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Now It's Overhead
Now It's Overhead is the project of Andy LeMaster, a producer and an engineer, and the co-owner of Chase Park, a recording studio in Athens, Georgia.
LeMaster has worked with a variety of national and international American acts including Japancakes, REM, Seaworthy and the Glands, but is also a musician in his own right.
He was the frontman with Drip, a heavy-metal trio who recorded two albums together in the 1990's. Wearying though of the limitations of that format, he broke up Drip in 2000, and firstly recording by himself in Chase Park, and then eventually with other musicians, formed Now It's Overhead.
LeMaster sings lead vocals and plays the majority of the instruments in Now It's Overhead himself. The group, a four-piece, also includes in its line-up Orenda Fink and Maria Taylor on keyboards and vocals, and Clay Leverett on drums and vocals.
Fink and Taylor also front another Athens band Azure Ray, with whom LeMaster has worked as an engineer, while Leverett, who was at High School with LeMaster, was the drummer with Drip.
The group's eponymous debut album, a nine song concept album which tells from start to break-up of LeMaster's first major love affair, has been described as "a sophisticated collection of airy pop songs full of atmospheric keyboard sounds, layered breathy background harmonies, coronary beats and soulful lead vocals." It has drawn comparisions with acts such as the Cure, My Bloody Valentine and Slowdive as a result of its layered textures and lush studio atmospherics, and also the Beach Boys because of its expansive vocal harmonies and arrangements.
'Now It's Overhead' has been released on LeMaster's friend Conor Oberst's Omaha, Nebraska-situated Saddle Creek label. LeMaster has engineered and played on almost all of Oberst's rotational folk/country act Bright Eyes' recordings and has been one of the few consistently touring members of the Bright Eyes band.
Although Azure Ray have since joined the Saddle Creek fold. 'Now Its Overhead' was the first release on the Saddle Creek label by a non-Nebraskan act. It came out in the United States in late 2001, but was not released in Europe until October of this year.
With a second record due for release next year, Pennyblackmusic spoke to Andy LeMaster both about 'Now It's Overhead' and his musical career to date.
PB : You co-own Chase Park Recording Studios along with former Sugar bassist David Barbe and current Glands bassist Andy Baker. In what ways was it advantageous being able to record the 'Now It's Overhead' album in your own studio. Were there any ways in which it was a disadvantage ?
AL : It was purely advantageous. I couldn't have made the album without having Chase Park at my disposal.I record ninety percent of all Now It's Overhead stuff in the middle of the night by myself.That sort of sleep depravation/solitary confinement vibe is really important to the music. It allows me to be more candid.I couldn't tap into my subconscious as well any other way.The only disadvantage is that working on other projects at the same time can drain the energy I need to work on my own stuff.
PB : 'Now It's Overhead' is a concept album, and has been described as telling of "the life of a relationship from hopeful beginnings to hopeless ending." It is based on your own real life experience and your first major love affair which was with another man.Other than some of the artwork, there is little on the album itself and in its lyrics to indicate that it is about a gay relationship on the album itself, and in its lyrics.It could be either a heterosexual or a homesexual romance. Why did you decide to keep this so oblique ? Was it to give the album an Everyman feel ?
AL : I'm more concerned with the human condition than the homosexual condition. I always want to keep a thread of universal emotion so there's a reference point no matter who you are. But I also want to reinforce the fact that sexual orientation should be a complete non-issue. Using a gay relationship as inspiration for universal love songs seems like a step in the right direction.So yes, I wanted the songs to have an Everyman feel.
PB : As well as yourself, the band also features Orenda Fink and Maria Taylor from Azure Ray on vocals and keyboards. They both moved from Athens to join the rest of the Saddle Creek pack in Omaha last year. Has it been difficult keeping the band going with them living so far away ?
AL : Yes and no. We've never been the type of band that works up songs in a room together. I write them and record a lot of the music before they even hear the songs. So all Orenda and Maria really need to do is be around for a few days in the middle of recording to lay down their stuff. That's been pretty manageable so far. As for touring, we just convene in either Athens or Omaha before a tour and practice for a couple weeks beforehand.
PB : The other member of the band is drummer and vocalist Clay Leverett. Who is he ?
AL : Clay is a country music singer and a damn fine drummer.We've grown up together and played music together for 16 years. He fronts his own Athens band called Lona.
PB : Both you and Clay used to play in Drip. You have said that one of the things you have hoped to achieve with Now It's Overhead was to move away from the "blatantness" of Drip. What did you mean by that ?
AL : Drip was an aggressive dramatic three piece rock band.I just became more and more interested in making music with space available for subtlety. The instrumentation was too limiting and grating.And my lyrics and singing from that band make me cringe.
PB : Much of the instrumentation on 'Now It's Overhead' is fairly sparse, yet the whole record has a very lush sound. How did you manage to achieve that ? Was it simply through layering ?
AL : Yes, layering is vital for me. The process usually evolves from me trying to fix a bad decision made in the early engineering phase. A part will be recorded that I like but the tone not right at all and the edges a little too sharp. So I double it with a sound that has what the first one lacks. I keep going until it averages out to what I hear in my head.
PB : Athens has a very strong musical scene, which includes acts as diverse as REM, the B52s and the whole Elephant 6 Collective. You have worked with many of them at Chase Park. How much of a bearing if anything has working with them had on Now It's Overhead ?
AL : Recording other music that I like always inspires me and influences my own work. Definite highlights are several Athens bands.
PB : You have played two American tours with Now It's Overhead. How easy has it been taking on the road the band with all its epic use of sound, and how did you enjoy the experience ?
AL : It's been very satisfying. I feel like we're able to step up to the plate live and represent the lushness of the album.The four of us have to do a bit of multi-tasking but it works out.
PB : What's the story about you "accidentally destroying" a hotel's room full of furniture on one of these tours ?
AL : Umm. Maybe destroy is too harsh a word.Most of it was okay once it landed. Basically we were celebrating our last night on tour with the Faint. We needed to fit more people into the room and there was too much furniture so we just threw some things out the second story window. Orenda had the best line when she said, "hold my calls" and then chucked the phone out over her shoulder.
PB : 'Now It's Overhead' was released two years ago in the States. Why has it taken up until now for it to be released in Europe ?
AL : Saddle Creek Europe didn't exist at the time of the original release in the U. S. Once it started up over there, we definitely wanted to be a part of it. For the label, it was the best idea to release the newest Saddle Creek stuff and gradually back release the rest of their catalogue.
PB :You are now working on a second Now It's Overhead album, which should be out early next year. You said in interviews early last year that you hoped to make "it a little more dancey" and about beats", and that you also "wanted it to be about the stigma of being gay" ? Has it been going in those directions ?
AL : Yes it has. It'll be more beat driven than the first record and a bit more aggressive overall. It's directly inspired by gay coming of age. But I dare say that's not the only interpretation of the album. It's about searching and longing and settling. But obviously those experiences aren't specific to gay people coming of age. It's more human than homo.
PB : What other plans, other than releasing the new album, does Now It's Overhead have for the future ?
AL : Plenty of touring starting around March in support of the new record. Over here and over in Europe.
PB : Thank you
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The project of Georgia producer and studio owner Andy Le Master, Now It's Overhead's airy debut album has drawn comparisions with its lush atmospherics with both the Cure and the Beach Boys. He speaks about why sleep depravation is eesential to his music
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