“It’s been one helluva year,” says The Overtones singer Darren Everest as he recounts the group’s experiences in 2018.
Everest is of course referring to the death of his bandmate Timmy Matley, an ebullient Irishman who died in April, aged 36, after falling from a balcony in East London.
In the immediate aftermath of Matley’s death – later ruled by a coroner to be a drug-related accident – Everest and bandmates Mark Franks, Lachie Chapman and Mike Crawshaw “hid under a rock” while trying to come to terms with their grief.
The vocal harmony group, best known for their doo-wop inspired covers and dapper suits, had always been much more than mere professional colleagues. Early in their career they worked together as painters and decorators by day and gigged at night. After much hard graft the tight-knit bunch were scouted while on a job in Oxford Street and signed to Warner Bros in 2010. Five albums and much success followed until 2016 when Matley was diagnosed with skin cancer. He appeared to be on the road back to good health when he died.
When Everest, Franks, Chapman and Crawshaw got together following Matley’s death, talk eventually turned to the future. What next for The Overtones? Was it right to go on without Matley, a central figure who often sang lead vocals? The boys contemplated calling it a day but, says Everest, “that just didn’t feel right”.
With their summer tour cancelled, they headed back to the studio to work with producer Julian Hinton and engineer Simon Bloor, a move that kickstarted the healing process.
“There was something about being together, but not having to talk about what had happened every day, that helped,” Everest says. “It was a relief to just be singing. We were all really missing him. We poured our hearts and souls into the album.”
The result is The Overtones, a collection of covers and originals all carefully chosen to pay tribute to Matley, whose vocals feature on Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow (recorded before his death).
The Overtones are currently on tour promoting the album and have been overwhelmed by the support they’ve received from fans.
“Many of them have thanked us for giving them a chance to celebrate Timmy as well. When we sing songs like Goodbye by the Spice Girls it’s really emotional for them – and us. It’s impossible to sing the lyrics and not think about Timmy.
“It sounds like a cliché, but as a group we’ve really pulled together. No one knows what it feels like to go through what we’ve been through apart from the four of us.”