Last week I had the opportunity to sit down with Joey Arena, vocalist for the metalcore band from Rochester, NY: Ovtlier. Joey and I spoke about how the band has been dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, Ovtlier‘s recent signing with Zoid Entertainment, the band’s re-release of their track “Who We Are“, as well as the excitement of the band’s singles moving into regular rotation on SiriusXM Octane. Read the exclusive interview with Joey below!
ST: Hello everybody! I’m Sydney Taylor and I’m here with Joey Arena, vocalist for the alternative metal band Ovtlier. Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me this afternoon Joey!
JA: Of course! I appreciate you doing the interview.
ST: First off, how have you been doing this year? I know that it’s been crazy for everybody, which is kind of an understatement. But, how have you and the band been doing overall?
JA: Yeah, like you said, this year’s been crazy. But we’ve remained busy. We’ve continued working, shooting music videos, and hopping in the studio once that started to open back up for us; just doing a lot of writing between a couple of studios. One in Cleveland and one in Syracuse out here. For us, the show must go on and we’re just preparing for when life… when we get back to some normalcy I suppose.
ST: You guys have a lot going on including the single that was just re-released which I want to get into as well. You guys also have a show lined up at the end of this month [October] in Richmond, Virginia. This is your first show since everything shut down, right?
JA: Yeah! It’s our first and only show of 2020. I can’t remember the last time I only played one show for a year, probably before I played music. We were asked to play a show, it was currently while we were on Octane, and we’re friends with some of the bands from the Richmond area. They wanted to throw a big Halloween party, and you know the state’s obviously in a different place. It’s all based on states and that’s what they’re doing down there. We’re all good to go. Like I said, the show must go on and we look forward to seeing those that do want to go to shows. We’d also like to tell people that, if people don’t feel comfortable we don’t want them going. Again, everybody’s got that free will and that’s what it’s really about. But there’s a lot of people that really rely on shows for mental health and we rely on shows and music for our mental health. That’s what makes us feel good. We’re excited to play.
ST: Yeah, it’s been really hard this year especially for us live music lovers. It’s been really weird to not go to shows. What’s your opinion on the live-stream shows that have been popping up? Those have essentially been born out of necessity due to the pandemic? Could you ever see Ovtlier doing a live-stream show if this continues into 2021?
JA: That’s a great question. I’ve been asked that a couple times this week actually, and to be honest, the only time that we would ever do a live-stream is if we’re playing a show somewhere and we set it up for a live-stream or live broadcast. I won’t do just a simple live-stream show and the reason being is because… show’s are so intimate. You know what I’m saying? The emotion… it’s like a harmonious vibe when you go to a show. You have all these people that are feeling some type of way. Musicians are connecting with the fans and vice versa. There’s such an intimacy that you do not get from live-streaming shows and all that stuff. That’s not to say that those who do it… I applaud those that do it. Again, to each their own. But, for us, we probably won’t ever do that. ‘Cause I need that audience, I feed off that audience. To me, that’s what makes concerts very special.
ST: I definitely know what you mean. Today was an exciting day for you guys because like I said, I know that your single “Who We Are” is being re-released via InGrooves today thanks to your recent signing with Zoid Entertainment. What was the process of getting linked up with them like and how has that affected you guys as a band overall?
JA: The band was being shopped around over the past five years. It was just a matter of building the band’s worth. I’ve signed four record contracts in my previous years of music and this time I wanted to do everything completely different. I knew what I was looking for out of a label or an entertainment company. With the internet today, there’s no reason for a band to be desperate to sign to a label. All it is is just a credit card with a high interest rate. That’s really all that it is. With TuneCore, CDBaby, DistroKid, all these other distributors, you don’t need a label unless you’re looking to get in debt. Or to be possibly be shelved and screwed. We were building the band’s worth, being open to the idea of a special contract. We know the worth of this band, and we wanted to feel special with any deal that we signed and we did not feel that we got the right deals or the right offers. And then, Zoid was a special deal being in the works over the past three to four months. After meeting with the guys, and negotiations, and management, lawyers, all of this, all the parties became really happy and everything is going to be following suit. We’re going to get the attention we deserve, I think. That’s what I’m really excited about and as far as everything else goes, we completely own the rights to our music which is phenomenal. A lot of bands lose that; they lose their publishing and we don’t. That was another thing I was looking for in the deal. So yeah, that’s kinda what it was.
ST: So before you guys signed, you were using some kind of distribution company like a DistroKid, a CDBaby, etc?
JA: Yeah! When I first started the band, I wrote and recorded the whole record with Evan McKeever, one of the producers that still works with the band to this day. He’s out in Cleveland. Evan and I wrote the whole entire record and then I [created] the band later. But when I released the EP, ‘What Doesn’t Kill You’, I was releasing singles through CDBaby which was great because I was in control of everything and I knew already the hustle and the grind of building a band and really building a business essentially. And then eventually we started doing distribution differently through InGrooves but it was without the funding behind the band. It was more utilizing major label distribution but still self-funding, and now we have some backing and support being built around the band. And now we have even more distribution built onto what we already had being already affiliated with InGrooves but now we’re just becoming more of… we’re just getting more focus and attention really.
ST: Going back a little bit and discussing back when you started the band and everything, tell me about the background of how Ovtlier came to be. I know you guys are based in Rochester, NY, you have experience in the industry beforehand, so how did this all come together?
JA: I was in a band called Young Blood, it was kind of more or less a pop/rock band that was getting heavier, a little more darker rock I suppose. When I was going to Cleveland to write, I was writing for another Young Blood record but we were on a label, had a really bad deal. We did well in sales, we were a 2012 Billboard artist, so we had some good things happen to the band but we were ultimately in a really bad deal. We didn’t own anything, a lot of money was taken from us… it was just really bad. We ended up disbanding to because some of the members, we just really didn’t get along on-top of already being in a bad deal. It was just a really toxic relationship. Me and Chris, the guitar player of Young Blood started going to Cleveland a little bit. He had moved to Connecticut with his girlfriend and so I was pretty much doing most of the traveling. I kind of told Chris to just go and do his own thing because it was already hard for him to keep up anyways and be a part of it. That’s kind of really what it was. We were gonna name the record ‘Ovtlier’ and when I had read the definition of an outlier I thought: this could not be more spot-on to who I am as an individual honestly. My way of thinking and the way I live my life. I thought, “Why am I just going to record just to be shelved and get screwed again.” So, forget this, I’m starting over from scratch; changing the name, playing what I want to play. Again, it got me out of my deal, I got to start over and that was really it. I found the members after the record was done.
ST: You’ve been doing a great job and getting a lot of attention and notice lately. You’ve been on SiriusXM Octane which is so huge considering it has over 34 million monthly subscribers. What has it been like for you guys to watch this grow over the last year or so?
JA: It’s a very exciting time. We were in the middle of filming a music video for a single that will be coming out probably after this one rides the wave for a bit. I got a phone call from Chris Motionless and JD of Ice Nine Kills. They’re both buddies of mine, JD and I grew up together and he’s one of my best friends. Obviously our tour with Motionless [In White]; everything got postponed because of COVID-19 and all this stuff. Chris was like, “hey, I wanna let you know I put you on my takeover.” He gave me this news like, “so, you’re gonna be on Octane tomorrow.” It was amazing because the feedback that we had received was incredible and then it threw us into Testdrive and then Accelerator and then into regular rotation. It happened so fast and I am just eternally grateful for Chris doing that because it did so much for us and it was not expected. It’s amazing when bigger, respectful bands look out for the little guys. It was amazing, and again saying that I’m forever grateful is like an understatement. It’s just not doing justice to the experience at all.
ST: I think it’s really great that the radio airplay has done such great things for you guys. I think sometimes radio is deemed as “dead” thing nowadays, but I feel like a lot of people still do listen to the radio. So, I think it’s great that you guys were able to get on regular rotation. That’s very exciting.
JA: Like you said, there’s still a market for it. It may not be what it was back in the day but there’s still many people in their 30’s, 40’s, a lot of people that maybe do manual labor, or military… there’s a lot of people… our fanbase is growing based on all of it. They’re from all over, from all walks of life, and ages, and they still listen to radio. After “Buried Me Alive” was played on Octane, it was also on some really big FM outlets from all over. Some in Corpus Cristi, and Wyoming, and Idaho, Southern California. It did really, really well. It was amazing. We’re excited to see what happens with this single now.
ST: For sure. Like I said, you just re-released “Who We Are” today. “Who We Are” is a song that you guys have had in the works for a while now, right?
JA: Yeah! So it’s great because all the stuff we’re releasing now is stuff that I’ve been sitting on for like well over a year.
ST: It’s doing big things though. Like you said, it was released back in July and is now being re-released via InGrooves, so its had a little bit of time out there. Is this part of a longer record–is this just a one off single?
JA: We would like to do an EP or a full-length given that the funding is there. Right now as everything’s being established, it’s a lot of investment into marketing and building the brand, and the story, and all of that. It’s also hard to answer right now because… we would love to put out a record but it costs thousands of dollars to make that record. When you put it out there, it’s kind of like driving a brand new car off the lot. You’re gonna lose value by fifty percent immediately as soon as it leaves. The other thing too is people are not buying records like they used to. You’ve gotta also think for your investment and your return on investment. Even just to release a single, we make sure that the tracking and the performances are as tight as possible, after everything is mixed and mastered you’re looking at over a thousand dollars just for one song. By the time you release it, and because the streaming outlets don’t wanna pay shit… but they wouldn’t have these sites if it weren’t for artists. The whole thing is designed to screw the artist. It’s always been like that from day one. No matter what it is. So, you’ve gotta pick and choose your battles and right now we’re just doing the single thing. That was the way I saw the world moving into with pop and hip-hop a few years ago. I brought it up to management and told them that this is kinda what I want to do right now until we find, again, the proper backing and maybe build up enough material. I mean, I’m sitting on about twenty-five demos. The material can be there, but we’re just waiting to see how the industry… I mean, the industry has been changing rapidly over the past five to ten years. It’s going to change even more now because of COVID-19. So we’re waiting to see how this all pans out. It’s just a guessing game honestly.
ST: Definitely. A lot of bands right now are going down that route of doing just single releases at the moment. Because you’re absolutely right, not a lot of people are buying records. A lot of artists feel like they make a record, release it, and it doesn’t really go where they want it to go. It’s a weird place that the industry is in at the moment.
JA: Yeah, it is. And that’s the thing, nobody really has the answers right now. So, everybody’s kind of at this standstill. We’re going to move ahead in the way that we know or find suiting for the band. We’re going to just continue to go, and we will adapt and adjust our sails really as we go and as we see how things evolve.
ST: I’m excited to hear everything you guys have got coming up, including those singles in the near future. Before I let you go, at the end of every single one of my interviews I ask five rapid fire questions I call the Metal From The Inside Five. You can answer them fast, if you want to think more about them you can too. Number one, if you weren’t working in the profession you’re currently in, so songwriter and vocalist for the band Ovtlier, what would you be doing?
JA: That’s one… I’ll never be able to answer that. I am completely going to be lame and say I don’t know. There’s never been a Plan B, there’s no other option. So I have zero idea of who I would be, or where I would be, or what I would be doing.
ST: What is something you wish everyone knew about you?
JA: These are great questions. You know what, I want everyone to know probably that I pride myself on being raw, and authentic, and honest. I pride myself on that. You’ll never get anything else out of me other than that.
ST: If you were stranded on a desert island and you only had three records that you could take with you to listen to, what would they be?
JA: This is a good question too! I would have Metallica’s ‘Ride The Lightning’, Slipknot’s self-titled, and Nirvana ‘Nevermind.’
ST: What is one piece of advice that you would give to your younger self?
JA: I would always say… stay the course and stay who you are. Honestly, I don’t look back and have too many regrets on things I could’ve done differently because I believe that it’s all part of a path that I’m meant to walk. I’m definitely hard on myself but I use that though. I don’t beat myself up and leave myself bloody in the street, I will beat myself up and then turn it into fuel and come out stronger. I believe everything happens for a reason. I’m a firm believer on all of that. So yeah, definitely stay the course.
ST: If you could have one super-power, what would it be?
JA: I would have to really say… maybe being able to time-hop. Like physically time-hop and experience so many different centuries and periods of life. I feel like that would be pretty cool. Like if I got to relive a great moment over and over and over. I get to experience it again and maybe appreciate it even more that second time around; appreciate it even more than I already did. ‘Cause sometimes as humans we take things for granted and that experience with somebody significant in your life. Like, my grandmother more or else. I would love to experience more of those moments with her, because she passed a couple years ago and she pretty much raised me. I wish I had more time with her. So, I would love to go back and relive better moments with her and take it in more.
ST: Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me this afternoon. I really appreciate it!
JA: I thank you for giving me the time, I really appreciate it!
Thank you so much for checking out this interview with Joey Arena, vocalist and songwriter of the band Ovtlier!