“It feels like you’re in a zoo — you can’t go full animal, you know?” Overall said. “I was feeling like, within this machine and within this whole organism, I can see within myself, I’m doing everything I can to handle it, and I can barely handle it. So think about somebody who’s not doing anything to handle it. How are they going to get through all this?”
Overall’s childhood in Seattle was filled with music and life lessons from his free-spirited parents. (His mother worked for the local PBS station, and his father did odd jobs and stayed at home with the children.) “Everybody else had Kraft singles and Coca-Cola,” he quipped, “we had soy milk and tofu.”
He was a quick study who learned how to play drums as a young child, exploring a living room full of instruments that his father collected. There was a piano, saxophones, trumpets, clarinets, a broken violin, a four-track recorder and a beat machine that he said no one knew how to use. But Overall learned how to manipulate the electronic equipment; by fourth grade, he and his older brother, Carlos, started playing jazz songs like “Autumn Leaves” and “A Night in Tunisia.”
“I’m coming home with a lot of dollar bills and ironing them,” he remembered of their early performances. “And my dad was super hands-on with us. He would take us to the spot and set up, we’d find a corner and make bread.”
Overall grew up listening to a wide array of artists — John Coltrane and Ravi Shankar, Public Enemy and DJ Quik — which gave him a natural feel for all kinds of sounds. A turning point in his relationship to music came when he was a sophomore in high school and landed a $9 an hour job sweeping peanut shells and taking out trash at the Major League Baseball stadium in Seattle. After he and some friends were fired for smoking marijuana, he had a realization.
“Wait a minute. I’m doing jazz gigs, getting a hundred a night, 150, sometimes 200 on a good gig,” Overall remembered thinking. “So I could either level this up or I could get better at sweeping peanuts and stuff. And I haven’t had a real job since then.”