into my head at any hour of the day. Lyrics always come last for me, and serve primarily to compliment the melody, allowing them to be about everything and nothing at the same time.
Who has influenced you the most?
I think I have been most influenced by my parent’s appreciation for Rock N’ Roll and Alternative. They showed me some awesome bands growing up. The bands that have shaped our sound the most are probably Oasis, R.E.M., The Replacements, Old 97’s, and The Beatles.
Where do you look for continuing inspiration? New ideas, new motivation?
I definitely look outside of myself for more inspiration, as I firmly believe songs come to me and not from me. I do not think nature or new places shape my songwriting nearly as much as people and their experiences do. I love Rock N’ Roll the music for its brutally honest display of humanity that I think other genres lack. While I can write songs about almost anything (and nothing), I often find new melodic inspiration in hearing about other people’s lives and experiences, and as a result many of my lyrics tend to tell a story.
We're all a product of our environment. Tell us about the band's hometown and how that reflects in the music?
Eau Claire is in many ways the hipster capital of the Midwest, or at least it tries to be. Ironically, Justin Vernon’s humble hometown campaign for diverse artistic and musical expression has created a sea of local acts that sound exactly the same. “For Emma, Forever Ago” was a good album, but 10 years later it feels like so many local bands are trying to replicate it. Surprisingly, just over an hour outside of Minneapolis, one of the birthplaces of Alternative rock, we exist in Eau Claire as one of the few groups that are interested in writing catchy songs with our electric guitars. Though we are thankful for the stage that the unique and prevalent musical culture of Eau Claire has provided us, ultimately it has put a chip on our shoulder that drives us to keep doing our thing regardless of what anyone thinks.
Where'd the band name come from?
The band name is really a result of brainstorming to think of something cool. After recording our first EP without a band name, we really needed to come up with something before we released it. I remember running the name “The Over Unders” by my brother, and it stuck.
You have one chance, what movie are you going to write the soundtrack for?
I think I’d go with Dazed and Confused, hoping that Matthew McConaughey would hear the soundtrack and say: “Alright, alright, alright.”
You now write for a music publication (The Ripple Effect?). You're going to write a 1,000 word essay on one song. Which would it be and why?
I would write a 1,000 word essay on “There She Goes” by The La’s. In my opinion, it may be the greatest song of all time. While there is nothing remotely complex about the chord progression or arrangement, it delivers one of the most memorable and catchy choruses of all time. Though only 2.5 minutes long, I never grow tired of the track, and I think it ultimately encapsulates everything I love about pop music. I could talk at length about what particular elements make it a hit for me.
Come on, share with us a couple of your great, Spinal Tap, rock and roll moments?
Though The Over Unders are still a very young band with only a handful of live shows under our belt, I have stories to last a lifetime from my previous cover band. One of the very best involves a drunken regular at a dive bar with his arm around my neck as he helped me sing every line of “Jesse’s Girl.” During our break he explained to me at length how he was supposed to be home hours ago, but he was just so into our band. Apparently, he used to play guitar himself, and when I asked him why he stopped, he proceeded to whip out his left hand where there remained at best three fingers. Before he finally decided to call it a night, he placed two silver dollars in my hand and said, “Son, here are your balls, now go play a great show.” I was only 15. Without a doubt The Over Unders will eventually experience a plethora of these bizarre moments, but until then we will be sure to crank it to 11 every night.
As I said before, our live shows have been very limited to this point as we have only recently acquired the additional members to bring our studio sound to life. However, no matter the size of the audience, there have always been a few people who are very appreciative of our sound. Being a Rock N’ Roll band, it is easy for people to hear our music for the first time and get hooked by something. I want people to have fun and move when they hear our music, and so far, I think that has definitely happened. Several individuals have shared with us that they think we have the fun, back to basics sound, that our town and scene needs.
What makes a great song?
I really do love all kinds of songs and music, but in my opinion, the songs that will stand the test of time are the three-minute pop songs that you can sing along to. I am not referring to today’s top forty dance hits with loads of production, but compositions with real instruments that capture your attention without making you have to think about why they do. The Beatles mastered this, and that’s why they are still being played everyday all over the world. A great song is simple, memorable, and fun as hell to play and sing.
Tell us about the first song you ever wrote?
The first song I ever wrote was probably sometime during my 11th year on this earth. At the time I could hardly really play a chord, but I managed to come up with a slow plucking pattern that I placed a rather haunting melody over. We still play the song as a band sometimes today, and while it may never be recorded, I think it serves as proof that you don’t need to know anything about music to start writing decent little songs.
What piece of your music are particularly proud of?
I am particularly proud of our song “Top of the World” off our new LP One Fine Day. I wrote it at a time where I was writing a lot of songs, many of them more complex in nature than usual. However, I kept feeling that this new batch, which is now most of One Fine Day, needed a grand and simple anthem to cap it off. Without even having to try or think, “Top of the World” just happened. To me it feels like an Oasis Britpop anthem from 1995. I think each part of it perfectly serves the greater song, which boasts the biggest chorus I have ever written. I even find the lyrics to be some of my best work, as they tell the tale of a sarcastic rock star who just wants to live a normal life. It was the first single off our record, and for good reason, it seems to be most people’s favorite of ours’.
Who today, writes great songs? Who just kicks your ass? Why?
Today the underground Alt-Rock scene is arguable the best it has ever been. Bands like Sunflower Bean, Twin Peaks, Public Access TV, DMA’s, The Big Moon, and The Lemon Twigs all write very interesting and melodic power-pop songs that I cannot get enough of. Unfortunately there just are not that many people seeking out this kind of music here in the States. It’s almost as if these bands are not boring enough for the Indie crowd on this side of the Atlantic. Thankfully Europe seems to get it, and I hope these bands eventually receive the mass acclaim they deserve for their endless streams of great Rock N’ Roll music.
Vinyl is definitely the best way to listen to a great band. Nothing is compressed, and the individual tracks breathe like they were meant to. However, CD is not bad either, it still provides a high quality sound that you can take on the road, granted, in fewer and fewer new vehicles. Digital is a last resort for me, so much is lost, particularly in the bass and cymbals. Plus, the digital middle man is making it nearly impossible for bands to make a living off of record sales alone, so they are forced to tour until they drop dead.
Whiskey or beer? And defend your choice
I absolutely love both. Warming the sole with a good Irish or Bourbon is difficult to beat, but beer was literally the family business for 30 odd years. Ultimately I have to say beer, as it is more of a social beverage that can be consumed in much larger quantities. There are also endless craft beers to taste and enjoy here in the midwest.
We, at the Ripple Effect, are constantly looking for new music. What's your home town, and when we get there, what's the best record store to lose ourselves in?
There is really only one record store, and it has a great feel and variety. You need to stop by Revival Records.
What's next for the band?
We are going to play as many shows as we can in the next year, and hopefully start pushing into the Minneapolis scene. We anticipate recording another album as well, as our best work is now sitting on the shelf waiting to be heard.
Any final comments or thoughts you'd like to share with our readers, the waveriders?
We cannot thank Ripple Effect enough for giving us this opportunity! We hope you dig our album, and feel moved to support some of the other great young Rock N’ Roll bands on the rise.