Don’t Snooze on This Denver Band: Overslept

On December 21, Overslept is headlining the Non-Denominational Holiday Extravaganza at Lost Lake, featuring Postcards, Silver & Gold, and Tyto Alba.
On December 21, Overslept is headlining the Non-Denominational Holiday Extravaganza at Lost Lake, featuring Postcards, Silver & Gold, and Tyto Alba. Malena Roberts
When he was eighteen years old, Overslept's Elias Armao was close by when his uncle died. It was one of several similar experiences with death that changed the way the singer viewed the world both as a musician and as a person.

“They created this intimate relationship with mortality,” says Armao. “I feel like I discovered the stakes of life at a very early age.”

Years later, when Armao started his band, these pivotal experiences were still at the forefront of his mind — and they inspired him to name the band “Overslept.”

“I’d gotten this sense of urgency,” says Armao. “The term ‘overslept’ came from this feeling that whenever I oversleep, even if I’m not even working, I wake up and feel like I’ve got to get my shit together. You feel like you’ve missed out on life. It can translate into this really productive mood. You’ve got to make the most of the time that you do have.”

Armao and his three other bandmembers have taken this adage to heart. For the past five years, the group has not only performed regularly in Denver, Armao’s home town, but has also toured extensively in the surrounding region. Overslept is an indie-rock band that delivers layered post-rock-style instrumentation, in the vein of groups like Explosions in the Sky. Armao’s lyrics are simultaneously hard-edged and soft, angsty and heartfelt.

On December 21, Overslept will headline the Non-Denominational Holiday Extravaganza at Lost Lake, which will also feature Postcards, Silver & Gold and Tyto Alba. Overslept will play all of I’ve Been Keeping to Myself, a record that was released in 2015. Armao thinks it's stood the test of time so well in part because of his fearless, personal approach to songwriting.

“The older you get, it becomes more and more as though you’re not allowed to have feelings,” he says. “I think there’s this very simple principle that sometimes to make other people comfortable with feeling their own feelings, you have to lead by example. That’s where my fearlessness comes from. I’m going to be open and honest in a way that’s not from a place of fear myself.”

On the record, Armao both expresses difficult emotions and considers possible ways forward in spite of them. He's drawn to this type of songwriting because he hasn’t often been able to find that combination in the work of other popular musicians, whose songs he finds often offer either intense emotions or prescriptive lyrics, but not both. “Splitting Hairs,” a song from I’ve Been Keeping to Myself, exemplifies this combination.

“The song is essentially about anxiety and, more specifically, about overthinking things. I don’t think I’m ever going to not be this way. Instead, there are lyrics that echo the sentiment that sometimes you just have to feel like ‘I’m going to do this and just keep going,’ even as an anxious person.”

“Simply Somewhere Else,” which functions as an overture to the whole record, also demonstrates Armao’s songwriting style. The song opens with the poignant lyrics: “But it’s not good enough again, licking wounds and sleeping in. The past may never be mine again. But I don’t mind if you don’t mind."

Armao’s ability to make such emotional songs stems from his deep musical foundation.

“I started playing the drums first because my father played the guitar and wanted to play with somebody,” remembers Armao. His father also showed him a lot of gospel music, which has influenced Armao as a vocalist. In his early teens, Armao rebelled by listening to metal and hardcore — and this adolescent music phase still impacts his musical style today.

“I’ve always loved the instrumental power and intentionality in a lot of metal and hardcore," he says. "When the vocalists can’t be melodic, the instrumentals have to compensate in an interesting way. You can’t just play chords on the guitar, because there’s nobody singing a complicated melody.”

Armao is a multi-instrumentalist himself. The people he played with growing up weren’t taking music as seriously as he was, so he took matters into his own hands.

“I have no theory. I taught myself how to play everything,” he says. “The first full-length Overslept record, I played drums, sang and played the guitar.”

For high school, Armao attended the Denver School of the Arts. He studied visual art, not music. Still, it was a pivotal experience for him as a musician.

“DSA created this hyper-critical environment where you really had to be on your game. We would do critiques of our work every single day, and people were brutally honest. There was this idea that you get way more out of constructive criticism than compliments.”

As a result, he says he has become “very cutthroat with the way we perform and the quality of our mixing and aesthetic. Everything that goes into the band has to be intentional. This is true regardless of what kind of art you’re doing.”

At the band’s upcoming show, Armao hopes to give back to the broader local community. All of the bands participating in the show are recording acoustic versions of two of their songs and then selling them on physical discs (which still exist!). Proceeds will benefit the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless.

This initiative is deeply aligned with Armao’s community-oriented approach to performing.

“I believe that if you create something authentically, you will attract authentic interactions,” he says. “I’ve never had the urge to fill up the Pepsi Center. Our goal as a band is to always be pursuing our art honestly and creating a community around us, however big that is, that wants to participate with us.”

Overslept, with Postcards, Silver & Gold and Tyto Alba, 9 p.m. December 21, $12 to $15, Lost Lake, 3602 E Colfax Ave, 303.296.1003.
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Sage Marshall is a freelance writer and editor covering outdoor recreation, environmental issues, Denver's music scene, the arts, and other Colorado stories. You can check out more of his work and connect with him here.
Contact: Sage Marshall