Ezy Reading:
The Cud Interview- Revisiting An Overnight Low
Evan Kanarakis


In early 2014 The Cud sat down with Chad Walls of the band An Overnight Low to discuss their critically acclaimed debut album ‘Euston’, born from Chad’s experiences as a student and traveler journeying back and forth between the United Kingdom and America. Enough material was generated from all those travels to merit a second release  -‘Piccadilly’.
Recently The Cud’s Evan Kanarakis sat down again with Chad –and fellow band mate Mac Coldwell- to discuss the trilogy’s development, the entire recording process through albums one to three, and on matters of road weariness.

THE CUD: Remind our readers a little of exactly how this entire project came to be- your albums have all been named after busy British train stations, no?
Chad- I fell in love with trains when I was a kid, but being from Maine, I never really had the opportunity to experience them.  Moving to the UK unlocked those early feelings and fascinations about train travel and I think by doing so, tapped into a place inside me where I could create things freely without fear of criticism.  I was studying in Manchester at the time and I found that train travel, writing about my experiences, and studying complimented each other.  During my down time I would travel often to London, Edinburgh, and Dublin and I wrote down notes about the people I met, my experiences on the train, and the cities I visited.  It was only after a few years of doing this that I decided to make sense of those notes by using a typical song format.  I then arranged songs ideas into albums and used the names of the train stations I visited most often to label them.

THE CUD: Recording three albums over three years is a busy process for any band. Tell us a little about how the process changed and evolved from ‘Euston’ to ‘Piccadilly’.
Chad- “Euston’ was a tough record to make because we weren’t quite sure how to approach it and as a result, it took longer than it should have.  ‘Euston” is a light, summertime, car-ride record.  It contains short songs with heavy themes that was recorded in the dead of winter during sessions that seemed to last forever.  The lessons we learned from those experiences made ‘Piccadilly’ easier to record.
Mac- We also had a different mix of musicians on this album that helped change the dynamic and sound. There is less of a lead vocal on a lot of these songs with a bigger focus on harmonies.

THE CUD: Chad, with ‘Euston’ you shared that your writing process involved taking the lyrics, melody and chords to band mates Mac and Chris, which you then worked out acoustically. Did this process also change with time as the band became closer and the process more streamlined?
Chad- That process still seems to work, but things are evolving quickly.  We moved to a new rehearsal space that allows us to play as loud as we want.  I’ve heard Mac’s vocals do new things under those conditions and hearing that makes me approach the lyrics and melodies in new ways.  A good example of that is ‘Albert’s Square’ on ‘Piccadilly’.  We only rehearsed that twice before the session and we were able to record and mix it in a short amount of time.  I think that has a lot to do with communication and trust.  I tend to leave people alone to do their work.
Mac- It helped a lot to hear my voice through a PA and there were more voices in the mix. Moving to the new space seemed to snap us out of the rut of rewriting vocal parts every time we practiced. But I think we are really starting to understand what works best in the studio for us, and it helps us know what we need to prepare ahead of time.

THE CUD: What was the most challenging song to record on ‘Piccadilly’?
Chad- ‘Dragonfly’.  I love the way this song turned out, but it took as a long time to get there.  I had early R.E.M. in mind when I wrote it, and early R.E.M. is quick and nimble.  No one in An Overnight Low is quick and nimble.
Mac-I have to agree. ‘Dragonfly’ was an early song for this album. I was having a hard time understanding what the others wanted out of my vocal. I think it was one of the rare cases of too many cooks in the kitchen for us. I like the way it ended up though.

THE CUD: Any personal favorites on the album?
Chad-  Right now it’s a toss up between ‘Albert’s Square’ and ‘Magellan with a Timetable’.  These are songs that I enjoy lyrically and also represent our democratic approach to writing.  ‘Magellan’ is over four minutes long with a one- minute outro guitar solo.  You have no idea how unusual that is for me, but I love it.  ‘Architecture’ finds use utilizing strings for the first time.  It’s a very pretty song that was my favorite last week.
Mac- I really like ‘Architecture’. Zach Jones came in for that session and his harmonies are gorgeous. Add a really great string section, and you get this beautifully lush song.

THE CUD: Tell us about the response to your work. In this era of iPod-geared singles taking precedence over themed albums, I imagine it may be even more difficult to ‘sell’ the notion of an entire trilogy of albums, let alone one, no?
Chad-  ‘Piccadilly’ tells a very specific story about my experiences living Manchester, England.  The album documents a pub crawl and introduces my Mancunian friends and conversations I overheard from strangers along the way.  There are light songs on ‘Piccadilly’ that find me appreciating a time and a place and there are dark ones that deal with freedom and loss.  I’ve found that folks are quite interested in what’s behind the records. However, I’m not sure that people listen to the songs in the context they way they are intended.  I refuse to let that change the way I write them.  For instance, there’s a transition song on ‘Piccadilly’ called “Finally, I’m a Post Card’ that is only 90 seconds long, has a piano as its main instrument and modulates four times.  It’s sounds great where it is on the record, but I’m not sure it would work alone.
Mac- I think talk of the ‘death of the album’ is still a bit premature, but I do think you have to be of two minds. You need to recognize that there is a big market for singles, but I think there are a lot of people who still enjoy the ride only a full story can take you on. And there’s room for both. I generally listen to mixes in my car, but at home I listen almost exclusively to full albums. I think the uniqueness of a trilogy in this day and age will peak some interest.

THE CUD: If the recording process has evolved, I imagine that your live performance has as well. Do you rehearse heavily? How do you typically prepare for gigs?
Chad-  We have strong musical influences and we used to waste a lot of time trying to live up to them.  Last year, we almost killed ourselves trying to create Beach Boys harmonies at rehearsal. We discovered that being ourselves is much more interesting and satisfying.  Mac has a strong harmonizing almost choir-like voice and Chris sounds like a road worn Cat Stevens. Put them together and I’ve not heard anything like it.
Mac- Having just finished up ‘Albert Square’, I think our focus will be for the moment on translating the songs from what they sound like on the album to how we want them to sound live. It's a different beast, and so practices are kind of like learning a song all over again. Once we get that worked out, there’ll be new songs to get ready for Waverley so I don’t see us slowing down practices anytime soon.

THE CUD: What’s your biggest hurdle in trying to promote new work as an unsigned band? You’re faced with the dual struggle of trying to simultaneously promote an album both in the U.K and U.S. How has that been?
Chad-  For some reason we find it difficult to put a face to this project and making a video to us seems silly.  But we have to get over that in this day and age don’t we?  Luckily, the success we have had promoting An Overnight Low has been in discussing how our music is created with the press and radio.  The Brits have been especially keen on discussing the song writing process and my experiences in their cities.  This has led to some close friendships. 

THE CUD: I imagine you may be as road weary from promoting the album as you were after all the travel that spawned these three albums? Are you ‘traveled-out’ yet?
Chad-  The ultimate goal is to get An Overnight Low to the UK.  How cool would it be to show my band mates who and what they have been singing about?  I hope to be in Manchester at the end of July to get the ball rolling again.  I’m almost certain that when An Overnight Low gets to the UK, it’s going to open doors for my band mates the same way it did for me. 

THE CUD: Any upcoming gigs we should know about?
Chad- We have a show with an amazing band from Ireland called ‘Pugwash’ on 9/14 at One Longfellow Square in Portland, Maine. 

THE CUD: After such a busy few years recording and launching your trilogy… what’s next for An Overnight Low?
Chad- As I write this, I’m listening to Jon Wyman mix ‘Dragonfly’.  Mac just headed off to work.  Chris just left to put his kid to bed.  Things are sounding amazing and ‘Piccadilly’ is now officially done. Jon is printing the final mix.  It’s an exciting time, but what’s even more exciting is the thought of arriving back to Manchester.  I’ll listen to ‘Piccadilly’ on headphones and revisit that pub crawl in hopes that I might run into ghosts of my old self: the student from Maine who decided to make a record about his experiences in Manchester.  I’ll let him know it came out better than he expected.