Band: Strand of Oaks
Date: Sunday, May 21, 2:45 p.m.
Venue: Mermaid Stage
When he first started the band Strand of Oaks, frontman/guitarist Timothy Showalter filled his first two albums with sounds critics associated with folk rock or Americana. The advent of his third effort, “Dark Shores,” heralded a delicate artistic evolution for the songwriter, as rock began to dominate Showalter’s repertoire. His 2015 release “HEAL” completed this rock ‘n’ roll transformation.
Strand of Oaks’ latest effort, “Hard Love,” continues Showalter’s immersion into rock. However, critics have yet to remove the folk and Americana labels from his music. While he enjoys Americana rock bands such as Uncle Tupelo and Sun Volt, Showalter wonders when the music industry is going to let him be a full-fledged member of the rock community.
“We’re here doing these full-on metal shreds on some days,” Showalter explained. “I’m like, ‘I don’t think that this is very Americana anymore’ when we do this 25-minute prog jam. People are looking for the path of least resistance. If it says ‘folk’ or ‘Americana’ and I have a beard, people are like, ‘Oh! That’s what this guy is!’”
Even though his musical focus may have shifted, Showalter still continues to line his rock arrangements with perceptive lyrical content. His latest single, “Radio Kids,” should provide a modern-day anthem for members of Generation X and the era of the cassette. While modern technology allows the public to snatch singles effortlessly from online sources, “Radio Kids” is a nostalgic trip into the ‘80s and ‘90s, when millions of teenagers held vigils by the stereo, waiting for that desired song to hit the airwaves in an effort to capture one beloved song. A guitar riff served as the catalyst for this musical trip into the past.
“[The song] sounded like the late ‘80s and early ‘90s when I was doing the same thing that you were talking about,” Showalter said. “It came real quick, thinking about staying up late and having that tape. You had the big cassette tape that maybe had one record, and then you would change it over again and again until it was warped. I thought about that memory, and it felt right with the way the music was going.”
The track is emphasized by one of the mediums chosen for “Hard Love.” As Showalter began to receive mock-ups of the album from his label, Dead Oceans, they surprised him with a cover art layout for the cassette version of “Hard Love.” Showalter says he was so “out of the loop” he didn’t realize cassettes were an option for a contemporary music release. Needless to say, he was pleasantly surprised.
“When they whipped it up and sent me a copy of the cassette, I put it on my cassette player and it sounded better than the CD, and just as good as the vinyl,” Showalter said. “I couldn’t believe it. I’m always going to put things on cassette now.”
According to Showalter, Strand of Oaks’ music thrives in a festival environment. He says the tracks on “Hard Love” become “really good and bigger” in this setting. Strand of Oaks will give Hangout Fest a dose of “straightforward rock ‘n’ roll” with a powerful delivery.
“Just the way that the songs are arranged or put together, it lends itself to being outside or in a theater,” Showalter said. “We love big stages and running around and having a good time.”