Last week I was afforded the opportunity to interview Joey Arena, of the Rochester, NY based band, Ovtlier. We chatted about local music, songwriting, and what’s next for the band. He was also forthcoming about some big news for the band, but you will have to wait on the official announcement for that. Ovtlier are a kick ass band with elements of Linkin Park, Hollywood Undead (to a small extent), and are getting ready to hit the international scene.
My first question is going to be on your influences. On your Facebook page, you guys list influences like Korn, Periphery, and Deftones, and bands of that nature. What other things influence you, or the band as a whole?
Joey – Personally, like many, I actually started playing guitar years ago due to Kurt Cobain, and my love for Nirvana, I was like 10 years old. So that’s why I got into music, that’s what inspired me personally. As time went on I just kinda grew into songwriting, following up on guys like Trent Reznor, Billy Corgan, and those types of musicians. I studied how they made a footprint in the industry; I was just so impressed by them, and they’re role models for me.
Yup, definitely, and Kurt Cobain is still a huge influence on people, even all these years after his death.
The name of the band is Ovtlier, but you guys spell it differently. So it’s more unique, and grabs my attention right off the bat. What was the deciding reasoning in doing it that way?
Joey – Definitely for branding, and, like you said, you see it spelled that way, and you probably won’t forget it, and to spark interest. Back in the midle ages, dark ages, Renaissance Times, even the Greek alphabet, the used the V as a vowel for U, because there was no U in their alphabet. I just loved what Ovtlier means, and I knew I was going to have to use something to make it stick out, and make people remember it when they saw it.
I know a lot of groups will work separately and bring their ideas together, or even e-mail their ideas to each other, and build the songs from there. What approach do you guys take to songwriting?
Joey – Ovtlier is still young when it comes to having a full line-up. When the first record was written, we actually wrote this 3 years ago, and I recorded in in Cleveland, Ohio with producer Evan McKeever, and it was literally just Evan and I, sitting in a studio apartment, handing the guitar back and forth and tracking vocals in there as well. It could not be more D.I.Y, but it came out, I’m so proud of how the record sounds, and how everything came out. We wrote it over the course of a year, and just wrote a lot, scrapped a lot. “Broken Bones” was actually the first song we decided to keep, that we felt was good enough to go on the record. Currently it’s almost the same way right now, because I’ve been sitting on so much material for such a long time; we’re kinda just going through some stuff, keeping stuff, writing around it, wrapping it, whatever is good sticks around. A couple of the other guys if they bring about a riff, we’ll record, ya know everybody has got some stuff, and they’ll pre-pro it and shoot it over. If it’s good we’ll start, and take it to the studio and write around it almost. So we are still writing in the studio, and not as much outside of it.
Nice. I actually like it better when bands do that, like the ideas get fleshed out a little better that way.
Joey – Yeah, I think you’re in the right environment, and there’s not five egos sitting there in a room, and obviously everybody wants their riff to make the cut, or their parts to make the cut, but sometimes ya gotta think of what’s beneficial for the song, what’s gonna impact the song and make the listener go Wow!, as opposed to just feeding our own ego.
Right, because it becomes less about you, and more about the person listening to it. The song that sticks out most to me on the album is “Break”, I like absolutely love that song. My question is, is this a lyrical inspiration based on someone you had known, or was it just a typical ex-girlfriend subject, or am I just totally off base here?
Joey- I didn’t have to much input on “Break”; our producer, Evan, who was originally in the band, and now he’s in a band called Nine Shrine. He brought that song to me already written, and we changed a couple things in the studio together, but not much to where I’m gonna go around taking more credit than I actually deserve on that song. I had very little lyrical input, the only part you can hear where I put my hands in on it musically is the second verse really. How I look at it is about putting your foot down, and not taking anyone’s bullshit. I think it’s a defining moment in a person’s life, where they are no longer just gonna be a part of something that they feel either not respected in, or they deserve better. The whole album is really about overcoming and self-worth, so I guess it plays along with that.
That positive message is something that I think this world needs at this point. I like to see a lot bands do that. The Nearly Deads do a lot of that positive message, and empowering ones self to overcome, and I think that’s great that bands are doing that nowadays, especially with all the negative that is out there.
Joey – Yes, man, exactly. Every single one of our songs is where I speak about that. All the other songs fit in the same category of overcoming, and battling through something, and maybe almost losing your mind along the way. You just gotta truck through it, and look for a positive outcome.
I just listened to your cover of Taylor Swift’s song “…Are You Ready”, and it’s the first time I’ve ever been able to listen to one of her songs all the through. What was the decision making process on choosing that one to cover? (Listen Here)
Joey –I honestly went Billboard Top 100, and saw that that song was climbing, and it hadn’t even been on the radio at all yet. So I did a lot of research, and thought that this song was going to be huge, and it’s Taylor Swift. You can’t deny someone who gets paid millions to do what they do. Whether people like her or not she laughs her way to the bank, kinda like Nickelback.
What have you guys got coming up for tour plans?
Joey –We are unable to get too much into the details, but we are heading out in March. Tour announcements, and the bands we will be heading out with, are coming soon. It’s going to be a co-headlining tour, so we’ll get a little more set time than we previously have, a full blown light show, and to hear the full album; the Midwest, and as far south as Kentucky, and then working our way back up. We also just signed onto a booking agency for European dates, but I can’t announce too much on that yet; there are plans to hit Europe, and international, before the end of 2018.
That’s so awesome! Congratulations on that development! My last question is on the scene in Rochester, and I always ask this. What are some bands from your area that you think we, and our readers, should be aware of?
Joey – I think Rochester has a lot of upcoming talent, but that a lot these groups are in their embryonic stages still. That bands that are doing their job, and trying to put Rochester on the map, are my boys in Joywave. They’re in the indie market, signed to Hollywood records, and just touring nonstop, so I could not be more proud of them. 3 of the 4 guys in Ice Nine Kills are from Rochester, and that helps as well. One band that I think everyone needs to look out for is Reps, and I personally enjoy their music; they’re in the hardcore scene with a Limp Bizkit twist.
I wanna thank you for taking the time to talk with us today. We definitely appreciate the time it takes to do this.
Joey – Thank you so much for having us. I definitely love what guys have going on, and I think you’ve got a great crew over there. I really appreciate you doing a spotlight on us in Ovtlier.
Joey Arena – Lead Vocals
Paul Milne – Guitar/Vocals
Joey Lana – Drums
Joe Syracusa – Guitar/Vocals
Cosmo Pusateri – Bass/Vocals
Interview by Tom Hanno
For more on Ovtlier check out: