Overcoats’ JJ Mitchell and Hana Elion open up about their inspiring third album ‘Winner,’ a spirited, soaring record of reflection and reckoning, liberation and connection, navigating the highs and lows of everyday life.
Stream: “Don’t You Wanna” – Overcoats
I feel like you can either give up, or you can decide every day to keep trying and declare yourself a winner of some kind.
Three songs into their third album, Overcoats have already established quite a few key principles: That there’s a real power in raw emotion; that their combined voices continue to spark a singular magic in this world; and that it’s okay to change (and keep changing), to make mistakes, to still be figuring your life out, and to not know everything all of the time. “Changed my mind, it’s not right, now I want you back,” the pair sing on their album opener “Want You Back,” their voices soaring with radiant energy and heartfelt emotion. “I feel like a Gemini, always changing my mind, never picking a side,” they reflect on “New Suede Shoes.” And on “Never Let You Go”: “I don’t have the answers, I don’t know what’s right. I know that it seems crazy to always change my mind.”
Being open to change is an important theme on Overcoats’ new album, and it’s a meaningful reminder that life is a long and winding road: We don’t need to do it all at once. Accepting that truth and allowing ourselves to keep on changing, with or without regret, is just one of the many ways in which we can all be winners in this life – and ultimately, that’s what it’s all about: A spirited, soaring record of reflection and reckoning, liberation and connection, Overcoats’ Winner is an inspiring collection of songs navigating the highs and the lows of everyday life.
I want you in the passenger seat
Windows down, feel the summer heat
Driving downtown in the middle of the night
Stop and kiss at every red light
What do you want? I wanna feel the thunder
What do you need? I need to feel alive
I’m not saying we’re gonna live forever
But will you be mine just for tonight?
Don’t you wanna come with me?
Let’s do something crazy…
– “Don’t You Wanna,” Overcoats
Released April 7, 2023 via Overcoats’ own new record label Never Fall Back Records (and distributed by Thirty Tigers), Winner is a resounding triumph. Following 2020’s acclaimed and empowering sophomore album The Fight and 2021’s Used to Be Scared of the Dark EP, Overcoats’ captivating third studio album captures JJ Mitchell and Hana Elion at their very best, collaborating with two-time GRAMMY-winning producer Daniel Tashian as they blend their soul-stirring voices together in a melting pop of raw vulnerability and indie pop wonder.
From their earliest recordings to their latest material, Overcoats have long been a source of cathartic light and inspiration. Their achingly intimate lyrics and breathtaking vocal harmonies, all set against a backdrop of warm organic and electronic arrangements, never cease to amaze and enchant.
From its buoyant opener “Want You Back” to the heated, tender finale “Vagabond,” Winner‘s songs are especially breathtaking: The album’s lead single “Horsegirl” dwells in a cathartic space of reflection and renewal, finding Mitchell and Elion’s voices shimmering over a radiant, dreamy, emotionally-drenched backdrop that feels as heavy as it does sweet. “Never Let You Go,” injects deep, smoldering indie pop grooves into a pure expression of unbridled passion and untethered emotion; the pair have never sounded as visceral as they do here, their voices unleashed in near-perfect unison as they dwell in the mess of love and heartbreak. “New Suede Shoes” is an empowering, groovy, and glistening track that takes a long, hard look in the mirror – ultimately finding any number of reasons to stand tall and shine bright.
Blending pain and hope, the impassioned title track “Winner” is a beautiful ballad of empowerment that shines through a spirited, uplifting chorus: “And every ending has a new beginning. There’s always space out there for something different. I’m on my way to find it,” Overcoats declare.
You might think I’m a loser baby but you would be wrong
‘Cause I found parts of me that I thought were gone
Think you had to leave me for me to move on
I was never gonna end it
‘Cause I’ve spent enough time without living
I had to walk alone across the line
To know I’m winning
And there’s no bad blood running here between us
Thought that I’d be broken but I get back up
And every ending has a new beginning
There’s always space out there for something different
I’m on my way to find it
Another round, another ride
Another chance to get it right
Another round, another ride
Just me myself and I
You’ll never know if you don’t try
Wherever you press play, Winner promises to deliver both warm, wondrous music, as well as plenty of moving words of wisdom.
Of course, getting to this point often meant learning some of life’s more salient lessons the hard way.
“I think The Fight was very much like the angsty teen years of our understanding of life and more specifically the industry and how to keep going as artists, and now Winner feels like we’ve reached adulthood,” Overcoats’ JJ Mitchell tells Atwood Magazine. “And there are some things that you wish you could change about the way the world works; there are some things you can fight to change and there are also some things that you can’t.”
She continues, “Right as we’re on the cusp of our late 20s and during our 30s, I feel like there’s so many expectations of where you’re supposed to be, who you’re supposed to have been with, career expectations, life expectations, commitment expectations. This album felt like a nice way of being like, ‘I see those expectations and here’s what I think.'”
Let’s not overthink it
I don’t wanna talk
I know we had our reasons
But it feels too good to stop
I might be a tornado
But you like chasing storms
We push it to the limit
And then come back for more
You look so good when you show emotion
It makes me wish I could take back what I said
Over and over again
Maybe I love the drama
Knowing I could lose it all
Breaking up makes me wanna
Never let you go
Don’t care if it’s stupid
No one has to know
Breaking up makes me wanna
Never let you go…
Overcoats’ third album is home to the boldest, rawest, and most vulnerable work of their entire career.
A record of unfiltered honesty, connection, spiritual reckoning and liberation, Winner is a beautiful, comforting companion to every day living. It’s a reminder that we can keep changing our minds as many times as we like, and no matter what we choose to do or who we choose to be, we’re winners because we’re doing it for us.
Atwood Magazine caught up with JJ Mitchell and Hana Elion to discuss the inspirations behind their new album, Overcoats’ musical evolution, their relationship with Brooklyn and New York City, and more. Dive in to the depths of Winner below, and catch on tour on tour this spring and summer!
:: Overcoats tour & tickets ::
A CONVERSATION WITH OVERCOATS
Atwood Magazine: It’s great to reconnect with you, JJ and Hana! Let’s dive right into it: What has Overcoats' journey looked like in the 2020s so far?
JJ Mitchell: Wow, big question. Big question! A lot has changed. A lot is still the same. So we put out our second record March 2020, promptly had to cancel our tour, which was a big bummer, we hope that a lot of the music from that album was helpful to people during a pandemic that has lasted many, many years at this point, and… Yeah, our journey was an interesting one, we wrote an album, we ended up scrapping that album, and then we wrote another album, and that’s one we’re putting out. We left our label. We started our own label, and Winner is going to be distributed by Thirty Tigers out of Nashville. So yeah, that’s just a little bit of what’s been going on for us.
How big is the change?
JJ Mitchell: We’re not quite sure yet. We’ll see. But so far, it’s been a really positive experience for us. I think there are a lot of benefits to being with a label in the more traditional sense, but there are also a lot of amazing things that can happen when you’re independent, you have full creative control of your project, which we really value. Yeah, and I think just being able to create the team that you want is really powerful as well, and so far, it’s been really fruitful for us, we’ve taken a lot of joy in figuring out the whole visual world of the album as well as the kind of sonic one, which is something that we may have previously outsourced or let our label be responsible for, and now that it’s us behind the wheel for everything, things do feel more like us, which is an interesting and kind of cool thing to realize seven years into your career.
I feel like the longer you make music, the more you seem to go back toward your folkier roots. There's this shift back from the electronic music that you really embraced on the first record, to the core vocal harmonies over thought-provoking and emotional lyricism, which has always defined your band. I don't mean to “box” you in, but I feel like the more time goes on, there's this identity that really has sprung eternal.
Hana Elion: That’s a beautiful way of putting it. Yeah, I think at the core of what we do, it is about those harmonies and songs that can be distilled into something that looks a bit like a folk song, and we like to play dress up with the songs and try on a bunch of different styles and genres, but at the core, it is always harmonies. And the thing in going independent with this record, we wanted to be like, “Okay, what’s the most us thing that we can do?” And the answer to that was, you know, removing some of the bells and whistles and doing something that was a little bit more folk minded.
Can you share a little bit about the story behind Winner, your third album?
JJ Mitchell: I think the title of it kind of speaks to what the journey was like. There was a lot of adversity thrown in our faces in terms of the music industry, also what everybody experienced on a personal level with the pandemic, and I feel like you can either give up, or you can decide every day to keep trying and declare yourself a winner of some kind. And that’s what this record is about: The different songs are hoping to explore ideas of commitment versus escaping, and winning versus losing, and how you define those things for yourself. And what do you do in the face of rejection? Hopefully this album speaks to that, and I hope it’s a joyful way of exploring those ideas.
In what ways is Winner the sequel to, or the natural evolution after your second album, The Fight?
JJ Mitchell: Good question. I think figuring out this journey of kind of figuring out who you are as an adult, I think The Fight was very much like the angsty teen years of our understanding of life and more specifically the industry and how to keep going as artists, and now Winner feels like we’ve reached adulthood. And there are some things that you wish you could change about the way the world works. There are some things you can fight to change and there are also some things that you can’t. And I think that that is kind of what the evolution has felt like from The Fight to Winner.
Recognizing of course, there was the EP used to be scared of the dark.
JJ Mitchell: Of course, of course. Which was very fun to me, that was our most collaborative work to date, and I think that that was just what the doctor ordered during COVID, to have kind of community and music during such an isolated time.
You introduced this new era with the cathartic “Horsegirl,” easily one of the best indie rock songs I've heard in a long time. What inspired you to return, and to begin this album era, with that song in particular?
Hana Elion: We wanted to start on a slow burn vibes, not the song “Slow Burn,” although love that song, but we didn’t wanna hit them with the pop hit right away, so we wanted to kinda ease into the new campaign, and “Horsegirl” was a song that felt really… Like it had a lot of the elements of what’s to come on the record, but is also sort of like an underdog a little bit, it’s not the loudest song or the most uptempo song, but it’s one that we felt really encapsulated the new era of the music so that’s why we started with that one.
All I wanted was a touch of romance
And now my heart’s in the palm of your hand
We’re so entwined I could recognize
Your silhouette or the whites of your eyes
Sneaking out in the middle of the night
Waking up to the burning sunrise
Summer ended and we said goodbye
But I’m still basking in the light
You showed me something good
And I can’t forget it
But I’m a different breed
No, you can’t tame me
Scare off easily
So take it slowly
The album’s title track stands out as another empowering moment for the two of you. What is the story behind “Winner”?
JJ Mitchell: The way I remember it is that we were combing through and we were like, “What is it, what should the whole thing be called?“, and then we were like speaking through the lyrics, and then there was a line in what is now called winner, that was like, “I had to walk alone across the line to know I’m winning”, and then I thought we were like, “Winner.” That’s what it should be called. But anyways, whichever way it happened the song.
Hana Elion: The song is definitely like the thesis. “I had to walk alone across the line to know I’m winning” feels very both on an individual level, figuring out who you are as a person when everything gets stripped away due to a pandemic due to whatever, adversity face, but then also walking alone also alluded to kind of the career journey that we’ve been on for the past three and a half years of figuring out that we can do it on our own as well, and I think that… Yeah, the lyrics of that song and kind of the catharsis that comes at the end, when things erupt, feel relevant to what the whole album is trying to say in different pieces and parts.
What do you think it is about this time in your lives that inspired these themes of inner strength, empowerment, and finding the light to go on your own?
JJ Mitchell: You just write what you know. So I feel like that maybe. We feel like we’ve all grown through our 20s together and that these things feel relevant at the time, and that’s ’cause we’re writing our experience and our experiences are probably somewhat similar. I think the thing that I feel like for me is that I think right as we’re kind of on the cusp of the late 20s and during our 30s, I feel like there’s so many expectations of where you’re supposed to be, who you’re supposed to have been with, career expectations, life expectations, commitment expectations. And I think like this album felt like a nice way of being like, “I see those expectations and here’s what I think.” Whether or not we’re actually doing any of those things, and this is just us saying, “Well, I don’t know if I believe in these things, and here I am committed, or here I go across the country, not committed,” but those, are kind of collective themes that I think everyone, particularly at our age, but probably anyone in any time in their life could experience these kinds of questioning of expectations, and that kind of feels like the biggest theme to me.
Hana: We’re all experiencing a collective thing as well.
You have, up ‘til now, been based in Brooklyn. Is that a continuing source of inspiration for you? How, if at all, have you seen the music scene change in your home city over the past decade?
JJ Mitchell: That’s a great question. Well, interestingly, as this record kind of unfolded, Hana and I both went on expeditions away from the city… I made it as far as Hudson, New York. Hana made it as far as LA. And that was a very interesting and poignant theme of the record is like the push and pull of New York City and what it means to be based in New York and leaving all of these experiences here and kind of being stuck here versus this wanderlust that we suddenly both kind of felt at the, as the pandemic waned a little bit, but I think living life in New York City has always been really crucial to what we’ve been writing about. This album has a lot of lyrical references to moments that occurred on certain streets in Manhattan or driving along highways that take you over the bridge, it’s very much like in this place, and I think that that was also kind of an homage to the city because we were about to try these other places, and so we were like, “Let’s put some of New York into this body of work as kind of like the grounding anchor for us.” I don’t know, Hana, if you have other things to add about being a New York band.
Hana Elion: I think the Brooklyn music scene is definitely really beautiful and communal. New York kind of functions on the record as both home and also like the pinnacle of success, and I think we both fled the city in a time that we were feeling isolated. It’s kinda like isolation is a magnet to isolation. If that makes sense. We both made ourselves more isolated when we were feeling isolated, and I think New York is just such a place where you have to be doing well to function there. On the record, it acts as both the start and the end goal.
Are there any songs on this album that you in particular hope listeners hear that we haven't yet discussed?
JJ Mitchell: Okay, for me right now in this moment, I want them to listen to a song called “Better Off.” I feel like that one which is not out yet, is the revenge pop song. And everything that we’ve talked about in this interview today, I feel like is summed up in that one. It’s like “Bored on the floor, I’m better off without you.” And I feel like that one, I think. I don’t know if it’ll fly under the radar, but I definitely want people to hear it.
Hana Elion: I want people to hear “Say My Name” and try to listen out for Daniel Tashian’s breathing percussion.
JJ Mitchell: [laughs] Real Easter egg hunt there!
Hana Elion: Daniel did this thing on “Say My Name” where it literally makes the song so much funkier.
What do you hope listeners take away from Winner, and what have you taken away from creating this record and now releasing it to the world?
JJ Mitchell: I hope people find it inspiring, but I think I also just really want people to put this album on when they’re driving or when they’re working, or when they’re at a dinner party. I feel like all of the songs, I just want people to be able to listen to whenever and wherever, and I hope that we’ve achieved that.
What are you listening to these days that you'd recommend to our readers who's inspiring you just in the interest of paying it forward?
Hana Elion: Halima, who we were blessed to have joining us for some of our tour. Been into some of the kind of like Baby’s All Right scene artists like Frost Children and May Rio. I saw Babehoven play in LA, and it was really beautiful.
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© Alex K Brown
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