Whether it was Fall Out Boy or My Chemical Romance, most millennials remember listening to some kind of emo during their formative years. No matter how much nostalgia we still have for studded belts and eyeliner, many of us feel we’ve outgrown the melodrama of emo music – even though we still can’t help but sing along to “The Black Parade” whenever it comes on. So what became of the emos who got older but never outgrew their original skin? They likely started bands like Overslept, proving to all of our parents that emo really isn’t a phase. We sat down with the founding member of Overslept to discuss their new album – With or Without – and what happened to emo.
303 Magazine: You recently played a few shows in Texas, and it seems that you play quite a few shows in Texas on a regular basis. What keeps drawing you to Texas?
Elias Armao: We have realized that there is something special about small communities in politically alienated states like Texas – we do really well in Oklahoma. We’ve found these small communities of people that are kind of – our music is very emotional and it’s very emotive and our new record is very different. Our last album was a lot more raw and emotional. And this one is more – I’m trying to start conversations. I think what happened is that in those small communities, we’ve happened to find one or two people that are kind of starved for that conversation of “hey, do you have feelings? I have feelings too. I’m a human being too.” Kansas City is another place we have really good shows because there’s this community of people who want that. A lot of them are young people – like 15, 16 to 25, 26, that are just kind of in this – and part of it is a hyper-masculine issue. You know, they’re not really allowed to feel. So through the internet, honestly, we’ve discovered a few small promoters and talent buyers in Texas that are just really excited about what we’re doing because I think they don’t get a lot of it. And that’s true for a lot of – you know I hate the term “emo band” but you know, emo-adjacent bands – that’s true for a lot of them. If you can create a positive way for people to deal with those feelings I think it really does well for you.
303: Your music does discuss those serious topics but it’s also light-hearted at the same time. What do you think about that kind of juxtaposition within the genre?
EA: This record was almost written in reaction to how I grew up listening to emo and emo-revival stuff like American Football and a lot of Owen, a lot of Into It. Over It. I think as I got older I realized that the reason a lot of people will “outgrow” emo is that there’s this thin line of it being cyclical and being part of your process. I think that is something that I’m curious to find out if we achieved. ‘Cause that was a huge goal with our new album – to still create a space that’s like “hey, when we get older we tend to bottle our feelings up and pretend like we don’t have them and that’s bad.” But what’s also bad is focusing too much on our feelings and just keeping ourselves in a rut. And that’s literally where the album title comes from. That either way, you’re still here. That was a big thing with this record, I didn’t want to just talk about problems. I wanted to talk about how we can solve them. Not on a political scale, but on a personal scale. Like “hey, let’s talk about your anxiety, let’s acknowledge that we all have that, but let’s also talk about how we behave.” I think for me personally, I’m very comfortable with the serious stuff because it exists even if you’re not comfortable with it. It’s still there. All of the depression and anxiety and stuff, all those things are still there even if you’re going to downtown every night and going to clubs and running away from it, it’s still there. And so this is an album about finding the middle between trying to let yourself feel things but not letting the feelings run your whole life.
303: As someone who grew up listening to emo and pop-punk, I’m sure you’ve noticed the changes within the genre – like the end of Warped Tour and the new Sad Summer Festival that seems to be taking its place. So even though it’s shifted, it seems like there’s still a major market for that emotive music.
EA: I think our generation is in this weird place of – we’re kind of overwhelmed. We have access to all this information with our phones, which is something I touch on in the album. We’re kind of overwhelmed, so we look for this “I need to chill out” thing. I think the emo kids, and what you’re getting with the younger kids these days is this “I’m overwhelmed and I’m frustrated.” And they want someone to talk to about it. Which is how I’ve always felt about music and is what I’ve always hoped to do. Growing up as a teenager I had a fortunate upbringing, but still, you’re a teenager. And there were moments that I felt misunderstood and alone, and it’s corny and people say this shit all the time but those are the moments when you listened to “emo” bands and they were leveling with you. It was like having a conversation with a close friend who is like “hey man, I feel that too.” So this album is like “Hey, do you wonder what success is and what it means to succeed and what being a good adult is?” And all of this stuff that I’m weighing that are not young problems. They’re not teen problems anymore.
303: In addition to discussing new topics, this album is a bit heavier than music you’ve released in the past. What led to the change in your sound?
EA: I think the first album I was sad, and this album there’s this – you know, I am angry. This is an angry record. It’s a lot more like “What is happening?” What is happening with me, with the world, like what’s happening with all of us? There’s kind of this confused frustration. And, you know, it’s a live album. We wrote it in a room together, which is interesting because we’re all audio engineers. So, coming from this background of writing really surgically at our computers, this album was really written half and half – through demos and me working on stuff and then just playing it together. And I think that kind of added up to this aggressive sound. Sometimes that high-energy, intense stuff just feels better in a room. I hope it doesn’t detract. I think this album has more energy overall. And that may be intense energy or angry energy, I don’t know what energy it is. It just feels a little more charged.
303: In the past when we’ve talked – and we’re still talking about – growing up but not taking things so seriously. What do you do to feed your inner child?
EA: I listen to so many podcasts, but not like informational podcasts. I listen to a lot of – I just can’t decide if I want to become a public nerd. I listen to a lot of comedy based Dungeons and Dragons based podcasts where they play DnD – but it’s a bunch of comedians, and they’re adults and they’re playing this ridiculous game. And they’re written by actual writers. So, like, you listen to this story and it’s hilarious. It’s definitely not safe for work. It’s these comedians playing this nerdy role-playing game and to me, that’s that escapism, right? I think that inner child, depending on who you read and what you think the inner child is – a lot of people think that it’s the simplicity. It’s the state of mind before With or Without for me.
303: How does that state of mind show up on the album?
EA: “If You Know What’s Good For You” is the best example on this record. The first line is “I’ve been so well adjusted, chemically dependent and depressed” because there’s this weird thing where I own a house, I’m in a steady relationship, I vacuum, I do my dishes. I’m well adjusted, but it doesn’t feel good, you know? And that’s the inner child to me. It’s the exploration, the wonder, the letting yourself wander a little bit and letting yourself acknowledge that you are more than your productivity.
303: Another song on the album is “Fictions,” which is the first single you released. What was the inspiration behind the cartoon animals in the music video and the series of portraits you released with the single?
EA: The dad aesthetics were definitely driven by it just looking funny. I knew that if we did those portraits, people were going to be like “What the hell?” I knew that would get people’s attention. The concept for the video is what I’ve always liked to do. I always try to do – something I learned listening from those intense emo bands growing up is that it got to this point where I started feeling uncomfortable. So, with my own music, I always try to do the chocolate coated pill. There’s always the substance, but the chocolate for this video was just that this is ridiculous and you’re going to laugh. And aesthetically I just love the vintage. I’m sure we killed all of our brain cells – we shot it in a friends basement with a fog machine and I’m sure that those chemicals have either given me super powers or totally destroyed my ability to do fractions – something happened. But that whole vibe I just love. The whole man cave – that whole vibe is just really funny to me. We really want to own the whole emo band thing, but we also haven’t really shown our silly side all that much in our content except for a couple of funny T-shirt designs we’ve done in the past. But that video was really the first dip into the silly. That whole song is about anxiety. That whole song is about creating totally fake things and then letting those fake things dictate decisions in your real life. And when you reduce that to a logical process it’s ridiculous. Like, it’s just insane to be like “I made up this thing that I’m afraid of and I’m going to let it affect my real-world decisions.” And that was the thesis for the concept – how can we take these things that aren’t real and have them affect our real lives? And so that’s where the animals came from.
303: It looked like it was a fun video to create.
EA: I think just being entertained is where it started. But trying to get to this place of, you know, the idea [that] we created these things in our head. And the dad look was an attempt to personify your image of yourself. That was the idea of portraits. As you’ve heard on the record I have a lot of thoughts about social media, and I tried to do it aesthetically differently. That’s what the family portrait used to be. The curation of – you wear your best clothes and you do your hair and that’s what people see. That’s how people used to curate their image. And so I thought that was fun to do a really old curation on a new platform. And I got to wear a gold chain, so it all worked out.
303: Can we expect to see any of those forest animals on a dad hat for merch?
EA: I hope so. The merch for this record is awesome. We did a ton of camp-inspired merch – like summer camp inspired merch. So I’m excited about that. Again, that’s what I always try to do. On a surface level, people look at that and think that’s funny. When you participate in the general aesthetics people like, there’s the reaction of “Oh I like that, like that’s on trend.” The deeper meaning is that – and its exactly what you said – it’s the child inside you, it’s the inner child. Like summer camp was the dream! No responsibilities! So I think what people associate with it is real and it’s also trendy, and so we can sell it. And if we keep getting a demand for the Fiction’s characters, then I’ll throw them on a hat
303: You’re doing a release show for the album on April 4. What’s the inside scoop on that show?
EA: The scoop is that we’re playing the new album all the way through from start to finish. We have – I have to spoil it because it’s cool – our drummer designed a light rig for the show and so we’re going to be doing that and definitely upping our production a lot. We’re going to have a lot of exclusive posters because we’re fortunate that I do all of our design and so I was able to do a lot of design for the album. We did a lot of limited edition posters – like super limited, like 5-10 and they’re all silkscreen – they’re all screen printed. We just wanted it to be really fun and it’s going to be a lot of fun. It’s a new chapter for us. We were in our old chapter for so long that we’re really ready to be in a new chapter. And We’re different now and that’s what this show is about. Celebrating the ways that we’ve changed and talking to everyone about the ways that they’ve changed. Honestly, we jump around. We’re a lot of energy – so it’s going to be a really great show.