Strand of Oaks

Artist Info
Tim Showalter, from Wilkes-Barre, PA has an unforgettable voice. A true soul singer, formed and informed by his Midwestern background. The embodiment of laying in the gutter, looking up at the stars. Strand of Oaks took this opportunity to record a session a little darker, noisier, and expansive than they ever had before.

INTERVIEW

February 2008

A brief description of the recording: These four songs were recorded with my friend, Gregory Gover, in Kingston, Pennsylvania. It was about 100 degrees in the room, and we decided to turn off the ceiling fan (our sole source of heat-relief) because of noise issues. We both sweated profusely, but didn't care. Greg was kind enough to take time away from his Gr. Glacier work to fiddle around with Oaks songs. Tom Asselin also assisted in computer wizardry.

 

(tss) It seems like there's a symbiotic relationship between Strand of Oaks and Lewis &: Clarke. Can you further illuminate the dynamic between the two bands?
(Timothy Showalter) Lou is a very good friend and someone that I can learn from. We both have contributed to each other's projects and Lou has really helped out with my record. We are also on the same collective record label. It works well because there are many similarities between the bands, but we approach songwriting very differently. It's important for me to earnestly support my friends' music, regardless of affiliation, and as far as Lewis & Clarke goes, I'm fairly certain I was a fan before I was a friend.
How does Pennsylvania color or effect your creativity?
Inspiration is a very elusive thing for me. I do think my move to Wilkes-Barre (from Indiana) really changed things. I had a chance to start over and through the course of a few circumstances, went into a bit of an exile. The anonymity helped me progress without any real baggage or preconceived ideas. So in short, I suppose the changes I experienced as an individual when I moved to Pennsylvania influenced me more than the area itself.
Does your day job have any impact on your music?
I think being a teacher has made me a much more focused musician. I'm more productive. Playing music has become very important because my days can get stressful and it helps to calm the nerves. I also drive the school bus and that affords me the time to listen to old tapes. I got a chain wallet from one of my students as Chanukah present. I think that gave me the little boost I needed to rock harder.
What's the Pope Killdragon story all about? Where does all the religious imagery in your songs come from?
I was in a pretty rough mental state when Pope John II died. His death moved me, and I became a little obsessive over it. So I decided (at about 3 am) to write a musical (Pope Killdragon the Kick-Ass) about his life. It was intended to be funny (hence the name) but it quickly became something serious. I imagined a boy who lost his mother at a young age and then became infatuated with religion as a result. I began to relate to this character. When my mind gets bad, I long for pure things. So while the character of Killdragon was getting fixated on the Virgin Mary, I believe that my own thoughts were manifested. I can't speak for others, but I feel that the purity of religious symbols brings me more comfort than the intangible notion of "spirituality". I think that the character of Killdragon provided an outlet for some of these thoughts.
What do you think makes for a great performance? Tell me about an exceptional Oaks show. What other performers have you seen lately that have inspired you?
I have found some trouble lately seeing live music. It's different when you're younger and everything is amazing. I remember when the chance to see anything was great. Now I just need a bit more. I no longer gravitate towards any particular kind of music or performer. Just last night, I met a kid outside a Turkey Hill (gas station) at about one in the morning. He was sitting on the corner restringing his Cort Stratocaster with another guitar just waiting to be shredded. He proudly displayed the "tribal" stickers on his axe. He was absolutely ready to rock anyone that was willing to listen right there on the street corner. Unfortunately, I didn't get to hear his stuff because he was waiting for his buddy to play. I then explained to my friend Thomas that we had just witnessed one of the most pure rock moments. It doesn't matter that I didn't see him perform. Just knowing that he was there means so much more to me than ninety percent of the music I hear.

The best show Strand of Oaks has done was in Norwich, England. It was hands down the greatest group of people we've had the privilege to play for. When you can play in front of an amazing audience, whether its 10 people or 100 people, it changes everything. When you're given attention instead of asking for it, your whole soul just lights up. We were so humbled by the people that we met and how much of a role they played in making that such a great show.

Probably the best performer I've seen in the past year is Brother JT. My friend Dan McKinney is his former organ player with the Original Sins and he got me really interested in JT. His show is flawless (even with the flaws). After I saw him, I felt like a little boy who had just watched a MAN perform. I thought to myself: "That's how I want to play when I grow up".

Strand of Oaks has been around for several years, and has toured internationally, yet you have only officially released one song on a split seven-inch record. Why has this debut album been so long coming?
I think it has a lot to do with me not having any close or frequent access to recording equipment. Killdragon was on a dictation recorder, but that's as close as I've ever gotten to home recording. I think our new record could have been recorded 10 different ways. I'm so thankful for the countless talks with friends that have encouraged me to be patient. Some of the songs are 5 years old, and others were written shortly before the record was started. Since this is my first "real" record, I wanted to release it without any doubts or hesitation. I almost have everything I need to start the next recording immediately. I have been persuaded to buy some personal recording equipment. Who knows, this may speed up the process or drastically slow it down. It may be a "Pandora's Box" scenario in which I end up with poorly executed Prog album.
Leave Ruin. Care to explain?
Well, as I mentioned earlier, it's the name of the new Strand of Oaks record. I think it would also be the title of an autobiography, if I had written one. The title is both statement and command. This record documents the struggle between falling victim to rough times and gathering the strength to move past it.
Tell me about La Soc.
La Societe Expeditionare is the collectively run label that I belong to. It started as a way to release the Dragon Turtle/Strand of Oaks split seven-inch last summer. Since then, it has really grown into something wonderful. After the seven-inch, Lewis & Clarke released a live 12 inch vinyl as well as their full length Blasts of Holy Birth. In the fall, we will release the upcoming Black Swans record. Along with the Oaks' record, next year we will release the first Moon and Moon record, Dragon Turtle's full length, and Ideath's record. The vast musical spectrum that these bands encompass just boggles my mind. We are doing everything the way we want to and its something we take great pride in. The music is just one aspect of the collective. La Soc also means babysitting, taking hikes, long dinners at the Rogai's, phone conversations that remind of my grandma's bridge circle chats, and so many other things.
How do you write your songs? The structures can be rather unusual. Some seem like narratives and some seem almost stream-of-consciousness. Very few, if any are verse-chorus-verse.
It took me a very long time to realize I was writing "real" songs. This was a result of never really "learning" to write songs. Every time I try to sit down and write a traditional song, I never finish it. Most of my songs are written all at once, in one sitting. They all eventually change, but that's how they begin. I believe most of the lyrics are about me, but the narratives usually come out when I'm feeling a bit crazy. I typically write in the first person because they're all personal songs and I tend to lose feeling if I try write cryptically.
Who are your favorite singers?
  • Otis Redding
  • Julie Doiran
  • Jeremy Enigk (I know that Metrano loves this choice!)
  • Skip Spence
  • Exuma
  • Paula Showalter
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