Wednesday, 6 May 2009

INTERVIEW: Over the Wall

For those in need of a little entertainment, today’s music industry is often the wrong place to be. Saturated with po-faced, generic Indie rockers tripping over their mile-long frowns, it’s a climate obsessed with the bottom line. There’s no room for quirky showmanship, audience interaction or, god forbid, rock ‘n’ roll tomfoolery; it’s a wham, bam, thank you for buying our merchandise man era. And, boy, it sure ain’t fun.

What this dawning of banality needs is an antidote, an act to bowl us over with pervasiveness and honesty. A band like Glasgow duo Over the Wall, perhaps? “We just want people to enjoy what they are watching as much as possible and a lot of what we do would be classed as gimmicks,” says co-conspirator Ben Hillman as he discusses the group’s core principles. “We also manage to talk a lot as well. This instantly makes us very un-cool because as soon as you open your mouth on stage you are no longer mysterious.”

But the strong silent type does not constitute esoteric cool (just look at Glasvegas), what Over the Wall have is something that can’t be taught in rock school strategy meetings: Character. After years of scouring alone for the perfect sound, Hillman and cohort Gav Prentice hooked up while putting on shows at Glasgow venue Stereo. As Prentice tells it, the chemistry was immediate: “It was the response to the two of us onstage that made us think we’d obviously stumbled into something really good, plus the freedom afforded by just having the two of us made it really fun.”

The lure is in their ear for arrangement. Bold in both structure and content, the pairing skewer starlit symphonies with cerebral themes to create a thrilling mixture of textured, clued-up pop. “We discuss politics a lot and I was brought up in a house where politics was important,” explains Prentice. “A lot of our lyrics are about finding your place and coming to terms with getting it makes sense to reference the political legacy of the years that immediately followed our births, especially seeing as that legacy is something we’re still paying the price for to a large extent now.”

Yet as refreshing as these intellectual leanings are, Over the Wall seem distinctly out of step with their more docile contemporaries. “I’ve always felt like we’re kind of outsiders and have had to work harder than some” says Prentice. Hillman continues: “It is true that many bands around have a much bigger sound than we do, but then there are ones with a much smaller sound doing very well too. We wouldn't try and change anything simply to sound like a successful band, or an unsuccessful one for that matter.”

Success, however, is there to be grabbed. Recently signed to Motive Sounds, Over the Wall have garnered steady acclaim since their ebullient EP The Rise and Fall of late last year (which sees a re-release this month). “I guess everyone in the media and entertainment industry probably feels like they are beating their head against a wall a lot of the time,” says Hillman, wearily accepting his band’s new status. “More frequently than not, the tables won't turn your way and everything is not hunky dory but sometimes they do. It's great when people take an interest, but nothing lasts forever.”

As for the future, well, it seems to be mapping out perfectly for Over the Wall: “An album before the end of the year will obviously make us worldwide superstars,” half-jests Prentice. “The affairs, coke habits and complete Star Trek: The Next Generation box sets can follow that.”

First published here at The Skinny and the photo was by some chap called Colin MacDonald.