“I’m paralyzed, living your lies
I saw the devil in your eyes
You put me down, you let me die
Because you buried me, buried,
Buried me alive”
– from “Buried Me Alive” by Ovtlier, What Doesn’t Kill You
Ovtlier is a metal band based in Rochester, New York. Their debut EP What Doesn’t Kill You was released last year, and they’ve been featured in Shockwave Magazine, Alt Press, and Metal Nexus. Ovtlier has brought attention to the opioid crisis in the United States by touching on the epidemic in their lyrics and in the videos for their singles “Buried Me Alive” and “Set the World in Flames,” which can now be seen on YouTube. Lead vocalist Joey Arena recently took the time to answer our questions about his music, the new album, and the addiction epidemic.
What were your early years like?
I was an artistic, free-spirited, imaginative dreamer in Upstate New York. I did some moving around as a kid—from city to suburban schools—being raised by a single mother.
What role did music play in your childhood?
My mom raised me on many of the classics, from Springsteen and Boston to Guns N’ Roses and Michael Jackson.
What or who in your musical training had the most— and best— influence on you, as a musician, a composer, and a human being?
I picked up my first guitar at the age of nine, after being exposed to Nirvana. Like many, Kurt was my influence and my window to the music world.
Your songs often center on the theme of addiction. Has addiction touched you personally?
Personally, I haven’t struggled with addiction, but many of my family members have. I’ve lost family to it, and some are currently struggling. I buried a couple friends this year and have seen the ripple effect of being in a band with addicts.
What keeps it going?
I think big pharma is profiting more than ever, with the constant numbing of society by pushing Percocet, antidepressants, and other gateway medications. Yes, I did use the term “gateway”— exactly what they are.
In your opinion, what’s the solution to the addiction crisis?
Both doctors and patients being pre-screened and abiding to more strict of laws on what’s written and prescribed. Granted, I believe they’re all in bed together: big pharma, doctors, and some government officials. But, that’s just my opinion.
What was the most mesmerizing musical experience of your life?
Personally, writing this EP. Driving over eight hours a week to Cleveland, Ohio, and back every weekend, rain or shine, snowstorms and weather advisories, no matter the situation, just to record What Doesn’t Kill You. Sitting in a little studio, just the producer and I, writing and scrapping, fine tuning, and working our tails off to put out a product we can stand behind and be proud of.
What’s the story behind the song “Set the World in Flames?”
“Set the World in Flames” is about overcoming your demons and self-doubt. Conquering your biggest fears and doing it all by yourself. Self-gratification for all you may sacrifice to live a better life.
Is it hard for you to watch this video now?
It still delivers the same chill when watching it. It’s sad but it’s the harsh reality.
What do you like best about What Doesn’t Kill You, so far?
I feel that I delivered a true burst of raw emotion when writing it. I felt relieved and almost weightless, in a way. I took a lot of inner anger and frustration and put it into the music. I shed many layers of myself that needed to go.
What other social issues do you hope to touch on in your music?
Our next music video will dive into bullying, depression, and the things that go unnoticed in our schools and cyber networks. Also looking to touch base on being the product of a broken home, having an abusive (step) parent, and the reality that many, if not all, don’t come from the “perfect” upbringing, and we can choose to rise above it or let our demons swallow us whole.
What conditions do you require in your life in order to go on creating?
Air in my lungs, music in my soul, and spirituality in my life.
What do you feed your muse? Are there any books, films, or albums that have deeply influenced your development as an artist?
I’m a huge movie buff, but Ovtlier (outlier) so far, stems from personal life experiences.
If you had an artistic mission statement, what would it be?
Stay true. Follow your dream and vision, no matter if it lives by popular belief or is not easily accepted by some. Listen to your mind, body, and soul, and do right by yourself.
What do you plan to do once the EP is released?
A lot of touring. Currently in the studio and will continue to write and put out as much content as possible.
Do you have anything else to add?
Thank-you to anyone who took a chance on us. Thank-you to the individual reading this, and thank-you, The Voice Magazine, for the awesome questions and opportunity!