Growing up in rural South Wales, a place where nothing was really going on, where you had to make your own fun, Tom and Ed Russell were driven towards music. The brothers are from a musical family and Tom played a variety of instruments as a teenager until he discovered electronic music, turntables and sampling. He fell in love with machines.
Tom bought a soundsystem and started putting on parties in the back room of a local pub called The Queen’s Head where they’d let him bring in smoke machines and UV. Not long afterwards, he started taking generators to forests and disused quarries, hosting small free parties in the Welsh wilderness. It was a liberating time, insular in a way that would prove influential, a crew of people cut off from major cities that were into trance, hard house and techno, uninhibited by any preconceptions of what’s “cool”.
His younger brother Ed was watching with keen interest and with Tom’s help he bought his own set of turntables aged 10, inspired by the sounds that he could hear coming out of his older brother’s bedroom. Soon, he was stealing records from Tom’s room when he was out, recording his own mixtapes onto cassette, making the artwork on MS Paint and selling them at school.
During a trip to the pub, a 14-year-old Ed sat Tom down for hours and grilled him on everything about music production – from the principles of MIDI to after effects. Tom bought him a copy of the production software Reason for his next birthday, understanding the talent and appetite for learning that his younger brother clearly had. Emboldened by the ability to work alone and without the hassle of listening to drummers banging kits while guitarists tuned up, Ed left the band he was in. By the time he was 16 the brothers were best friends, constantly sharing new music, comparing pieces of kit and discussing different production techniques. Although they didn’t know it at the time, Overmono was born.
They initially forged separate paths in music – Tom making techno and Ed making dubstep tracks. Both had gradually become frustrated with the limitations of their solo careers, so decided to pack up some gear, hire a cottage in Wales and make tunes together, with no concerns about what the end result might be. The music poured out of them and the experience was so freeing that they knew they had to pursue the partnership, naming themselves after Overmonnow, a suburb of Monmouth. The brothers and best friends had found each other again, years later.
They started dropping music through their own label Poly Kicks, and in 2020 they released a run of EPs on XL over a period of two years, which initially cemented Overmono’s position as fiercely innovative underground producers before the 2021 single “So U Kno” – awarded Track Of The Year by Resident Advisor – established them as the UK’s most exciting electronic artists. The singles released with their friend and British dance music pioneer Joy Orbison brought out the best sides of both acts, tunes that feel equally at home in a 200 cap club or a main stage at Glastonbury.
Their debut album Good Lies is a comprehensive realisation of the sound they’ve been working towards over the past few years. It’s a record that’s unmistakably them, 12 songs as euphoric as they are melancholic that draw influence from American rap records, yet always filtered through the prism of the UK scenes that they grew up in. Vocal samples that were once directly about love are chopped into something where the feeling becomes more opaque, a whirlwind of emotions that merge into each other, songs that can be interpreted differently depending on the listener’s mood that day. “Feelings Plain” and “Walk Thru Water” wouldn’t be out of place on a SZA or 070 Shake record, while the soaring synth pads and garage bassline on title track “Good Lies” define it as a potentially classic piece of modern British club music. Without ever compromising, Overmono have had support from brands such as Burberry, Prada and Stone Island and have received enthusiastic acclaim from Thom Yorke, whose band Radiohead are also a major influence on the brothers.
Good Lies is an album that’s never retro but carries the emotional weight of formative teenage years finding out who you are next to a soundsystem in the middle of nowhere – the childlike, forlorn vocals sitting above tense, heavy drums creates an atmosphere that sounds like coming of age, that sounds like memories, that sounds like Overmono. Some of the vocal samples are recognisable – both Tirzah and Slowthai’s voices make an appearance – others are the result of trawling Bandcamp for hours.
The duo don’t have defined creative roles, although Tom gravitates more towards melody and chord progressions, while Ed leans more into drums and rhythm. It’s in their stunning live show, built with longtime collaborator Rollo Jackson, that they separate their responsibilities more rigidly. Overmono have toured extensively over the past two years and Good Lies was mostly made on the road, in hotel rooms after shows or on flights. The demos were brought back to their respective home studios and it was across these locations that they shut themselves off from the outside world, only sharing their music with each other.
They plan to continue expanding the scope of their live show, which they regard as the ultimate creative expression of their art, a self-made world in which the music lives, a show that saw them awarded “Best Live Act” at the DJ Mag Best of British Awards. The release of Good Lies will position them in the history of British electronic music alongside acts such as Four Tet, The Chemical Brothers and Burial. It’s a record that both sounds like now and glows with the embers of an adolescence spent immersed in music, finding freedom in machines, finding themselves through brotherhood.