RICHMOND, VA—Award-winning transatlantic boutique music and sound company Overcoast’s studio in Richmond, VA, underwent an unplanned refresh earlier this year after an unattended faucet on an upper floor flooded the company’s basement production facilities. The company, which started in England, also recently added a remote ISDN voiceover studio in New York City.
Matthew Whitworth, an English expat and one of five partners in the business, arrived early one January morning to prepare for a session and was greeted by water in the hallway. “I opened the door and it was basically raining in the studio,” he says.
Although the damage was extensive, with three or four inches of water on the floor and much of the 2,200-sq.-ft. facility’s ceiling destroyed, most of the equipment was unscathed. Not all, though. “We had set up for the session the night before, so microphones and other equipment were out,” says Colin Beckett, another English partner. “Luckily, the really important stuff—the computers—was saved.”
Beckett started the Overcoast ball rolling in London about five years ago with his friend Chris Brooke, who runs the UK operation. “Chris knew Matthew over here, and Matt knew someone, and he knew someone. We started talking about what we were doing and said, let’s start a business, shall we?”
Although the group of musicians and freelance composers had no business experience, Travis Tucker, Overcoast’s Richmond-based client services director, was already writing music for commercials. “He showed us the way,” says Beckett. “We started from there, just picked up the phone and hassled everyone to give us a job.”
After about 12 months of “cold calling and rejection and depression,” Beckett reports, “we finally got an opportunity to work on a big national commercial.” These days, Overcoast’s clients include top brands such as Adidas, Geico, Dove, TRESemmé, Subway and Timberland. In addition to original custom music, the company also offers sound design, VO recording, final mix, licensing and music consultation services.
As the company grew, it became increasingly difficult to juggle running the business with writing and producing music to meet the commercial world’s short deadlines. “If we’re lucky, we get four to six days. But it’s usually two to four days per track. And we’ve had some that are a nine-hour turnaround,” says Whitworth.
Overcoast has therefore developed a worldwide network of composers and is able to hand off a project between the US and UK operations and a writer in, say, Singapore. “With the time differences, we can send a brief out and receive upwards of 15 tracks back in two days,” Beckett reports. That international stable also enables the company to offer clients a broad variety of productions and styles, he says.
Following the January flood, it took Overcoast about five months to deal with the insurance, the building managers, a cleanup specialist and a general contractor before it could reopen the Richmond facility, which includes a lobby, control room, tracking room and two production suites. “We managed to salvage quite a bit of the electronic equipment, but we upgraded the furniture and cosmetics,” says Beckett.
The control room now features an Argosy Console Dual 15 Carl Tatz Edition desk (the old desk, repurposed, is now a lobby bar). The twin rack bays are filled with some old favorites, including an Aurora Audio GTC2 and a GPT8, an Avalon VT-737sp, Chameleon Labs 7802 and a Drip Electronics Opto 6LA-2A clone.
An Argosy Rack ‘N Roll houses a collection of 500 Series modules and other goodies. Mics from AKG, Charter Oak, Coles, Pearlman, Peluso, Rode, Sennheiser, Shure and Sterling Audio are available for tracking.
Pairs of Focal CMS 65 2.1, ADAM Audio A5X and Crown-powered Avantone monitors sit atop the console. “The Avantones add so much value to what we do, because every time we send tracks to clients, 95 percent of the time, they’re listening to them on a laptop,” says Whitworth.
The fourth Richmond partner, JL Hodges, is the most recent to come off the road. “We all have backgrounds playing in independent bands and bands that were signed to labels. We’ve all done a fair amount of touring,” says Hodges, who was in Richmond-based but nationally acclaimed Avers. “But it becomes pretty difficult when you’re trying to run a business and have a life outside of that business.”
Last year, Overcoast added six production rooms onto Sugar Cane Studios, an SSL 4048E-equipped facility in southwest London. More recently, the US company built out OC2, a purpose-built studio for remote ISDN work and small sessions that shares a floor at Grammy-winner Dave Darlington’s Bass Hit Studios in Lower Manhattan.
“We worked with AJ at Sweetwater for our New York studio,” says Beckett. “We bought all that gear just a day or two before the flood—so we were building two studios out at the same time. That was a bit hectic.”
Overcoast Music + Sound