Musicians helping musicians: Doing more than simply pressing record, Overneath hosts live recording sessions, writes arrangements and promotes collaboration through community.
“Music is a super personal thing,” said Overneath Creative Collective co-founder Cameron Drake. “Sharing it with somebody is one thing, and then trusting somebody to kind of memorialize it in a recording is another. There needs to be a really high level of trust to take this creation that is fragile and make it into something that is going to live on this album forever.
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“It’s about a relationship, not just about people that can push record.”
Founded in 2014 by Drake and fellow audio engineer Gordon van Gent, along with partners Drew Raklovits and Michael Steinke, the Kalamazoo-based collective, at its core, is made up of a team of eight full-timers, all of whom are musicians.
Together, they are constantly pushing the envelope to come up with innovative ways to help an impressive and evolving list of artists that includes the likes of former American Idol finalist Matt Giraud, Joe Hertler and the Rainbow Seekers, Nashon Holloway and more.
From Art Hop open mics that allow performing musicians to leave their set with a professional audio recording, to intimate in-studio, audio/video recording events known as The KBR Sessions, to their latest venture, the Creators’ Club — which provides artists with an opportunity to create monthly live audio/video recordings for a low subscription cost — Overneath is doing whatever it can to give musicians the ability to promote themselves in a professional and affordable manner.
“First and foremost, we are just musicians trying to help out other musicians,” Drake said. “One of our main goals here is to be in the middle of this growing scene in Kalamazoo and enable groups to record the music they can to help them sell albums and get noticed.”
Based downtown out of the former digs of the now-defunct Brown and Brown Recording Studios, the collective has seen its work load — which also includes taking care of marketing needs for corporate giants such as Kellogg’s, Stryker and Bronson Healthcare — quickly grow to north of 200 clients and more than 400 projects per year.
A VISION COMES TOGETHER
Undoubtedly, working in their favor, the Overneath founders understand the hard work, dedication and vision that enables a creative dream to evolve.
When they came together professionally, van Gent was operating his audio company, GVG, out of his basement, while Drake and the origins of Overneath were based out of an upstairs office at an area church, doing primarily video work. As both businesses began to grow, the two men — who met as students at Western Michigan University — found they were doing a lot of passing back and forth of clients to help fulfill the needs and desires of those they were working with.
Joining forces seemed like a logical and natural next step.
“We had been talking about it for a while, and when the right space became available downtown we asked ourselves what it would look like if we became a conglomerate of, basically, creative media (with) a recording space, photography and concerts, and we decided to go for it,” van Gent recalls.
“Our philosophy has always been that we have core people in the house that do a lot of the things we need done,” Drake added, “but we have a group, a collective that we know and trust, that we can bring in that can add to what we already do in terms of video and audio, or extensive web, animation or graphic design.”
Part of what sets Overneath apart, according to Christian recording artist Anna Joy Tucker, is that in addition to simply pushing buttons and making recommendations, the studio, “from top down,” is able to offer their own creative musical touches.
For instance, on her sophomore effort, the five-song EP “Songs for the Storm,” Tucker received full-on musical accompaniment from van Gent, who has both a degree in jazz guitar and a master’s in musical composition from Western.
“Gordon took the songs I wrote and came back with arrangements for strings, horn, and even choir for one part,” she recalls. “They really, truly offer something that makes recording and producing with them totally unique.
“They are so talented in so many ways and not pushy at all. While Gordon was writing parts for my music, he still remembered it was my project the whole time, and just really did a great job at offering suggestions.”
KBR SESSIONS PROVIDE INTIMATE SETTING FOR ARTISTS, AUDIENCES ALIKE
Tucker is among a number of artists who have participated in Overneath’s KBR Sessions. The quarterly performances have witnessed a slew of area musicians — such as The Founding, The Corn Fed Girls, Last Gasp Collective — provide upward of 100 attendees with a unique and intimate listening experience, that simultaneously gives the artists a top-notch video recording they can share with the world.
(Watch a track from Joe Hertler & The Rainbow Seekers performance here)
“It’s not a typical live show. For one, the artists have the option to start and stop, say ‘hey, we didn’t do a good take there, let’s do that again.’ It really presents the vibe of being in a studio,” van Gent said of the typical hour-and-a-half performances. “When it’s done, artists are sent a rough, raw recording of the show and get to pick out a song they want to have mastered. The first one is always free, but they can always pay for a second or third if they’d like.”
Those videos give artists a tool that not only attracts fans but helps draw the attention of concert promoters and the like.
“The videos that we got from (our 2016) session no doubt went a tremendously long way toward landing us more gigs, both locally and regionally,” says Lukas Stanley, keyboardist, and percussionist for The Founding. “The camerawork is great, and the audio quality couldn’t be better, especially considering that it is a live recording.”
The experience left such an impression that The Founding returned to Overneath to record their first full-length album, “Form,” released in late 2017, working with the collective to put down 10 tracks in a period of just three-and-a-half days.
“It was really a tight schedule and they really bent over backwards to make it all happen on time and within our budget,” Stanley said. “The album has already paid us massive dividends, leading to us getting signed with a national booking agent who has plans to put us on much more extensive tours around the country. We are really grateful to Overneath’s contribution in making that a reality for us.”
THE CREATORS’ CLUB KEEPS IT LIVE
Cut from a similar cloth as the KBR Sessions, the Creators’ Club — an idea of van Gent’s and jazz vocalist Ashley Daneman’s that launched this August — was designed with the intent of bringing together creatives on a monthly basis by offering affordable, subscription-based recording sessions.
“One of the big issues that artists have is having good content online,” van Gent said. “But being an artist it is hard to pay for good content unless you can find a friend or someone who can do it, so we thought, ‘what if we were able to do something where we would have a lot of people coming in and setting up for the day at a price that would be minimal for them and for us?’”
The goal is to give participating artists monthly content on a quick, two- or three-week turnaround so that before they come in for their next session they have something to show to their hopefully growing fanbases.
“It’s meant to be live, so we are not doing a lot of production elements, like delays, tunings, things like that,” van Gent said. “We’re doing multi-track recording on a single camera. Similar to the KBR Sessions they’ll pick one take and we’ll give them that content.
“It’s really about getting your name out there. We are just hoping that artists get enough content that they might find some growth in their brand.”
The first month saw 10 artists make their way into the studio all with plans on coming back. Given the positive feedback they are getting, van Gent says his team is realizing quickly that they may have to expand the program to a couple days per month.
“We just want to provide a safe space to experiment, without breaking the bank for them,” he said.
Copyright 2018, Spins on Music LLC