In a relatively short time, the Dutch guys who name themselves The Overslept have become quite an outstanding act. From support for Simple Plan to shows all around Europe, and most recently, to opening for the American alt-rockers Set It Off.
Why does the band believe it’s easier to make a “big fat rock song” than a pop ballad? What’s the story behind their latest single ‘Waste Of Love’? And why do they think recording an album is “a really romantic thing to do”? Frontman Sem Jonkhout and guitarist Delano Ladurner teamed up to answer our questions.
- The previous three releases of The Overslept were EPs. What will be the new record: EP or album? Do you prefer EP format to albums?
- Sem: Well, we want to do an album, and I think we’ve wanted to do an album since the day we started this band. But an album is such a big commitment and usually it was just easier for us to pack it up into smaller packages. We’re always looking forward to making an album, it’s something we’re working towards but on the spur of the moment we are always saying: “OK, we need to release something. Is that going to be a single, an EP or is that going to be an album? Until now it hasn’t been an album but I hope it will be soon. I think it’s a really romantic thing to do as a musician.
- Delano: To be in the studio and the whole creative process with four, sometimes five of us. It’s really cool and it’s working great.
- Interesting that you are describing it as romantic…
- Sem: It is. You hear a lot of stories about artists and bands that they are very confrontational during the recording – the relationships between members, you know. They are always pushed to the limit because they have to make compromises with each other and listen to each other, and that’s not always easy. I think it’s a journey with the band mates.
- Is there an approximate date or month for the release of the new album?
- Sem: No, right now, I think same as last year, we are looking at the songs that we have lying around, and if it makes sense as a single, we’ll release it as a single. It’s something that I like but also don’t like about music industry today: it’s about whatever you want to do or is necessary to do right now – it’s no longer that you need to drop an album to be successful, you know. You just need to drop some singles and maybe a small EP at some point.
But the album is just dying out. It’s no longer: “We need to do an album so let’s just throw in some songs, give it a name and release it. You need to be particular about what you release. I think that’s a good point. But there is also a downside. I think you look too closely at things that you would normally let go of – things you wouldn’t have time for if you were making an album.
- So with streaming platforms and so on you think albums are really dying out?
- Sem: It’s hard. I think that a lot of artists right now who say they are sort of under pressure to release an album and to make the album sort of an expression of their identity. And I think a lot of people look closely at what they album represents.
The nice thing about releasing singles is that you can do every song just however you want. There are no real guidelines about releasing a single. I think on an album you’re really going towards one goal, what the album needs to represent and not just individual tracks. So I think now with streaming and everything you can do so much with one single song and not just throw it on an album and have it listened to a lot less.
- Yes, certain tracks will always be listened to and others not.
- Sem: Exactly. There are always fillers on albums and a lot of artists think it’s just a lot of wasted energy. You don’t want to release something that you put your heart and soul into and then the single on the album gets like 20 times as many listens on Spotify and you’re like: “Well, what about that other song?”
- In October you shared a new single ‘Waste Of Love’, which will be featured on the upcoming record. So many people can relate to its lyrics. What’s the story behind this song?
- Sem: Well there’s not really an actual story behind it. I think it’s literally just we were in the writing session and we had one of these feelings and situations that everyone gets into at a point in their life. When somebody broke your heart, and you just don’t know where it came from and blame yourself for whatever you may or not have done. Yeah, I think it’s easily relatable because everybody goes through it, and that’s one of the worst feelings you can have, basically.
- Your sound navigates more to American pop-punk and alternative rock scene, such as All Time Low and even Blink-182. In Europe it’s pretty rare to find. How did your sound form, what were your inspirations?
- Sem: Actually we grew up listening to such bands as All Time Low and Blink 182. One of the things that we really like about these bands is that they’re still modern. You know, a lot of bands that come out of subcultures ten years ago or more haven’t been able to progress with their music in a way that it’s still modern. While these bands managed to come out of that scene and make more pop-oriented music, and I think not a lot of bands can do that and say that they are successful like 20 years straight. They’re going with the flow, with whatever the hype is and they’re always making great music, that’s why we look up to these bands. And we think: “If they could do that, then maybe we can also progress with our sound, making more pop-oriented songs the way we always wanted to.
- In April you premiered the song ‘Long Way Down’, and both vocally and musically I feel a connection with Linkin Park. Has the band influenced you in any way?
- Sem: It’s the first time we hear that. But I think there are a lot of similarities in the way it’s sung, like the raw vocals really stand out. Also, the theme of it and how heavy it is. I mean, Linkin Park lyrically is a big part of the scene. I think the bands we listen to were very influenced by early LP.
- Delano: Now that you’ve mentioned it, I think it does have some similarities with Linkin Park. (laughs)
- When we talk about Dutch music, what comes to mind is usually Dutch DJs and electronic music. Do you think rock is underrated in the Netherlands?
- Sem: I don’t know how it is in the rest of Europe, but I can imagine that in Germany, for example, there are a lot more rock bands that are featured on the radio than there are rock bands on the Dutch radio. I think we’re basically at a time when radio stations are feeling the heat, but they just need to play it safe and play songs that are easy to listen to, like big American productions. They are so reliable, you know: everyone’s going to enjoy them. That’s the main reason why a lot of the Dutch bands don’t get as much attention as they should, maybe. But I hope that with time it will turn around.
- In 2016 you said the highlight of your career was opening for Simple Plan in Belgium. Has anything surpassed this milestone?
- Sem: I think so. For example, 2018 was a great year for us, we played many festivals. We played Pinkpop, it was such an honor, because had been visiting this festival for 5-6 years, so to play on that stage was really cool.
I think that was such a great experience for us, just because we were just starting out and we had the nerve to email the venue and say: “Hey, we see that Simple Plan are playing at your venue. Can we do the support show?” And they said: “Yeah, sure! Here is the email address for the management agency.” And we were like: “Really? Okay!” And then they asked us to do the second support show in Belgium as well so we did two shows. We never played such a big show and being in the support slot for one of the bands we listen to a lot was a dream come true.
- Delano: I wouldn’t say and that it was our best show, but we worked really hard so that we could do the show, and we had an EP after it.
- You’re very experienced for a relatively young band: you’ve managed to perform with several big US bands. I’m a fan of Set It Off myself, and you were opening for them on tour. What was it like?
- Sem: It was also very cool. I think that’s one of our highlights too. You can learn so much from those shows. You’re in a full house, in a full venue, and it’s so different from playing your own shows. You go into the venue for this American band that sells 200 hundreds tickets or more in a small venue. They have such devoted fans as well, and the entire experience is just so helpful for us. I think every time we were like: Right, this is what you’re supposed to be doing! Not just music, but I think the entire package is just so good. To see how other bands are doing it and what you can learn from that.
- What’s the artist you haven’t toured with yet but would love to?
- Sem: It’s so hard. There are so many bands. But if we’re talking about who I like since my childhood, I think Fall Out Boy would be great. They’re also huge right now, and it would be my childhood dream come true. It’s actually the first concert I ever went to as a child. It was here in Amsterdam.
- And what are the singers or bands you listen to yourself in your free time now?
- Sem: Lately I’ve been going on some sort of a nostalgia tour, listening to My Chemical Romance because of their reunion. But for the most part it’s a lot of stuff happening right now. I think the new Bring Me The Horizon is very cool. But I’m also into a lot of different kinds of music, like Frank Ocean and John Mayer.
- Delano: 5 Seconds of Summer we all listen to. And Fall Out Boy.
- Sem: I think you can learn a lot from different genres.
- The Overslept understand the importance of social media and YouTube. You have a detailed vlog of the band. Have you thought of recording your whole show or making a short film about the band?
- Sem: That would be so cool. It’s a lot of work but I would like it a lot. The hard part is that we are not at a level where we can delegate these things to other people. We usually do these things ourselves: from social media to filming to writing our own music. But when we’re at a point of hiring a film crew to make a documentary, that would be so cool. I think people like the way we interract with each other. I think it would be fun to watch.
- I think you’re already good at that. And your first two EPs you let fans download for free. Your motto was “spread your music as well as possible, as quickly as possible and as much as possible”. Did you raise the popularity of the band?
- Sem: Yes, I think so. At that point it was just about getting the music out there. Because we had no help whatsoever. So the only thing we could do is to export it through social media, and I think that EP really helped us to know what it’s like nowadays to release your own music.
- To the audience outside the Netherlands, that’s never heard your music yet, how would you describe your music?
- Sem: I think if we had to describe ourselves, it would be “pop-rock”. Because you can go either way: you can do more of a pop song, you can do more of a rock song, and not just be defined by one sort of genre. When you’re angry, it’s very easy to make a big fat rock song, but when you want to do a ballad, it’s much harder.
- And speaking of ballads, Eurovision 2020 will be hosted in The Netherlands this May, thanks to last year’s Dutch ballad which won.
- Sem: I think Eurovision itself is not so important but we’re proud of the fact that Duncan Laurence won. I really loved that song because it was so unlike any other song performed that year. We know a couple of writers who wrote that song – we’ve written with one of those writers as well. They are very talented people. And I think it’s very cool that we finally have that exposure as the country.
The reason why people watch it is because every country has its gimmicky performance, and when there’s a performance that is heartfelt, a really good song and it doesn’t win, you think: “What is happening at this festival where people with good songs are not being rewarded?” And this time it was [how it should be] and we’re really proud of it.