Overcast Sound bring deep house, minimal, deep techno and dub worlds into the mix…
The Canadian duo, Overcast Sound, or otherwise known as Jamie Drouin and Michael Pettit, are truly blending sounds in a way to form music that at first impressions has the characteristics of experimental music, yet on closer inspection goes a whole lot deeper. They create soundscapes that transcend into diverse journeys exploring their unique choice of sounds, so much so, that it’s unlikely anyone could listen to their music and say that they wasn’t taken somewhere.
Their journeys retain a coherent flow joining together rhythmic movement with experimental sounds and the space and time in which they both travel in. This is something that is very much present throughout their album “Beneath The Grain” and maybe even more so in their latest EP, “Popoloco”, which was recently released on Falk. “Popoloco” truly captivates their sound in a club friendly way, with an overall deep tribal, shamanistic vibe being woven into the EP, yet each piece of music exploring this influence through slightly varied paths.
Overcast Sound – Popoloco EP /// Falk
Just listening to their “Popoloco EP”, it’s easy to understand why Guerilla Sounds asked Overcast Sound to kindly convey they influences and style through the G-Sounds mix series. A mix that drifts between deep house, minimal, deep techno and dub, an amalgamation that resonates a mellow vibe creating the perfect mood for a warm-up or just lounging back.
To understand more about what is behind the music and ulitmately the minds of Overcast Sound, Guerilla Sounds spoke with Jamie and Michael for some insight…
For full quality streaming of G-Sounds 05: Overcast Sound, click here
Let’s just speak a little bit about 2011, as it seemed to be a very productive year for you guys, especially due to the fact of releasing your debut album. Apart from that, what other memorable highlights have there been for you? MP: 2011 was a busy year, the early portion was dominated by the release of our first full length album and everything that goes along with that. Additionally, we released 3 EPs, contributed to a couple of compilations and made a couple of bootleg remixes. I think one of the highlights coming out of that work was the connections we made with other artists – Fingers in the Noise, The Automatic Message, Area, Nadia Popoff, Lokua and Sinusstoev. Great people to work with and they really stepped up and delivered some lovely remixes for us. Personally, the second half of the year was dominated by me moving countries, so the music took a back seat to the logistics of that transition. I would have to say the move has been a big milestone (if not highlight). JD: I think we also pushed the sound of our duo into some pretty interesting territory last year. We enjoy exploring our dub techno roots, but without simply adopting the latest production trends, we seem to continually come up with a sound distinctly our own.
It seems that your album “Beneath The Grain” comes from many influences during your 3 month stay in Berlin. Is that an accurate statement, or were there various other influences involved? MP: Berlin played a big role in the making of that album, for sure. Partly the clubs and musicians and partly the city itself – locations and people and history. Additionally, the sense of isolation and otherness became a thread for me. Being a foreigner, not speaking the language can make one feel removed from the world, or like a spectator. JD: “Beneath The Grain” is definitely a thematic album on the history of that city, discovering its textures and sonic clues during daily walks. It functions as a travelogue or diary for me, an indelible record of our brief residence.
I would say that the physical experience of standing in clubs like Berghain, basking in the definition of their Funktion 1 sound system, influenced my tonal production a great deal. I was mixing (via headphones) while mentally projecting how it would sound in that space, how certain sounds would work best to highlight that kind of architecture. Some people have picked up on just how spatially complex “Beneath The Grain” is, thanks in large part to this approach. MP: Yes, it’s hard to be standing next to a Funktion 1 system and not feel an influence.
What was the purpose of staying in Berlin. Was it to specifically get new inspiration to create the album, or was the album something unplanned and a result of the experience in Berlin? JD: It was very much to help prove something to ourselves, to experience firsthand the almost mythical nature of Berlin’s music scene, and the city certainly delivered. Coming from a relatively small city on Canada’s Westcoast, but having travelled extensively, I was pleasantly shocked how, even in the tiniest venues, the audience was focused, appreciative and quite musically educated in diverse electronic music styles. This is quite a contrast to most cities where the scenes are more fractured and diminutive, and daring to play anything other than pounding dance music after 10pm feels a bit like force feeding the audience cod liver oil. MP: I don’t remember that we went with the plan of creating an “album”, more that we wanted to go and experience what the city had to offer. The plan was always to produce music while there, but I think the idea of creating a set number of tracks with a theme and that worked together came after being there for some time. Living there for this short, intense period worked well with creating one piece – an opus perhaps – rather than lots of seemingly unrelated pieces or EPs.
Anyone familiar with Berlin will know where the title “Templehof” for one of your tracks came from, but why Templehof? JD: We lived a few blocks from Templehof and I became fascinated with its less-known history as a Cold War subterranean decoding station. The counterpoint track “Devil’s Mountain” refers to the infamous Teufelsberg listening station on the outskirts of the city. Materials gathered here were transported to concrete bunkers deep below the functioning Templehof airport for analysis and decoding, unbeknownst to all those arriving and departing travelers above.
Are you willing to share a brief summary of your time in Berlin with us; highlights, low points, crazy moments? MP: Looking back, it was a fast three months. Neither one of us purport to live a rock star life, so the crazy moments are few and far between. Like all trips you go through the phases: a) settling in… b) normal daily life… and… c) the final “oh my god we’re leaving soon” rush. JD: I might have had truly crazy stories to share if I was 20 years younger, but the stand-out elements for me were things like being able to just head out on any given weeknight and see something interesting, be it a scheduled musical performance or just some random event you came across. I also enjoyed the community nature of the various neighborhoods, each with their own farmers market and corner bars. MP: Going into some of the records stores was a highlight – Hardwax, Space Hall etc. – you hear so much about them that they take on a larger than life aura. Hearing the Wax Treatment events at Horst Krzbrg with the Killasan sounds system was quite something, it’s like a temple to bass. There was a couple low points perhaps most notably – the gig we swore to never speak of again. JD: Ah yes, Horst Krzbrg… lovely to hear the music you love played in a near-perfect situation.
Now looking back even further into the past, do you think there was a key moment in your lives that set the way to becoming DJs/Producers… A moment or decision that changed/set your future and how? JD: I’ve been working as a sound installation artist and experimental composer since the late-90s, but it was my friendship with Michael which inspired developing a parallel career in traditional dance music. It still is not an easy process for me, I have learned a great deal and am proud of our achievements, but I also kind of function as an outside spectator, not really listening to much club music. Hopefully this brings something awkwardly unique to our process… or perhaps it just irritates Michael. MP: Well, I am sure it’s a mutual irritation if it exists. It’s the special magic that makes it all possible.
Previous to Overcast Sound, I can’t pinpoint a specific moment or event that set my path to where I am now. From an early-ish age I was always a pretty avid buyer/collector of music, but hadn’t been introduced to production or DJing yet. In the late 90s I started an online radio show, playing ambient, dub, reggae and oddball stuff which slowly lead to more beat oriented music. Pretty shortly after I started DJing. After being introduced by a mutual friend and working together at a music hardware manufacturer, Jamie and I started on the first incarnation of Overcast Sound. I don’t know what made us want to make music together other than our friendship – like Jamie said our tastes can be a bit divergent – he has a stronger experimental side and I have a stronger club music side. Looking back I think it was just the right people came into to my life at certain times and gave me the support or knowledge to make a jump into the music world or showed that it was possible. JD: I seem to remember the very first incarnation of our duo was Michael with his relatively new Machinedrum, and me with a large modular synthesizer… the recordings are still around here somewhere on minidisc. Obviously the experience was not scarring enough to make us stop there.
Let’s focus on the present for a moment… Where are you in this period; Home, Berlin, or some other place in the world? MP: Right now I am living in Utrecht, Netherlands, with my partner and we will be here until September 2012. After that the plan is to go to Germany. JD: Currently living in British Columbia, Canada, but my wife and I plan on dividing our time between Berlin and BC. We just returned from a 3-month residence in Berlin where I was performing and recording in the experimental/new music scene.
Your latest release, “Popoloco EP”, which is out now on Falk Recordings, explores some very interesting soundscapes and each of the four tracks offering slightly varied feelings. What were the influences on this release and what were you looking to achieve? JD: We actually wanted to make something a bit more club-friendly, whether we achieved that, I am not sure! There is a definite tribal / shamanistic tone to this EP which I feel would work really well in the right club… certainly something that would get me moving anyway.
I’m curious to hear people’s impression of the release. As with everything we do, there is a strong emotional content to the compositions, not just clever sound design. It would be great if this translated to the dance floor. MP: There is definitely that stronger tribal / ethnic flavour in the first three tracks, which is a result of us wanting to create something a bit more propulsive and hypnotic. Our music has always had that hypnotic feel to it, but this time around we made an effort to pull back some of the dense haze and reverb of previous material (see Holding Pattern, Changeling or Untitled 12 EPs), and let the rhythmic skeleton show a bit more. After we created the first track, we both really liked the strong tribal flavour and built the other tracks with that in mind. “The Rite of Love and Death”, is a bit of the anomaly here, it began its life a fragment that we only ever played in live sets, it was never a full studio track. It always went over well, so we’ve tried a couple of times to build a proper studio track, but it never worked out – it always lost something in the process. Ultimately, we decided to do a couple of live takes while working in the studio one day and used that as the “studio” track.
One of Guerilla Sounds’ favourites in particular is “LOA”, as it creates a deep, meaningful and very mystical setting with a tribal influence. Plus vocal cuts that fit in perfectly to the overall vibe of the soundscape. Enlighten us on what “LOA” represents? MP: Loa are the spirits of the voodoo religion. The track came together around the female vocal acting as a hook, and then building around it. We were definitely trying to go after a shamanistic, rhythmic feeling for “LOA” – folding in the haunting, lilting vocal and the more staccato vocal around the drum patterns worked well. After the track was finished we felt ‘loa’ was a good fit for the track name, tying the origin of the track and final atmosphere together. Neither one of us are Haitian, where the vocal comes from, nor voodoo practitioners, so it’s not meant to represent anything specific to those cultures, but rather the ecstatic state of shamanistic ceremonies.
If you really had to choose one, what would you say is your favourite track on the “Popoloco EP” and why? JD: They all have elements which I find captivating, such as the almost painfully long ambient break in the title track, or the much darker and rough nature of “The Rite of Love and Death”, but “LOA” definitely has a way of moving you. I like the way we ended up with this polyrhythmic vocal, almost gated, but much more elusive than that. “LOA” also sounds the most like the way we play live – these dense patterns built up from using disparate elements from our catalogue. MP: I think “Deer People” for me, I enjoy the muted nature of the track, with bits of percussion, vocals and synths occasionally bubbling to the top.
You have kindly provided the next installment of our G-Sounds series. What have you used to create the mix, have you used your typical live set-up, and how would you describe the mix? MP: Usually we would do a live set for this, but since we’re on different continents at the moment, a DJ mix will have to do. So, rather than our usual live setup of computers with outboard effects and controllers, it’s just turntables and a laptop for the DJ mix. The mix is a selection of some new and older tracks that move between the deep house, minimal, deep techno and dub worlds. It’s a mellow mix around the 120bpm mark and just rides along gently for the duration, nothing fancy just setting a mood really. Perfect for playing as you’re about to head out or just coming home after a night out.
Now looking fowards to the future, 2012, are you going to be setting up temporary home in some other part of the world looking to gain inspiration for another album? MP: I feel like I’ll be in a temporary home for a while. I have just under a year left in the Netherlands and then I’m heading over to Germany for a spell – as long as the necessary visas are all good. It’s likely that we [Overcast Sound] will be in the same city for a portion of 2012 at least. We haven’t really talked about the next full length album yet, and whether that would include going to another temporary location. There are external factors that influence the how / where / if of creating another album – our personal locations / circumstances for one, and perhaps more broadly and subtly – the shifting music industry. Is there value for us to make a full length, is there value for our fans? Do people still want to buy an album – whether it be physical or digital? JD: Well, since money does not seem to play any part in our career choices – we have yet to make anything from sales, big surprise – we will probably go with our gut instinct, whatever evolves out of the music making process. Perhaps the next album with be a rock opera, Michael?
What can we be expecting from you both this year? JD: We have another very different EP coming out soon, which points Overcast Sound in another possible direction. We’ll also be doing a more ambient type of EP for April release. Beyond that Michael and I will need to find ways to fluidly collaborate over the physical distance. I predict that will be an ongoing development throughout 2012. MP: As Jamie said – the first half of the year is reasonably scheduled out – with “Popoloco” out now, and two more EPs scheduled to come out in the next months. Plus, we have been asked to create a remix for release in the first half of 2012, I think, and we have one EP that needs a home so, we’re working on that as well. The second half of the year is a bit more loose – there are few things that we have talked about but haven’t made any solid plans on. We’re also looking at some festivals and shows that we can perform at.
If it’s true what some people say about the Mayan calendar and the world, or at least human life is going to end at the end of this year, what 3 things would you simply have to do before the end of the world? MP: Tough question as it becomes quite personal when you think too much about it, and I am not sure how interesting they would be to other people. So, keeping it light:
1. Big party for all friends and family.
2. Visit as much of the world as possible.
3. Go into space. JD: Space, huh? I would say:
1. Fancy dress party in the middle of a glacier field in Iceland with my wife – tuxedo, champagne, the whole kit.
2. Move to a tiny island in the South Pacific so we’ll have a nice view of the end, all to ourselves.
3. Go to Michael’s space party.
What are your ambitions in terms of music? MP: There are a lot things that would be nice to do – release on vinyl, headline at Berghain, produce a track that is considered “a classic”, as the kids say. I think we both have thoughts on the sort of things we would like to accomplish with Overcast Sound. But for me, one overarching ambition with the music of Overcast Sound is to create something of quality and honesty. Those other things will come when the time is right.