Timothy Showalter’s Strand of Oaks returns to Columbus on Thursday (8/2), this time opening for The Tallest Man on Earth at the Wexner Center. Showalter is one of my favorite musicians and always a fun interview, so I had to ask him a few questions about the direction of his just-released Dark Shores. Gone are the walls of synth of Pope Killdragon, replaced instead by reverb-less vocals and John Vanderslice-approved acoustic arrangements.
You can find an abbreviated form of this interview in The Other Paper this week, but here’s the full email exchange that Tim and I had over the past couple weeks.
Was John Vanderslice someone you had in mind when you were writing these songs, and how much did his aesthetic and input influence the sound of Dark Shores?
Actually the record was started twice. I went back to my friend Ben (Vehorn)’s studio in Akron last October. I had wanted to do this giant synth follow up to Pope Killdragon, and Ben was the perfect person for that. So we recorded about half the record, and it kept growing more epic. I hadn’t finalized lyrics yet so they we’re basically instrumentals. When the lyrics were done I quickly realized that this record was not going to be what I had initially planned. The lyrics became incredibly real to me and the fantasy element didn’t fit anymore.
Right around that time, I was in San Francisco and visited John (Vanderslice) at Tiny Telephone. We clicked immediately and began planning the record. John was a producer in every sense of the word. I trusted his decisions and what he saw in the songs. Our goal with the record was to finally capture my singing right. There’s always been this disconnect with how I sing live and how it’s recorded. John wanted the voice to rise above everything else. Continue reading →
Strand of Oaks is Timothy Showalter, and in 2010 he released my favorite album of that year, Pope Killdragon. You can now download it, along with debut Leave Ruin, for free at Strand of Oaks’ Bandcamp.
Another freebie, “Maureen’s,” is the first taste of Showalter’s coming album, Dark Shores. It’s more guitar-based than I anticipated, especially after hearing the synth-drenched Shaking Through collaboration “Spacestations,” but it’s no less affecting, and I’m eagerly anticipating the rest of the new record.
Strand of Oaks aka Timothy Showalter recorded a new song with the folks at Shaking Through in Philadelphia. It’s a simple song with a big sound, building on the wall of synths Showalter was developing on Pope Killdragon. In fact, there’s no guitar whatsoever on “Spacestations,” which features Shaking Through’s guest curator Chris Ward (Pattern is Movement) on drums and Eliza Jones (Buried Bed) on vocals and keys.
Shaking Through is a partnership of Weathervane Music and WXPN. Here’s the premise:
Shaking Through is a documentary series about bringing a song to life. Each year we give 10 of the most exciting young minds in music a challenge: One Song in two days. From first take to final mix. No extensions. No safety net. We bring in the best filmmakers around so we can share the band’s experience with you. We want tell you about the stories behind the songs, the techniques we used to produce it, and help you witness the sacred places where artists bare their souls. Every song, every take.
In an industry that leaves young acts to fend for themselves, Shaking Through can be a game changer. For these select artists, it is often their first experience in a real studio and in front of a camera. We’ve seen remarkable growth in the brief 48 hours we’re with them. The kind that can set these artists on a path to remarkable careers. It’s already started to happen…
I’m embedding the mini documentary above, but you should really head over to the full Strand of Oaks session on Shaking Through — which includes a free download of “Spacestations” — to get the full web-doc experience, including an acoustic version of the song on the banks of the Wissahickon (my old stomping grounds). The videos are top-notch, and the layout is artful and user-friendly. Give it a look.
Here’s Strand of Oaks’ Timothy Showalter with Chris Ward of Pattern is Movement playing “Sterling” in the back of a Philadelphia cab. The banjo plucks are a far cry from the layered album version and Showalter’s solo performances with a giant array of guitar pedals. The song still holds up.
Note: A shortened version of this interview appears in this week’s Other Paper. Pick it up for free at newsstands or visit TheOtherPaper.com.
Strand of Oaks put out my favorite album of 2010, Pope Killdragon. The group’s second full-length, it’s staggeringly beautiful and more than a little bizarre. The band is essentially the solo project of Philadelphia’s Timothy Showalter, who will play the support slot for Joe Pug at the Rumba Café on Tuesday (along with local act Dolfish). Reached on the road recently via email, Showalter answered questions about how the album’s songs–which touch on subjects like Dan Aykroyd and a 12-foot giant–came into being. He also talked about his decision to include “Giant’s Despair,” an instrumental doom-metal track, on the album.
How did you end up writing a song from the perspective of Dan Aykroyd about the death of John Belushi? It’s not typical folk-song fodder.
Actually, a friend of mine from Scranton, Pa., was putting together a Dan Aykroyd compilation (for some unknown reason) and asked me to contribute. Like all things Strand of Oaks, I took a funny idea and somehow made it into something really sad. I was staying up late thinking about Dan and suddenly began to sympathize with how he must have felt after losing John Belushi. Continue reading →
HearYa has been filming some pretty good live sessions recently, and this one by Strand of Oaks is one of my favorites. Check out the rest of the session and mp3s (or zip of all the songs) over at HearYa.
Also: Strand of Oaks will be in Columbus with Joe Pug and Dolfish at Rumba Cafe on April 26. AND–just announced–Damien Jurado will be at the Treehouse on May 22. We’ll be posting a DonewaitingTV session with Mr. Jurado shortly.
If 2009 was the year of Larry Jon Wilson, 2010 was the year of Bill Fox and the Gibson Bros. I think I listened to Bill Fox’s two reissued albums — Shelter from the Smoke and Transit Byzantium — more than anything else. (Shelter got a deluxe vinyl reissue, and Scat promises a similar treatment for Transit in 2011.) Go get ‘em. And working on a story about the Gibson Bros. reunion show back in July occupied my brainspace and held my interest for months. I don’t know if CDR has any copies of the Build a Raft reissue left, but if they do, it’s required listening for any Columbus music fan or anyone with a passing interest in twisted, noisy country/blues/rock.
But in terms of new stuff, here’s what I liked this year, starting with national releases and ending with Cowtown LPs.
1. Strand of Oaks – Pope Killdragon
I didn’t immediately hit repeat when I heard this album, but once I came back to it, I never stopped. Who knew a record with songs about John Belushi (from the perspective of Dan Akroyd), a 12-foot man and JFK could be so engrossing. Devastating, too. If you think Tim Showalter is just another pretty-voiced folkie, the layers of synth and Sabbath-like riffs on “Giant’s Despair” prove otherwise. The best way to get Killdragon digitally or on vinyl is through Strand of Oaks’ Kickstarter page.
Frequent Columbus gigger and Black Swans buddy Tim Showalter aka Strand of Oaks released intimate sophomore album Pope Killdragon on emusic recently, and the more spins I give it the more it’s transfixing me. Fans of Bon Iver, Will Oldham and maybe early Neil Young should find some common ground here. Showalter is the rare singer/songwriter who can be emotive without overly emoting.
If you’re not ready to pull the trigger on Killdragon, you can download Strand of Oaks’ Live in Chicago 2008 EP for free here. It features early versions of songs that eventually landed on the new album.