Overseas, a Supergroup of Friends, Delights Mercury Lounge

August 20th, 2013

Overseas – Mercury Lounge – August 19, 2013

Seems like these days the line between supergroup and bunch of friends having fun playing music can be a very thin and fuzzy one. Overseas—Will Johnson, David Bazan, and Bubba and Matt Kadane—feel much more like the latter, which isn’t to say there’s nothing super about the music they’re making. After a strong warm-up set from Strand of Oaks, Overseas eased onto the stage, the getting-things-ready portion transitioning into the set proper with little pomp or circumstance. They opened with “Here (Wish You Were)” from their self-titled album, Johnson starting on drums, Bazan on lead vocals and a warm-buzzed bass, the brothers Kadane on guitars. The song featured the band’s strengths when Johnson picked up the backing harmony for Bazan, their two distinctive voices adding unexpected strength to each other.

While the album sounds like an album, live, the material felt much more raw and in progress. It’s fun to watch a band get their legs under them, and they even jokingly thanked the audience for coming to their rehearsal. Songs were of the short-and-sweet variety, with little extracurricular activity. After a few tunes, Overseas loosened up and began rotating instruments so that everyone seemingly had a chance on bass and/or drums and/or guitar. The simplicity of the drumming by nondrummers was part of the appeal, sticking the focus on the songwriting and Bazan’s and Johnson’s voices. Those two seemed to be in constant collaboration with everyone, making others sound better or helping them do their best.

Statistically speaking, it was inevitable that Overseas would eventually exist. Johnson took lead vocals for the middle batch of songs, like “Lights Are Gonna Fall,” which sounded good enough to make you realize that the reality is these guys have more great material than they have bands to play them with. Somewhat surprisingly, they announced they already had plans for a follow-up album, playing at least two new tunes that may have been the best of the bunch—one with the line “bloody your nose” that had a manic energy, Bazan on vocals and a great dueling riff from the Kadanes. After more than an hour, Overseas finished as unceremoniously as they’d begun. Seems like they had exhausted their material, but probably not for long. —A. Stein