I was fortunate enough to grow up in Wilkes-Barre, PA during the late nineties, becoming saturated in a subculture of ‘zines, punk rock music festivals, protests, and thousands of young people doing what they loved. I credit the music scene there with influencing and educating me on the different possibilities that could compose a life of passion and creativity.
One summer while in high school, I met Tim Showalter, a kind and creative musician with sharp wit and sincere vocals. At that time, Strand of Oaks had other talented members, but it was Tim’s voice and lyrics – haunting, familiar and nostalgic that resonated with me, so much that I considered them One Of My Favorite Bands.
Strand of Oaks has changed through the years, as most things do. After touring internationally with Jason Anderson and Kimya Dawson (of the Moldy Peaches), living through transitional years, and moving to Philadelphia, the saintly and earnest music of Tim resonates just as deep. His songs will make you remember while inspiring the notions of possibilities ahead.
Strand of Oaks will be playing a show THIS THURSDAY (May 6th) in Kutztown. Details below.
Go HERE to stream songs while you read the INTERVIEW with Strand of Oaks:
What brought you to Pennsylvania?
Very complicated…Please refer to the map below.
After studying the data, I’ve determined that 90 percent of my moves are either motivated to get closer to women or get away from them.
Had you always played music? Was there an event or a meeting of other musicians from which Strand of Oaks happened?
I’ve always played music, but not very well. My lifespan as a musician is pretty long, probably since middle school. I’m pretty self-critical; I don’t consider myself even close to where I want to be ability wise.
There have been many important people that have fostered my love of music. Probably the first would be my older brother. This was the glory days of “CD Clubs”. My brother also was on a holy quest to document every song that appeared on beer commercials. Looking back I realize how awesome that was. He introduced me to Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin. Those are still two of my favorite bands. My friend Dustin showed me a synthesizer in seventh grade that ruled! Then I had two friends named Jeremiah and Andy who taught me how to play in a band.
Strand of Oaks started about four times. Our first show was in 2001 in a college basement and it wasn’t actually a show. Then the real band started in Plymouth, PA in 2004. I essentially lived with Dennis and there was a ton of instruments set up. One day Greg Gover showed up with an accordion (broken) and a bass. So we started Strand of Oaks with no songs. Then I meet my best friend Jason, this relationship eventually led to Strand of Oaks touring in the states and U.K.. After those tours I started spending a lot of time at Delaware Water Gap with Lou Rogai. Our relationship lead to the creation of my first record and the actual label that put it out.
Obviously these events all very summarized. In their own way, all of these people have helped create Strand of Oaks.
How has writing music and performing changed your life?
With the combination of a bad case of *J.R.A. (look it up) and lack of basketball skill, a teenager in Indiana needs to find something to be good at. I’m becoming quite aware that I’m an overall pretty boring person. I’m also a naturally lonely person. Being in music has totally changed both of these parts of my life. The best part is all the friends that I’ve meet. They’ve changed my life.
(*EDITORS NOTE: Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis)
Which of your songs (or which one do you want to talk about) has the deepest meaning and worth for you?
A lot of my songs are very specific. They all have some form of meaning but they’re basically memory purges. When I actually write a song about the memory, they’re emotional fire has cooled. I do have one new song called “Last to Swim”. I have a pretty good grasp on the song’s overall meaning but it’s still mysterious to me. The lack of exact point and place memory makes the song much more profound. It means something new every time I play it. I feel like specific songs stay stagnate and never move with you but this one still seems to affect me.
Where or in what situations do you find inspiration?
I’ve been asked this question before and I have no idea how to answer it. This might all lead back to me being an inherently boring person. I get inspired to take walks or read a certain book but I never seem to be specifically inspired to write a song. Really hope this happens though, I’ve got a third album to write.
Was there a favorite show you ever played? Why?
There have been SO many good shows. Instead of picking one, I’m just going to list some off the top of my head.
Wilkes-Barre, PA (’05): First time played as Jason Anderson’s Backing band
Myrtleville, Ireland (’05): We played in an old bordello for two nights straight. During the day we got to climb on the rocks of southern Ireland and play with dogs. During the night we went crazy.
Cambridge, MA (’06): My first tour with Lewis & Clarke….just a perfect show.
Bloomington, IN (’10): First show where my two brothers got to see me play.
Milwaukee, WI (’10): I played the best house show ever this March, with some of the greatest group of people I’ve ever met.
Monhegan Island, Maine (’09): On my honeymoon, I played a show in a one room school house on a cliff overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. I played longer than I ever have that night.
Boston, MA (’09): Probably the best I’ve ever felt playing a show. Jason got three encores that night too.
So many more…..I feel pretty fortunate to not have enough space to list them all.
How would your music be different if you grew up somewhere else or your past was written differently? How do your life experiences show through in your songs?
If I would have grown up in Wilkes-Barre I would have definitely written tougher songs. Also, if I would have grown up in area with an actual music scene I would have been in many more bands and played more shows. This would have lead to me being used to sharing musical responsibilities with others. As a result of not having this, I tend to start everything myself and include others later.
My songs are typically the best way for people to find out about all the crap that’s happened in my life. In my everyday conversation, I hate when things get too serious. I feel like when I do get the chance to be social I want it to be a very positive experience. So my songs provide an outlet for all the other stuff that’s happening/happened.
As a musician, is there a sort of mantra you tell yourself or something positive you try to think of when you’re feeling down or stuck with music?
I feel like the best response to any kind of writer’s block is exercise. There is nothing better for the mind in my opinion. I’m a borderline crazy person most of the time (ask my wife) and I realize that whenever I get depressed it always translates to laziness. When I convince myself to become productive that’s when I get things done. I know it sounds simple but I also believe people think way too much, especially about their own problems. Take an hour hike/walk and see if you don’t feel better. Amen
Thursday May 6th, 2010 Kutztown show:
- Starts 8:00pm
- At St. John’s UCC
- 257 West Walnut St. Kutztown, PA
- BANDS: We Have Heaven, Strand of Oaks, Dark Circles
Stay updated with Strand of Oaks via FACEBOOK: Strand of Oaks
READ a review and LISTEN to music from a live show: Daytrotter Session
RECORD LABEL and album info: La Societe Expeditionnaire