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And get on the stick he has. Since forming Overcasters with Tidwell and guitarist John Nichols in 2007, Ottaway has taken the scene by storm, with a distinctive, thick, punishing sound that recalls an array of acts — everything from Swervedriver and Spacemen 3 to the 77's and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club — and an arresting, projection-heavy live show. Overcasters' debut album, Revolectrocution, like Ottaway's previous releases, was a self-recorded, self-released affair. "I love DIY recordings," Ottaway admits. "I listen to our first record, and I'm like, 'Man, that's really cool. I like what I did there. I like the chronological progression.' But I think now you can put this record on anywhere, and it has the impact of how we sound live. It's a little bit more live and a little bit more alive."
Sure enough, as impressive as that debut was, The Whole Sea Is Raging displays a stirring sense of vitality. Produced by Rick Parker, a well-regarded producer who's worked with acts ranging from BRMC to the Von Bondies, the record boasts an immediacy of fidelity. The drums absolutely explode in tandem with Matt Regan's hulking bass lines, providing a brawny low end that sharply contrasts with Ottaway's careening guitar work without diluting the clarity of his vocals, which glide assuredly on top.
"A lot of indie bands are afraid to put the drums up front," Ottaway notes. "But Parker, all of his recordings, man, the vocals and drums are up front without sacrificing the atmosphere of the instruments. I think he really nails that."
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That's high praise from Ottaway, a seasoned vet who's spent years in the studio perfecting his craft. The Whole Sea Is Raging marks the first time he's handed the reins over to somebody else — a daunting prospect initially, but one that ultimately paid off. "It was tough at first," he admits. "You know, maybe for the first twenty minutes...he pretty much said to me, 'Hey, man, you're here to enjoy this. You're allowed to be the musician for once. That's it. Just be the musician. Be the songwriter. Be the guy singing this tune.'
"He was very exact, very precise," Ottaway adds. "He didn't give me a lot of room to tell him what to do. I've tracked so much and I've been in his position so much, he didn't have to say anything; I knew where he was going. The vocal sessions — next thing I knew, they were done. He was like, 'All right, we're done.' I'm like, 'Wait, ten songs, in the can, done, vocals and everything?' He's like, 'Yeah, really good use of time, guys.'"
In fact, they didn't have any time to waste. Ottaway and company had only four days in the studio with Parker, so they needed to get things right from the start.
"We went in there with a healthy dose of fear," Ottaway confesses. "I mean, you're supposed to be fearless, but you go in with a healthy dose of fear and a little bit of 'This guy's a real cat,' I think. It makes you a little sharper. What happens is the little VU meter kind of comes up, and it's right on that fear, and then all of a sudden, once you loosen up and everything kind of hits, it trips over into the good meter."
And Ottaway and Overcasters (whose lineup now includes bassist Samantha Donen) keep tripping the good meter. Despite the gloom suggested by the act's name and the seemingly doomed trajectory of its frontman, the sun seems to have finally broken free of the clouds. Raging not only represents Ottaway's best work to date, but it's a positively exhilarating and uplifting listening experience.
"It's like anything, man," Ottaway reflects. "Nothing really great is going to come simply or easily. It's not going to drift across."