By Jordan Reisman
Photo courtesy of Ovlov.
Guitar rock is making a comeback. As covered before with bands like California X, the rock in this week’s Discovery Artist column also comes in the form of a three-piece. Ovlov is a band from Newtown, Connecticut who recently released their LP entitled Am on Exploding in Sound Records. The guitars are huge, and like a lot of music coming out of the millennial era, it takes on a confused and downtrodden tone.
This comes as no surprise considering where they’re from. Connecticut has become a musical hub for the emo-revival movement, and even taking on a genre name of its own (“twinkle daddy”). Though Newtown is a bit more rural than the heavy hitters in the state (Willimantic, New Haven), the members of Ovlov still run in the same circles of these revivalists. The question remains, though: Why is Connecticut so sad?
That’s a loaded question in and of itself so let’s just start with the straight facts first.
BTR spoke with Ovlov’s lead guitarist and vocalist, Steve Hartlett about the beginnings of the band. He admits that Ovlov was not conceived spontaneously by any means and it was a “slow progression.”
Hartlett had been playing in a band called Home Movies with his brothers and other friends and got bored of it eventually. He was a bit bewildered when answering exactly how the band came together because there did not seem to be concrete markers of time. Instead, he was writing music with his brothers that eventually became Ovlov songs somewhere in between 2008 to 2009.
The band got their name from a friend who drove around a Volvo (Ovlov = Volvo backwards).
Hartlett says about the sonically redundant name, “My friend just called his Volvo that. We thought it was a funny word so we called the band that so we could think of something better and I guess we never did.”
The owner of the Volvo, their friend Dini, ended up being one of the inspirations for their album. His name is mentioned in two of the songs’ titles and the album cover was taken when Hartlett’s brother (also in the band) drove Dini to Colorado.
“[Dini] was kind of why we started the band,” Hartlett clarifies. “He was just a friend of mine and my brother’s and a friend of mine, Quentin, who I wrote the first five songs with. We wanted to see him be the lead singer of a band because he’s so weird but it didn’t work out.”
Ovlov is a band of brothers, or at least, was. The line-up they had to record Am was Steve Hartlett, Jon Hartlett, and Theo Hartlett. After the album was released, though, Jon “kind of quit.” So just how does a brother just quit a band with his other brothers? The way Jon did it was not as dramatic as you might expect.
“We talked about it realized that it’s just rough being in a band together. We’d get in a lot of stupid arguments about absolutely nothing because of it,” says Steve. “He writes really great music on his own and I really want him to start pursuing but he can’t get a solid band together. It’s kind of hard where we live, I suppose, to get enough people dedicated.”
Growing up the boys all came of age under the same musical tapestry. Since they’re all conveniently a few years apart in age from each other, the Hartletts have been bros in all senses of the word since birth.
“We’ve definitely all been exposed to the same stuff for the same reasons, playing or going to the same shows, and we just had the same friends who were showing us the same bands at the same time. We have our own specific genres that are more important to us than others. For the most part I would say we listen to the same things,” said Steve about growing up with his brothers on music.
To get to the obvious overarching question of why Connecticut is so sad, Hartlett and I tried to come up with an answer. Hartlett is well aware of the revivalist movement occurring in his home state, and one of its most active members (Greg Horbal of The World is a Beautiful Place and I Am No Longer Afraid to Die) has even promoted Ovlov to the point where “most of the people that know about us now are because of him.”
It’s hard to make the word “sad” anything but a pejorative, but in Connecticut the term is the calling card of so much vital music that is coming out. Hartlett looked to local history and economics to answer the question.
“I think there’s such diversity in class because there’s New Haven and Hartford and then there’s Fairfield County which is one of the richest counties in the entire country. So you go from one of the most dangerous cities in the country to one of the richest. It depends on where you go in Connecticut. It’s also the history…I always feel like the earliest settled states have the most messed up histories. A lot of horror movies that have come out in the past few years have been based in Connecticut,” explains Hartlett.
This only scratches the surface of the question. Maybe it’s just that there’s not a whole lot to do there for suburban kids but play music, and a few of the most influential kids bought American Football records.
As I said before, Hartlett is aware of the growth of emo but views it more from the vantage point of a spectator. However, in making music with the people involved in the budding scene, he said the music he makes has a bit of an “emo-ness” to it. On Am, there are some key deviations from emo or punk in general. Throughout the album the vocal levels fluctuate from low to high, giving the album a more varied appeal. This, of course, was someone’s decision.
“We were mixing for awhile. We had finished recording really quickly actually, it only took us like a week or so to record the album. For six months afterward, Mike from Green is Green, the bass player, he recorded the entire album — he and I were sending it back and forth between each other for awhile after just changing little things here and there every time,” says Hartlett. “We went back and forth deciding when the vocals should be prominent and when they shouldn’t because sometimes it takes away from what everyone’s doing instrumentally. I really don’t put too much thought into what I’m saying whatsoever.”
Another deviation that the album makes is its heavy emphasis on jamming at the end of songs. The word “jamming” itself (another musical pejorative) brings up images of Phish and noodly guitar solos, but to Ovlov it means droning riffs , and really carrying out the melody with solos.
During an Ovlov “jam” there is no point where the listener thinks, “God, just END already.” Which is as it should be, and Hartlett concurs.
“That word [jamming] is very misused these days. I always like being able to sneak in a solo here and there. I’m not very good at it but when I can, it’s fun to just do for a long time like that.”
With a brotherly bond between them, one can only hope that Ovlov’s career has that same type of longevity.
To buy Am on vinyl or the download code, click here.
Check out the music and interview with Ovlov in the newest episode of Discovery Corner on BTR.