Generally speaking, bands begin one of two ways: Either somebody has a batch of songs and recruits musicians to perform them, or a bunch of pals are just hanging out, and one of them suggests, “Maybe we should start a band.”
Over-Vert is the latter kind of band. Even if they weren’t a band, these guys would be kickin’ it together and hitting the streets on their skateboards.
“We started this band as a way to finance our skateboarding trips,” says lead vocalist Morgan Travis. His arm is in a cast—he broke it attempting an eight-foot front-side grind on a swimming pool coping at a recent tour stop/skateboarding expedition in Santa Cruz. The band is enthusiastic about showing pictures of the bone sticking out of his forearm.
Though skateboarding is a way of life for these guys, the band doesn’t sound like the snot-nosed skate punk genre one associates with a certain shoe company and its various “Warped” tours. The high energy and break-neck speeds are there, but the sound is more organic.
“We’re less a skate band than a band that skates,” says Travis.
Drummer Justin Morales drives songs like “Promised Land” and “Burning An Eye” with infallible sure-handedness. Guitarist Chris Costalupes punches up songs like “Roll Forever” with catchy, anthemic riffs and well-timed blasts of feedback. Handsomely bearded bassist Scott “Scaught” Bates provides a limber, muscular low end. And Travis does what any good punk vocalist should: interpret the energy of the music and, with his lyrics and exhausting use of the oxygen in his lungs, translate that energy in a way that’s contagious to the innocent spectator.
Over-Vert is living testament to the fact that exacting precision can make simple music sound complex. The band members describe themselves as “Nirvana sped-up” and cite other influences: “We were all really into The Jesus Lizard when we started this band,” says Morales.
Over-Vert had an opportunity to work with a man associated with some of their favorite recordings: producer Steve Albini.
Albini is best known for his work on massively mega-selling records by Nirvana and Bush and his critically acclaimed work with PJ Harvey and The Pixies, but perhaps the epitome of his aesthetic is the menacing sound of Goat by The Jesus Lizard: a thick bass tone, drums that sound on record like the listener is sitting at the kit, and a guitar sound that hits so high up in your ear that it makes your nose bleed.
It’s a recording sound that fits Over-Vert perfectly. “We practiced four days a week for months before going in, and he basically recorded us live,” says Morales. “You have to drive across the country to find someone who’s willing to record like that.”
Most modern day record producers and sound engineers rely on sophisticated digital equipment and the note-correction and cut-and-paste capabilities of software like ProTools.
Albini works using all analog equipment and careful mic placement. He mixes by manipulating the live sound of the studio rather than altering it afterward. It makes for recordings that authentically capture the sound of a band.
The Albini recordings of Over-Vert can currently be heard on the band’s Myspace page and a forthcoming, as-yet-untitled CD EP on a new local record label, Renova.
The name of the band, in case you were wondering, is a skateboarding term for going “over-vertical:” grinding with the board at an obtuse angle.
“It shouldn’t be possible. It’s not natural,” says Morales. “It’s like a carnival ride without the straps on.”