Joe Panama – Overhead, The Albatross
Overhead, The Albatross have been causing a stir amongst the Irish music scene for quite awhile now with a string of sold out gigs across an array of Dublin venues, packed out tents at festivals and fans eagerly awaiting their debut album which is due for release early next year.
This Friday they play a once off special gig with 2 other Dublin based bands causing quite a stir, Floor Staff who last week debuted a fantastic new video for The Guest by the incredible Bob Gallagher, and Val Normal who are a three piece rock band from Dublin. Joe Panama, the bassist with Overhead, The Albatross sat down for a few words with me:
Lets start at the beginning, how did you guys get started?
A few of us knew each other from school, some of the other guys were in a band together and that band broke up and they got us altogether. On the first day some of us hadn’t actually met each other before and we went into the room and we came out with our first song. It’s called Jonah, and we still play it today! The whole point from the beginning was to go into the room, pick up the instruments with no idea what it was going to sound like and see what happens.
It’s unique to get that kind of chemistry, I think it’s the willingness to try anything, the willingness to let go of your instrument and let someone else write a part for you. There’s no one member of the band who writes exclusively for their instrument, any member of the band can write a part for anyone else in the band, it’s the freedom to experiment. We all have vastly different musical backgrounds but we all have a love for melody and that’s the one thing that holds it together. It’s about massive trust.
So how many of you are there and who plays what?
There are six of us in the band but we have a number of people we collaborate with regularly. We invite other musicians to play with us sometimes, we’d love to have as many as musicians as possible, if we could have an orchestra we’d have an orchestra! So I play bass, we’ve three guitarists, Luke Daly, Vinny Casey and Stevie Daragh. I guess the most important thing to remember when you have 3 guitarists is that you can’t have a lead guitarist. There’s no lead instrument in the band. It’s a soup. You can’t have one person sticking out. It has to all amount to one sound. Ben Garrett plays drums and David Prendergast plays pianos and we all play with the orchestra parts and electronic parts. If you listen closely to a few of our tracks there are vocals hidden as textures, we love the idea of vocals but with the chemistry we have now they wouldn’t really fit.
How would you describe your music to someone who hadn’t come across Overhead, the Albatross before?
There’s no way to answer this question without sounding like a complete pleb!
When you listen to music with vocals and lyrics the narrative is there for you to listen and follow but what we try to do is frame an narrative and you fill in the gaps, it’s a landscape. It can mean anything to anybody and I’m sure they mean different things to members of the band too. While a lot of the time it’s melodic and soft and light it can also be heavy and quite technical and a little bit challenging.
I think as soon as you play something for somebody it doesn’t belong to you anymore. You can play it with as much heart and as much passion as you want but as soon as it gets carried out through the air and someone else’s ears pick it up they automatically put their own twist on it, they hear it how they hear it, they don’t necessarily hear it the way you want them to hear it.
For a band that have been selling out gigs for over a year now you’ve yet to release a debut album which is incredible, when can fans expect to get their hands on a copy?
This album is hands down the biggest thing any of us have ever taken on. It started two and a half years ago, we moved the band to the Czech Republic into the middle of nowhere, 30 kilometres from the nearest town on a lake surrounded by forest. We drove 36 hours from Dublin to Czech without stopping and we stayed there for over 2 months, writing music and playing everyday. It was amazing. We lived together, we ate together, we slept together. We came home with the makings of an album. It will be released early next year but we just want to do it right.
Tell us a bit about the gig this Friday then and who else is playing.
The gig came together because Luke Daly, our guitarist and his girlfriend Mary said 'lets do it'. Mary has the drive and wanted to make something happen so we put together a really great line-up, bands who I think are really great and I really want to see in this venue. The gig is a fundraiser for International Red Cross and Red Crescent and that’s to aid those affected by the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. We’re going to do the small bit we can.
We haven’t played a venue as small as Whelan’s upstairs in a long time in fact my favourite gig that we ever played was in Whelan’s upstairs really hot, sweaty and old school.
Val Normal are a three piece rock band from Dublin, they are the best 3 piece rock band I’ve seen in a long time, they play heavy sort of technical grunge stuff and they’re all really adept musicians, they also have a Nirvana cover band, which can only be a good thing!
Then we have Floor Staff who I think are one of the most interesting bands in the country right now. They’re somewhere between Caribou andTalking Heads. Maybe that’s asking too much from them, I don’t know! They released the video for their new single recently and I can’t get it out of my head.
Finally what do you find exciting about the music scene here in Dublin.
It’s incredible that you can walk from Thomas Street to Parnell Street and have the entire spectrum of music covered. You walk from Fibbers to Thomas house into town and back out again and you will have covered every genre of music from techno to metal to punk to rock music to folk music, it’s all there and you can walk it in 10 minutes. That’s pretty amazing.
Overhead, The Albatross, Floorstaff and Val Normal play Whelan’s this Friday. Tickets available: http://www.whelanslive.com/index.php/overhead-the-albatross-floor-staff-val-normal/
More information: www.overheadthealbatross.com