Introducing...the return to York Barbican of male vocal harmony group The Overtones

AFTER their sold-out York debut last October, The Overtones are heading for another full house when they play the Barbican again on Saturday night.

Lachie Chapman, Mike Crawshaw, Darren Everest, Mark Franks and Timmy Matley are on the road in support of new album Higher, their October follow-up to the 500,000-selling Good Ol’Fashioned Love, the debut that peaked at number four last year.

Released in November 2010, it featured interpretations of doo-wop hits from yesteryear, such as Darts’ Come Back My Love and The Chords’ Sh-Boom (Life Could Be A Dream), alongside new compositions Carolyn, Gambling Man and the title track.

This time they have recorded songs with three producers: Walter Afanasieff, who has worked with Mariah Carey, Boyz II Men and Celine Dion; Trevor Horn, of The Buggles and Frankie Goes To Hollywood fame; and fashionable pop shapers Future Cut, whose client list includes Olly Murs and Lily Allen.

Once more, The Overtones have combined the old – Yorkshire classic Reet Petite, Fairground Attraction’s Perfect and The Righteous Brothers’ You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling – with new writing collaborations with Steve Booker, Electric, Phil Thornally and Jon Green.

Now they are seeing out the year with 28 British and Irish dates, having performed to 250,000 people at The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Concert and sung at a London 2012 Olympic concert in Hyde Park.

Charles Hutchinson hears how they are aiming higher and higher from Manchester member Mark Franks.

Go right back to the beginning, Mark. How did The Overtones come together?

“At first, four of us were together for four or five years, playing in pubs and clubs before Lachie joined us.

“We were all based in London at the time. I was in London dancing initially. I’d come down from Manchester to train at the Royal Ballet School for five years – from 1988 to 1993 at Richmond – and then went to LIPA [the performing arts school in Liverpool – where I started focusing on my singing.

“I then danced professionally in London and started singing at open-mic nights at West End venues and in Soho, and that’s where I met the boys. London is a very big place but the live music scene isn’t, and it was just very fortunate that we got to meet there.”

Where did you first perform as a group?

“We’ve always performed anywhere! We’ve been known to sing on the Tube before now.

“We were rehearsing once on the Tube for a gig and someone filmed it – this was before we were signed – and then a few years later it was put on YouTube, and luckily we’d all been in tune!”

What led to Australian Lachie Chapman joining the group?

“Timmy met Lachie on a promotional job, and just hearing him speaking, Timmy could tell he had this crazy deep voice!

“Lachie was an actor and singer, and once he joined us, we had a vocal range that went from Lachie’s deep bass to Darren’s falsetto, and that led us to 1950s and Sixties music.

“But as a band we have really varied tastes in music –I’m a kid of the Eighties, so I love Eighties music and I’m a fan of dance music too, though I’m also a big admirer of Fifties and Sixties music, and we’ve been lucky enough to be able to shine a light on the music of that era.”

So much so, Mark, that although your label, Warner Music Entertainment, forecast sales of only 20,000 for Good Ol’ Fashioned Love, it has sold more than half a million copies. When did you sense you were on to a winner?

“For us it was a weird word-of-mouth thing as we didn’t have a massive album launch, but then we had some small spots on daytime TV and then got on Dancing On Ice and that was the turning point for us as we ended up doing nine songs on there. The sales picked up from there and it brought a different audience to our music.”

Step forward to 2012, when the title of the new album sounds like a statement of intent for The Overtones to aim even higher...

“We’ve been lucky, because of the success of the first album, to have worked with some really prestigious producers on Higher, so naturally we’re taking a step higher with this album.

“We’d worked on the first record with Nick Southwood, who was starting out as a producer at the same time as we were starting as recording artists. We locked ourselves away in a country cottage near Market Harborough, putting duvets in the windows to get the right sound, so it was a real DIY job on a budget.

“This time we were working at Sarm Studios, Trevor Horn’s studios in Notting Hill, where they recorded the Band Aid single, and we recorded in that very studio, which is such an iconic place.”

You recorded tracks for Higher with three different producers, Walter Afanasieff, Trevor Horn and Future Cut. How did that come to fruition?

“It was Warner that suggested them, and we jumped at the chance to work with them. Warner were keen to get the right songs for us, with different producers involved, and for me they got it spot on with Trevor Horn’s wall of sound and Walter Afanasieff’s skill with vocal harmonies. He was great at arranging them for us, making sure we were spot on.

“Future Cut were the balance to the classic sound of the other producers; they’re very current and we were very keen to show our contemporary side in the new songs that are going to be the singles, like Loving The Sound, which they made really radio friendly. They work with Plan B and Olly Murs, who have that vintage quality to their modern songs.

“Hopefully we’ve managed to find a thread between the cover versions and the new songs and it’s Trevor Horn’s production that bridges that gap, as it has a really modern quality to it but it’s also steeped in the Eighties’ electronic era.”

What was the London Olympic concert you took part in this year?

“It was BT London Live, where we sang a 15 or 20-minute set and we managed to meet some of the Olympians, in particular Victoria Pendleton – and I got to hold her Gold medal!”

The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Concert must have been even more exciting for you...

“That was like a pinch yourself moment, especially as we went to Buckingham Palace afterwards. I got to meet Stevie Wonder, so that was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. He even gave me a little tickle!”

Explain yourself, Mark.

“He was trying to do my northern accent, so I tried to do an American accent, which I didn’t do at all well, but then I did it better and I got to be tickled by Stevie Wonder – and not many people can say that.”

• The Overtones play York Barbican on Saturday; doors open at 7pm. Tickets update: single seats are available online at; limited number of slightly restricted view seats are available on 0844 854 2757.