Overcoats teach us how to be a dynamic duo.
Overcoats, the NYC duo made up of Hana Elion and JJ Mitchell, have made a career by taking a little and turning it into a lot. The two best friends met in college and bonded by singing harmonies together to their favourite records. Both members of Overcoats describe the first time hearing each other sing as an epiphany: the harmony of their voices leading to personal, individual discovery. It lead them to start Overcoats, and it’s been nothing but praise and accolades since then.
The duo released their debut album YOUNG earlier this year, co-produced by Nicolas Vernhes (The War On Drugs, Dirty Projectors) and Autre Ne Veut and released via Create/Control records, and have since earned high praise from influential music sites like Gorilla vs. Bear, Pigeons & Planes, and The Line Of Best Fit to name just a few.
They’ve received just as much adoration for the unique dynamic the duo share on stage as well – with their live shows, appearances at SXSW and NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert, and their recent run supporting Maggie Rogers on tour in the US, being celebrated for the charm and joy they exude on stage as best friends, alongside showcasing their obvious and amazing talent.
We asked Hana and JJ just how they came to have this magnetic presence on stage, and how they’ve learned and earned this reputation for being a live force.
JJ: Energy on stage is what really makes it. You can just be one person or two people but if you’re jumping around and holding your own, you take up a lot of space.
Hana: The thing for us that is so crucial is that we’re friends and we wouldn’t do this if we couldn’t get to have a good time doing it. Like, what’s the point? And so I think vibing to each other and singing to each other makes it fun every time no matter the space or the vibe of the room. It’s us up there and we’re inviting anyone who wants to be a part of the moment to be there with us and that’s why it’s good every time.
Hana: We spend hours, days learning choreography.
JJ: It’s going to be in our new video.
Hana: It’s our dream to actually be dancers but we’re not good enough, so we have to be singers. So we try to incorporate as much dance as possible when we’re allowed.
JJ: I think it’s the kind of thing that you should do if you want to and if that’s not your thing no need. We only do it because we love it. But at least for us in a duo, we like to think about doing stuff that’s just as cool to watch visually as it is to listen to. And so for us the choreography is really fun for us to do as one more performative thing during the show.
Hana: I think the evolution of our live show has been interesting because we used to stand there like rocks and not be able to move. That was because of extreme anxiety and fear of performing. I think now because we’ve done it so much, that we feel that it’s a comfort zone and we can do what we want up there. To each their own – if it’s not comfortable to move your body then you don’t need to and we didn’t for the first year of our career and now we’re in a place where that feels right and we’ve incorporated a lot of dance pieces into this body of work. It’s just fun.
Hana: People always ask us how do we know to look at each other at the same time, but it came from a really natural place of when we sing in harmony we like to look at each other to match each other and know what the other’s doing. We do a lot of looking at each other and turning away and then turning back.
JJ: I feel like the lyrics tell you when to look at each other. I feel like I’m listening to the words still and I’m like “This is a moment that I want to connect with Hana and I want to sing this” or alternatively “this part I want to connect with the audience” and Hana probably has a similar sentiment and so we end up looking more like twins than maybe is planned but it feels natural.
Check out when Overcoats stopped by the NPR Tiny Desk below: