For Overcoats, success stems from a telepathic connection

It’s an hour before set time and the inseparable duo that make up New York based band Overcoats is getting ready in the Airstream green room in the back of Denver’s Globe Hall. Hana has discovered she has mistakenly put on JJ’s red boots instead of her pair of red boots.

Overcoats L: JJ Mitchell R: Hana Elion (Photo Cred: Meesh Deyden)

“I was  wondering why they felt so weird,” Hana says, so they switch pairs. From the 10 minutes I’ve spent with them so far, their shoe size may be one of the few distinguishable differences between this formidable twosome. 

JJ and Hana met their freshmen year at Wesleyan University, and have been moving as a unit ever since. They started singing in an acapella group, and after winning battle of the bands together, began making their own music. “I promise I’ll hold on / ’til I’m the last one standin' / ’til all that’s left is one,” and here on their first song penned, they linger, “little memory.” There, in the lingering in-between harmony, is where they’ve led & let us in to the heart of their friendship.

“We got each other the same gift at the airport one time. Rose scented perfume" they told Jon Hart of Kansas City's 90.9 back in October. Even in their songwriting they share an almost telepathic connection. Talking about their creative process when they jetted off to Ireland post graduation, JJ tells in the same interview, "When we came back with what we had come up with [for the 2nd verse of 'Nighttime Hunger'], it was almost word for word exactly the same." 

Special s/o to Overcoats drummer, Joao, for hooking it up w/the double iPhone lighting here (Photo Cred: Meesh Deyden)

In a performance for Audiotree earlier this year, Hana said, "Our friendship is foundational to what we do because we're discussing things like heartbreak, relationships with our parents-- it's pretty intense, vulnerable stuff, & to have that trust and loving foundation there is really important and makes it easy and healing for us to share our experiences with each other and write about them together." Listening to first lines from tracks like "23" and "Walk On" on their first full length album, YOUNG, you immediately get a sense that these two dive deep and true from the get out, a motif that runs through the whole record. 

Complemented by the production stylings of Nicolas Vernes (Dirty Projectors, Daughter) and Autre Ne Veut, YOUNG waves from dance-party rawness, drum-machine centric-- "Leave the Light On"-- to western bell crooner-- "Mother"-- without any sort of confusion. It's no wonder they've racked up accolades like making the list for one of Billboard's Best Albums of 2017 So Far, securing a spot on NPR's Fave New Artists of 2017, to most recently selling out New York City's Bowery Ballroom in November.  

When I asked them what they wanted to achieve heading into 2018, these big-dreaming-make-it-happen babes didn't miss a beat. "We need to make a list," JJ asserts. "We aimed too low, maybe," Hana clarifies, showing their unbridled ambition and faith in their creative work together. "Tiny Desk was a dream. Bowery Ballroom was a dream. SNL is one for me, opening for Coldplay," Hana checks off. "Bonnaroo, Glastonbury... Our goals are festival oriented."

Overcoats performing at Globe Hall (Photo Cred: Meesh Deyden)

They're also gunning for more creative autonomy. "We really wanna be in charge with what’s going on creatively," Hana says about their experience co-directing their latest music video, "I Don't Believe In Us." "We were planning the video while on tour and we decided we wanted to write the treatment ourselves."

"We were insane though," JJ points out. "Everybody kept telling us you should probably choose between a giant flower wall and smoke bombs cause it’s kinduv a lot to pay for both and execute both & we were like 'Na Na Na Na Na Na Na- we want it all.'" So they got 'em both and did the damn thing. Executing your vision as emerging women artists in the music industry can come with its own particular struggles, something Overcoats spoke about explicitly in our interview. 

"It’s really nice to see [...] so many women headlining shows & winning Grammys, and also carrying with that a political message," JJ explains. "I really appreciate that and it makes me more comfortable being in this profession. [But] there are still a lot of incidents where so much of the sexism in the music industry is [...] covert." 

Hana continues, "It's not specifically men saying ‘sleep with me to get to the top’ it’s more like I’m carrying my amp on stage and a guy says to me ‘Aren’t you gonna sweat too much.' It’s little stuff like that." It's also something else to different women in the industry, a reality Overcoats recognizes and shouts out during performances of their song "The Fog." 

"The future is intersectional feminism," JJ improvs between the "freedom is when I'm without you" chorus. "That common ground, that thing where women are coming together and having empathy and understanding each other, that's a real inclusivity," Hana shares. "It’s important to stress what that inclusivity means to us, because inclusivity gets used and it doesn’t actually include everyone." From finding that common experience in their writing process to collaborating with fellow women creatives, Overcoats is "working every day to hold other women up." 

JJ: It is often easier to hate other women, it’s easier to judge them.

Hana: — and we’ve been on the other side of that.

JJ: Yes, yes we have. We’re guilty of talking shit about other women just because society teaches us that that’s our enemy, that’s who we have to beat to get the the top. We’ve been, unfortunately, talked shit about, and neither feels good, really. Understanding what other female musicians go through, and what other female creatives go through, and beyond that, what any women go through [is what] we strive to do. I think [that] has been the challenge and the most rewarding thing.

It's about 20 minutes before Overcoats is to take the stage, and I find myself thinking the same thing over and over- "I feel like I'm getting ready for a night out with my girls," I tell them. "You are!" And it's with that affirmation I realize these two will make it to the top, not by pushing anyone out, but by letting them in. 

Words & Images by Meesh Deyden