Anyone following the trajectory of Strand of Oaks can tell you no two records sound the same. The latest, Hard Love, is the hedonistic and celebratory yang to HEAL’s put-your-life-back-together yin. Tim Showalter spoke with OpenEars in advance of his April 9th show at The EARL (Purchase Tickets HERE) in Atlanta about making Hard Love, nostalgia for the 90s, the south, and the one time he met Jason Molina.
OE: HEAL generated so much interest and buzz, did you approach making the new record in a different way considering how much larger your captive audience had grown?
TS: Good question, this was the first time anyone was really expecting an album. HEAL just kind of came out of nowhere, with Hard Love I wanted to change it up and not repeat myself. I started collaborating…I didn’t want to make another record that was just me by myself trapped in some studio. I brought some friends in and had a little more fun. I think that’s how records should be made; you should have fun doing them.
OE: I’ve always felt nostalgic when I listen to your music. You regularly reference pop and alternative culture during a time before the internet. What’s your relationship like with that time and those memories and the music from your adolescence?
TS: I look back on those times, being a kid in the 90s, those things were really special. You might have had enough pocket change to get a CD in a month. Sometimes you would buy a really crappy record, and sometimes you would get Pearl Jam. Without access to everything, perhaps things were a bit more special. I should probably have a little more intentionality with my writing, but I just sort of write what I feel. I wrote “Radio Kids” because I remembered hearing that Modern Lovers song, that brought a lot of light into what was lot of dark teenage years.
OE: Who was playing Jonathan Richman on the radio in Goshen Indiana?
TS: The local Goshen College radio station, it was a midnight radio slot, probably just two stoners in the mid-nineties playing whatever the hell they wanted. That’s where I heard the Replacements the first time, a lot of weird electronic music, and what I did was exactly what the song says; I would sit there by my shitty boom box and tape it. That’s how I made mix tapes…a lot of times it would just be half of a song.
OE: How is the music scene in Philly? Has that been a good home base for you?
TS: I love living in Philadelphia because that’s where my wife and my cats are. That’s my home base, but as far as the scene goes, I’m more connected to the Swedish psychedelic scene than my own city simply because when I’m home from tour I don’t’ go out. My whole life is being on whatever cool street is in whatever town and going to whatever bar and eating their food. When I’m in Philadelphia I’m going to go to the grocery store, enjoy myself with my family in my apartment.
OE: What are you listening to on the road?
TS: I’m listening to this band Khruangbin, it’s like psychedelic surf rock music, mostly instrumental. It’s amazing. When we were driving near New Orleans I was feeling that swamp vibe…deep dub music like Kingston dub from the 70s…I was feeling pretty elevated by that music. And honestly, I’ve been listening to a bunch of Phish bootlegs. I’m kind of a new fan and have been discovering the band slowly on the road and have found a lot of joy listening to a 30 minute jam, it calms my head down a lot.
OE: What’s the last best concert you attended?
OE: I saw Elephant Micah, also from Indiana, open for Mount Moriah recently.
TS: I know Joe (O’Connell) very well. He is like our John Prine. Absolutely underrated, he has made the best records you’ll ever hear. The only time I ever met Jason Molina was at an Elephant Micah show. I was playing a show with Elephant Micah in Bloomington, Jason and Joe were friends. I remember Jason came up to me afterwards, I was nervous as hell. The only thing he said to me was “I liked the second song you played” and I still can’t remember what the second song was. Joe is an absolute legend.
OE: You told SPIN earlier this year that you want to do a double album next…with your tour schedule, how do you make time to write and record?
TS: I’m purposely not writing, I know that sounds weird for an artist, but all I want to do right now is make my live show better. I want my next album to be written around rhythm and jams, I want the next record to be much more organic.
OE: I’m excited to see you at the EARL again on Sunday. As a Midwestern/Philly transplant what’s your relationship been like with the south?
TS: Whenever we head south there’s a noticeable difference in liveliness. There’s a kindness that I really like. My grandma is from North Carolina, and a lot of my family has southern roots. One of my favorite things though; there’s a southern psychedelic vibe that I’m always attracted to…when people from the south are connected with acid culture. Some of my favorite bands are from the south: Pallbearer, Red Fang, I’m buddies with John from Baroness. Playing in Atlanta…that city always brings it. I love finishing the show and meeting everybody, people shake hands and stare each other in the eyes. It’s not like being in some places where it’s about the fashion or some bullshit; it’s always a good experience.
/- Interview by Matt Jarrard.
– Catch Strand of Oaks on tour now behind the new album Hard Love:
April 8 – Tallahassee, FL @ Word Of South Festival
April 9 – Atlanta, GA @ The Earl
April 10 – Durham, NC @ Motorco Music Hall
April 13 – Melbourne, VIC @ The Curtin
April 14 – Tallarook, VIC @ Boogie Festival
April 15 – Tallarook, VIC @ Boogie Festival
April 20 – Brisbane, QLD @ Black Bear Lodge
April 22 – Tanunda, SA @ Silver Raven
US Tour Dates:
May 04 – Springfield, MO @ Gillioz Theatre (w/ Jason Isbell)
May 06 – Peoria, IL @ Limelight Eventplex (w/ Jason Isbell)
May 26 – Boston, MA @ Boston Calling
May 27 – Boston, MA @ Boston Calling
May 28 – Boston, MA @ Boston Calling
July 21 – Miami Beach, FL @ The Fillmore Miami Beach at Jackie Gleason Theatre (w/ Jason Isbell)
July 22 – Saint Augustine, FL @ St. Augustine Amphitheatre (w/ Jason Isbell)
July 23 – North Charleston, SC @ North Charleston Performing Arts (w/ Jason Isbell)