WRITTEN BY AMY ELLERMAN
“Pineapple,” I repeat as I speak to Hana and JJ, the two women that make the up-and-coming band Overcoats. “If I get too personal, just say the safe word: pineapple.” Giggles ensue on each side of the phone line for two different reasons. On my end, nervous laughter as I realize this is my first band interview in four years and I’m trying not to fuck it up; theirs from pure excitement of being on the first day of their worldwide tour for their debut album, Young.
My nerves immediately evaporate the moment Hana and JJ start talking. Their effortless back and forth, their giggling, the confident sense of self I lacked at their age. I relax realizing I’m talking to two normal girls who just really love each other and what they’re creating together. Where one goes, there is the other, and even though that goes for most bands during #tourlife, this expression speaks for their personal journeys as well as their transportational ones.
Hana and JJ met their freshman year while living in the same dorm at Wesleyan College in Connecticut, and soon enough, they found themselves in a situation we can all relate to: sitting drunk on the floor of a bathroom stall singing Dixie Chicks. Soon after, they found out they shared the same favorite song, “You Know I’m No Good” by Amy Winehouse, a coincidence so serendipitous that fate might as well have stamped “CERTIFIED BEST FRIENDS” on their foreheads.
Fast forward three years and Hana and JJ are sitting on a bed wiping away tears, trying to make sense of their recent breakups, what to do after graduation, and how to deal with their approaching theses deadline. And, like many great things, this energy and sadness created something wonderful: their first album. “In a time of feeling lost about what lives would look like romantically and just for the future, we found solace in each other,” Hana states, JJ instantly agreeing.
The themes throughout the album include growing up, family and both sides of the male-relationship spectrum. “Each song in the album deals with themes we started to explore, to tell a tale of a large transition we experienced of heading into the real world,” explains JJ. (Here’s a NYLON article that breaks down each song.)
While listening, you find yourself imagining their stories in your head, a vague sense of deja-vu sweeping over as if it was written about you. This feeling is arguably the point of music - realizing you're not alone, digging into someone else’s vulnerability to find something within yourself. Addressing this, Hana & JJ add, “vulnerability is the essence of what we do, but it’s not easy. Music is the art of letting go and the stigma that you’re embarrassed to admit. It’s very rare to be that honest with not only yourself but with a close friend.”
But what happens when it’s not just the two of you anymore? The album is recorded, produced, released, and out in the world getting worldwide press? “It’s very easy to get jaded, wrapped up in the industry with press tours and everything. Fame is a weird thing - people watching you when you perform is weird!” Hana giggles, probably flashing back to a past sold-out show with people screaming. “You have to treat it as chill, you have to get jaded in order to handle it. We use each other to try and stay humble and grateful. We have to be very kind and treat everyone like they are the most important person.”
While onstage, Hana and JJ’s connection is magnetic. If you’re anything like me, constant eye contact is scary as shit, and that’s all I could see when I saw them live for the first time in early 2017. I couldn’t look away from them looking straight at each other - it was so intimate I felt like I was waiting for them to dive in for a makeout. So I had to ask: was this their M.O.? Was this a thing they do to make people (me) feel a certain way? “Stage presence was more a necessity, but eye contact is completely natural” confirms Hana. “When we sing in harmony, we had to look at each other. We’re actually learning NOT to look at each other,” JJ giggles. She continues, “when singing difficult lyrics, it’s so much easier to look at each other when crying or laughing.” (Check out the NPR Little Desk for proof).
As I started to wrap up our call, I wanted one more answer that was prodding me. Imagine yourself four years ago, freshmen yet again, drunk on a bathroom floor, and tell them something that you wish you had known. Hana replied “you can really change what you want to be if you work on it - and believe in it,” with JJ quickly following “more specifically, believe in your art. It feels like it’s not acceptable, but it should always be.”
*Editors’s Note: Hannah, Ellie, and myself went to their concert the week after this interview and Ellie brought a full-size pineapple in her purse to give to them. This story (and all the writer's block that stemmed from my rustiness) is dedicated to Ellie's foresight to pack a massive, spiky fruit all day just for a good laugh.
X CHROME 7
Imagine you’re playing your last show ever and are being called for an encore, but it has to be a cover. What would it be?
Hana: The Scientist by Coldplay.
JJ: Fix You by Coldplay.
What’s the story behind your band name?
Hana: We wanted a band name that would be a layer of protection and mystery between us and the music.
JJ: yeah, we wanted a coat of armor from under which we could be our most vulnerable selves.
What’s your dream venue to perform?
Hana: Bowery Ballroom, or Red Rocks in Colorado.
JJ: Madison Square Garden
What song (not your own) means the most to you? Can be more than one.
Hana: Vienna by Billy Joel is my favorite song. So profound and simple at the same time.
JJ: anything by Amy Winehouse. But if I have to choose: You Know I'm No Good
Who is a fictional female characters that inspire you? Can be more than one.
Hana: I'm gonna give really basic answers here. Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, Carrie Bradshaw in Sex in the City. Women who own their identities and keep persevering.
JJ: Mrs. Doubtfire
Who are some up-and-coming bands you are digging right now?
Hana: The Lemon Twigs, Mazzy Star
JJ: Middle Kids.
What record saves you?
Hana: Blue by Joni Mitchell.
JJ: The Reminder by Feist