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When Charles “Chase” Keen and Brett Welch first crossed paths years ago, they couldn’t have had any inkling that down the road they’d be in a band making waves in the Fort Wayne scene and beyond. At the time, the two were studying in the music school at Indiana State University in Terre Haute. Welch would only stay a year before transferring to another program in Fort Wayne. Keen would stay another couple of years. However, Keen is a Fort Wayne native who, upon leaving ISU, decided to move back to his hometown where he and Welch decided to form a band. They took their time looking for the right people to fill out the lineup. Eventually lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist Keen and lead guitarist Welch found bassist Blake Jones and drummer Ben Schnitz and OLC (which stands for Overseas Love Crisis) was born. The four began practicing together as a unit in the latter part of 2015, with their first live gigs in November of that year. They’ve progressed quickly ever since.
Judging by the opening strains of “Wanna Be,” the first track on their debut EP Letters Lost (released independently last October) it would be easy to tag OLC as a guitar-based rock/pop punk band in the vein of Green Day or even Jimmy Eat World. The band quickly confounds expectations, though, shifting mood and tempo throughout the track. The song’s lyrics are intriguing: while the title “Wanna Be” suggests people who want to be something they’re not, it’s really a statement of romantic intent, once again defying expectations. It seems there’s more going on here than what’s apparent at first blush.
“I just like to have music that has a message behind it, no matter what you’re playing,” says Keen. “If you happen to be feeling a little punk rock and stuff, the lyrics should still be good; they don’t have to be cheesy and superficial just because it’s a light and upbeat song. I like to take [lyrics] seriously and make sure our message is getting across.”
The rest of the EP shifts style and mood from track to track quickly and with ease. Along with the fast and catchy “Wanna Be,” there’s a tortured ballad (“Dangerous”) and a blues-rock romp (“Neon Churches”). OLC are not a band to get stuck in one place for too long.
“Diverse, I think, is a really big word for us,” says Keen. “We’re a lot of fun; we play a lot of different kinds of music. We break out instrumental stuff, we’ll play punk rock, we’ll play ballads, we’ll play blues; things like that definitely make us fun to check out.”
Their live performances confirm the impression that they can be hard to pin down. Their music available online may be limited to the scant five songs on their EP, but their repertoire, be they covers or originals, is much broader. When playing live they focus on their originals, but for longer sets they’ll tend to throw in a few more covers than they might otherwise. But even when playing covers, OLC don’t rest on their laurels and deliver a carbon copy of the original. Their
take on Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues,” for example, ditching the original’s stylistic leanings almost entirely.
“Instead of it being the kind of rockabilly country acoustic that everyone always hears, we play the first half of it kind of funky … and we kind of kick it up in the second half and it’s kind of a speed punk hard rock song,” says Keen. “And we have a little bit of acting we do on stage while we’re playing too. I kill my guitar player on stage, and the solo brings him back to life and the speed punk brings him back to life.”
OLC are shifting gears yet again for their next recorded project. Expected out in the coming months, there new release will be an acoustic project.
As OLC continue to expand their musical boundaries, so are they expanding their geographic boundaries. Having recently finished a short jaunt to northwest Indiana, where Welch hails from originally, they’ve had a taste of what touring is like and they plan to ramp up their out-of-town gigs
“In the next few months here, we’re booking shows in Fort Wayne with bands from [places] like New Jersey and Illinois,” says Keen. “Over the summer, we are looking to hit Michigan and Ohio as well. In the next six to eight months, we’re going to be all over the tri-state area.”