Posted on November 18th, 2021

[as seen on The FADER]

Steve Hartlett is going to Disney World. The singer-songwriter best known as the driving force behind Ovlov, Hartlett will not celebrate the release of the fuzz rock band’s third album Buds in a beer-stained basement with dedicated fans. Instead, he’ll be hanging out with Goofy, Elsa, and other beloved trademarks. We spoke over two days — once before he landed in Florida, once after — and on the second afternoon I could hear a decompression in his voice, as if he could taste the $20 hot dog in his near future.

It’s an unexpected itinerary, but Hartlett and Ovlov are nothing if not defiant. Ovlov has outlasted sonic trends to become one of indie rock’s most fervently adored groups with devotees far beyond the musicians entrenched in the Connecticut scene they sprung out of. The group formed in 2009, and their debut album Am, released in 2013, began their ascent to cult rock stardom. Hartlett tells me they were just trying to make an album that sounded like Blonder Tongue Audio Baton by Swirlies, but Ovlov’s post-shoegaze sound is warmer, its big blown-out guitars feeling like a warm embrace from a close friend even when Hartlett sings about gut-wrenching heartbreak and loss.

Despite the growing hype, Ovlov wasn’t easy to maintain. The band would play its last show before the pandemic in July 2019 in support of their second album Tru, with a planned extended hiatus to follow. However, lockdown and a series of personal struggles gave Hartlett new insight into what makes Ovlov special. “It forced me to think about, what am I doing with my life?” he says of the pandemic. “What is it I'm working towards and why? Even the years leading up to quarantine this was in the back of my mind, but [I was] never really forced to actually think about it.”

To create Buds, Hartlett brought in his brothers Jon and Theo on bass and drums, guitarist Morgan Luzzi, and the band’s longtime producer Michael John Thomas III. The new music is more consciously pop-oriented, less snaky than Tru and more polished than Am. This is a positive development: as a singer-songwriter, Hartlett has a knack for catchiness, and it’s edifying to hear him finally dive in. This new direction is something Hartlett has been eager to try for a long time, and so he dedicated himself to the writing and recording process like never before. “If we were going to [make another album],” Hartlett says, “we were going to go into it in many different ways from the previous two as far as our efforts in recording, our efforts in songwriting, the actual takes we get, just everything we wanted to try just a little bit harder.”

Read the full interview HERE.

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