Before I speak about the group OVER I need to talk about the band Ten Kens.
The sound of Ten Kens is a gentle embrace with a forceful grip.
Angelic harmonies are torn from the sky, then infused with rock, grunge and the psychedelic. A playground for organized chaos that walks a delicate balance on the cutting edge.
The radio hits lay on the self-titled first album, the cult favourites are on the second titled "Posterity," while the curtain call that was "Namesake" caters to the already established fan who was curious as to how far the group could take psychedelic rock.
Dan Workman and Brett Paulin, the backbone of Ten Kens have evolved and turned towards a new project called OVER.
Misfits of the modern age giving no regard to fitting in, their focus is on cutting out a path for themselves and pushing music as far as they can.
Digital and modern. New and steeped in the experimental,
the lyrics are hard to make out but the message isn't.
A dive headfirst into new waters that change from calm to turbulent at the drop of a hat.
There is a force that calls out to you from an ominous but beautiful realm, one of foggy bliss, overwhelming at times by just the right amount and then drawn back to a clear and pure captivation.
Detached from reality without falling away from relevance, OVER is the combination of ambiance and fluid rhythm that win the day and rule the night.
This isn't your typical club music by any stretch of the means, this is an introspective, reflective, provocative yet delicate voyage of self-discovery.
As a fan of Ten Kens, I naturally had to reach out to the songwriting duo.
Your Ten Kens albums when listened to in chronological order get darker and more psychedelic, which explains why OVER has such a heavy presence but where did the digital aspect come in and with such prevalence?
When we started OVER, we were down to two members, just Brett and I. It was liberating, and necessary. Creatively we felt as though we were at our peak, and we had no intention of bringing in other musicians. We've always been completely in sync in regards to our musical likes and dislikes, and we always felt as though our vision was a bit stifled when we designed by committee. We were finally on our own, and there were zero expectations on how we should sound or what the new project should even be. It was a passion project, pure and simple. All the influences we had to otherwise abandon with our previous project we could now throw into the fold, with an 'anything goes' type mentality. Working digitally opened up the entire universe. We could play with any sound or sample of our choosing. In part, we needed to abandon the old way of doing things, but mostly, we just wanted to throw every idea against the wall to see which ones would stick, and working with a digital platform provided that freedom.
You use vocals as an instrument more with OVER than you did with TK, meaning the lyrics are harder to make out yet the message is still clear. How do you get an emotion across without a direct approach?
We've always treated vocals like another instrument, and with OVER, we were able to push this even farther. I'm mostly disinterested in lyrical content. Sigur Ros Agaetis Byrjun is one of my favourite albums, and to this day I haven't a clue what any of the songs are about. That makes it extra special to me, because I can appreciate it on a level removed from meaning, and just purely on the artistry of its sound. We try to express our emotions the same way, through tone and mood. This isn't to say there isn't meaning in the words, but they're secondary to the sounds.
Do you two compromise when writing lyrics to a song or take turns with taking the lead creatively?
OVER is a different beast when it comes to song writing. I do all the lyrics, and Brett has always trusted my vision in regards to that. As for the creative lead, Brett is the magician behind the music of OVER. With our previous band, he and I would work out all the songs, we would jam together, seamlessly throwing ideas back and forth in a live setting. With OVER, Brett is the visionary. He buries himself into a world of beats, samples, sounds, and tripped out ideas, then resurfaces with these tracks brought from another place and time.
Do you put music to lyrics or come up with the music first?
Always the music first. Again, it's such a different beast. Sometimes Brett shows up with a track so absolutely out there that I think to myself, "how the hell am I going to put lyrics to this?" But that's the beauty about what we're doing. We're pushing ourselves to be original and to forge forward without any preconceived ideas about how a song should be structured and what it's supposed to sound like. I've embraced the challenge, and Brett's music inspires new idea after new idea.
What is the ultimate message behind OVER?
I guess we don't actually know yet. Right now, it's just an art project, for us, by us. It's the music we're most proud of because it's distinctly ours and completely uncorrupted, and for now, that's all it needs to be.
If you were on death row and instead of a last meal you were given a last song to listen to, what would it be?
'Us and Them' by Pink Floyd. I think that song could take me through.
The percussion takes centre stage in your new music, was that planned going in or something you discovered during recording and went with it?
For all we didn't know about what OVER would be, the one thing we did know is that percussion would be a driving force. We're beat fiends, and when you find a good one it's intoxicating. We wanted to bring that into this new project. Brett has become a master at sculpting beats out of rare samples and odd clips. He hears things I can't hear, and the finishing touches he puts on the beats give each song its own unique flare. Never the same sound twice.
Can we expect any type of Ten Kens songs remixed or samples used as OVER?
Yes. Already happened. But you wouldn't be able to recognize any of them. Brett's hiding all sorts of winks and nods in the tracks.
Who is your favourite artist or group not being played on the radio right now?
Shabazz Palaces. I've been a fan since they began. The new album is their most challenging listen yet, but I'm right there with it.
What was the best concert you've ever seen?
Portishead, 2011. Maybe it was the hiatus, or the mystique surrounding it, but I felt like I was watching legends perform. It was flawless.
Do you believe in an afterlife? Why or why not?
Nope. You close your eyes and go in the ground. We want to believe there's more, we need to actually, but....all good things must end.
What in your opinion is the worst thing that could happen on stage other than the equipment not working?
Looking out and seeing 3 people, which has happened more than once. It's deflating.
Out of your entire musical catalogue, what is the most important song to each of you?
We would both agree on 'Gone Are The Days'. It's the first song from OVER that really came together exactly as we wanted, and we think it best captures everything we're trying to do with our new direction. It's our favourite track by far, and solidified the vision.
When did you decide to start OVER?
Probably a day after our last tour with the old band. It was beyond clear that part of our musical lives was....over. We were over the industry bullshit, over the grind, over the disappointment, over the judgements, over our old sound, and over working with anyone other than just us.
Are you still living in Toronto? Other than being your hometown what is the significance of that city to you guys?
Yes, we're both still in Toronto. Of all the cities in Canada, if you want a significant music scene, this is simply where you need to be.
Workman and Paulin have created an intoxicating musical concoction that exemplifies what artistic cohesion can accomplish.
Explorative and brave, the sound of OVER is ingenuity in its purest form ready to alter and rearrange your preconception of modern music. A shift in Parallax that reveals a clearer view of the originality and depth of the Toronto music scene.