Orlando’s Overthinker is unapologetic about its emo designation. To some, the tag is a pejorative, a reminder of how far astray bands have wandered from Rites of Spring’s and other first-wave emo group’s initial template. For many others, the label, like Overthinker’s music, is an affirmation, a promise of full disclosure. Octave chords, gang vocals, and anthemic choruses combine to convey the peaks and valleys of the human experience.
Frontman and guitarist Tony Murphy says, “The genre totally has had its ups and downs and debate about what it even means, whether its Rites of Spring or American Football and all that kind of stuff. There are people that are gonna sit there and die on the hill that emo is a specific sound from a bunch of bands from the Midwest. And then in the early to mid-2000s, you had more eyeliner and black clothes emo, like My Chemical Romance and The Used. It started to become more of a fashion style than a genre. Then it started to develop some negative connotations because of that. And Hot Topic definitely didn’t help with that. But to us, I don’t think it’s such a big deal. When we say we’re a pop-punk/emo band, it’s mainly just because it’s hard to put a direct genre on us.”
Overthinker formed after the demise of Murphy’s The Year I Disappear. Numerous line-up changes had exhausted his previous band’s momentum, so he regrouped with Glen Ramirez (bass/vocals) and Jean Yepes (drums) for a hard reset. They found common ground among their record collections. “We are all really big fans of a band from New England called Transit,” says Murphy. “We also love a lot of the early-2000s pop punk and emo records like Taking Back Sunday, The Starting Line, Fall Out Boy, and Early November. We also like a lot of the newer bands out there, like Hot Mulligan, Grayscale, Free Throw, and Between You and Me.”
According to Murphy, the trio made for an easy alliance: “Glen and I split up the writing pretty evenly. Usually, one of us will come to the table with something, maybe 80% or 90% of a song with the guitar and vocals. I’m also a studio engineer. I run a recording studio called Riff City Studios, so I have the ability to make some pretty good demos of my stuff. Glenn also has a smaller home studio set up, so he’s able to do it too.
“Typically, we’ll come to the table with an idea, and we’re like, ‘Do you like this? Do you wanna elaborate on this?’ And then if we end up agreeing we like it, then we’ll sit down in the room together and tear it apart and pick apart what we like and what we don’t like and make changes.
“And we do the back-and-forth vocal thing, going back to bands that we are influenced by, like Blink 182 and Taking Back Sunday. They are well-known for their iconic back-and-forth vocal stuff. It becomes a collaborative effort. Jean, our drummer, prefers to write the drums to the guitars, of course, so once we have some stuff mapped out, maybe some little fake program drums, he’ll that and make it his own and add his own flavor to it, which is way better than we ever do with the program.”
Since then, Overthinker hasn’t flinched, releasing their 2019 self-titled debut EP, a catchy and caffeinated snapshot of a band on the verge. Tracks like “Cynical” and “High Road” demonstrate a knack for melody, drive, and arrangements. It’s punk, but it’s complicated. Now in post-pandemic aftermath, the trio has made good on their promise with a string of singles—“FOMO”, “Late Again”, and “New Stranger”—that are perfect for the playlist you’re making for your summer crush.
As one of the key figures in Orlando’s pop-punk scene, Overthinker is evidence that obituaries for guitar-driven music are premature. Murphy says, “I don’t wanna sound too full of it or anything but, especially here in Florida right now, actually all across the country, I think, ever since the pandemic there’s been a big resurgence of new bands coming out. I think when everybody was stuck inside for however long they had to be during the pandemic, they got stir-crazy. I used to work at a music store, and I remember seeing the amount of guitar sales skyrocket to the point where we couldn’t keep guitars on the shelf. Even people that maybe had a guitar, and stopped playing, they had nothing better to do, so they started making music again.
“As much as that was a real low period for everybody, a lot of great things have come from that. A lot of people have been able to find something new and cool and exciting with music. I think we’re on a good brink right now. Here in Orlando, I work at a local venue called Will’s Pub, and we’ll have shows almost every night of the week. There’s always a good turnout. People are happy to be out checking out music and a lot of the bands that are playing are all very talented. It’s a cool thing to see right now.”
Murphy understands the value of a local music scene. Early on, he discovered small venues were democratizers where anyone could have the chance to make a stand. “When I was a freshman in high school,” he says, “I finally went on my own to see the Swedish band In Flames, and I had such a good time, and then I met a bunch of people that were in my high school that I had no idea were into the same kind of music. One of them was another guitar player. We ended up hanging out and trying to start our own band. He introduced me to a local venue in Burlington [Vermont] called 242 Main. They unfortunately did close down, but they were, for a long time, the longest-running all-ages venue in America.
“They were funded by the city. They didn’t serve alcohol, so shows were all-ages. I remember going to my first show there to see one of our friend’s bands. There were about 20 to 50 people in the room, and some kids that I knew just jumped up on stage and started playing their hearts out. I was like, ‘Wow! That is something I wanna do. That’s so cool.’”
On September 1st, Overthinker will play JBA, a show that coincides with the release of their latest single, “Brainfreeze”. Murphy says, “The show will be a little bit of a celebration like, ‘Hey, this song just came out,’ so it’s kinda cool that it worked out that way.”
The band’s set will also offer a preview of the full-length they will release next year and a respite from the pop chart’s calculated gloss. “I think what’s fun about pop-punk/emo,” Murphy says, “is that it’s very honest and fueled by real emotions. For a lot of people, especially with pop music and what’s on the radio these days, it’s almost blatantly obvious that it’s all been written by someone who’s figured out the absolute perfect science to writing a successful song. It gets popular, and yeah, it’s catchy, but there’s definitely a lot of stuff that doesn’t seem so genuine anymore.”