As freshmen, long before they teamed as the ethereal folktronica duo Overcoats in their senior year at Wesleyan University in Connecticut, Hana Elion, who was studying religion and studio art, and politics-Middle East history major JJ Mitchell sensed something special about each other. “We actually met on one of the first days of college, in an introductory anthropology class,” recalls Elion, chuckling. “JJ was wearing a headband, and I was also wearing a headband. And I just looked at her and felt that we were like-minded people.” Coincidently, they lived in the same dorm. They display almost sisterly harmonies on their debut disc “Young,” with gorgeous confessional duets “23” and “Siren,” and a finger-popping “The Fog.”
What was your first conversation about?
Hana Elion: I don’t know. But very early on, we discovered that we both liked to sing. And I remember finding all the locations on campus that had a good echo and then singing various songs in there. We’re on a constant hunt for good acoustics; it’s a tradition of ours.
JJ Mitchell: We didn’t actually start writing music together until our senior year, so it took four years of creating a foundation of friendship before we could actually share our deepest feelings with each other. But we sang a lot in those four years, and we had the same favorite song — “You Know I’m No Good” by Amy Winehouse — and we realized that we both knew all the Dixie Chicks’ discography, so we would sing that in these echoey bathrooms.
Then you graduated and immediately moved to Dublin?
Mitchell: Neither of us had applied for any jobs in our senior year, and slowly, we just kept realizing that we were creating something together that was really special. Then Hana turned to me one day and said, “I want to move to Dublin, Ireland.” And I said, “Cool! I’m coming along!” And off we went. And we lived in a single room with two twin beds. But we didn’t do a great job of it. We blew through all of our savings and had to come back to New York three months later.
But Ireland solidified your sound, right?
Elion: We did a lot of music writing during the day, and then in the evening we would either go see — or play — live music in bars. We saw a lot of folk music, a lot of storytelling. And there was a lot of electronic music in Dublin, too, so we were getting this intense folk influence and this really intense electronic influence, simultaneously. And that sparked inspiration as to how we could bring those two genres together. We really developed our aesthetic while we were away.
IF YOU GO
Where: Swedish American Hall, 2174 Market St., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. June 10
Tickets: $12 to $14
Contact: (415) 431-7578, www.ticketfly.com