• strand of oaks 10




February 8th, 2012




Strand Of Oaks - Spacestations

If you think you know Strand of Oaks, prepare to do a double take. Trading the guitar for atmospheric synths, Spacestations shows a new vision for the band.

    For the past year we've been told time and time again that the band we need to bring in is Tim Showalter's Strand of Oaks. We've heard it from people like Sharon Van Etten, Family Band, and the WXPN family, so when curator Chris Ward (Johnny Brendas, Pattern is Movement) made the suggestion, we were happy to take him up on it.

    An affable, long-haired and bearded Philadelphian-by-way-of-Indiana, Showalter came to Miner Street Recordings along with Ward and Buried Bed's Eliza Jones to record "Spacestations" over two days in the cold week between between Christmas and the New Year.

    If you think you know Strand of Oaks, prepare to do a double take. "Spacestations" features none of the guitar work that drives Showalter's past releases. The song is full of synthesizers, tape flange, and massive performances: to call it a departure would be an understatement. Ward, a venue promoter by day and the drummer for one of Philadelphia's most intriguing art-rock exports, Pattern is Movement, seemed more than happy with the new direction. "We should be taking risks, we should be taking leaps. That is the whole point of art," he says. "Tim is a special dude. He has a unique take on rock and roll, and folk - a way of getting you hooked listening to his lyrics, in a way that I feel most songwriters don't."

    On first impression, Showalter may seem the quintessential folk guy, but he's quick to point out his teenage techno roots (if not somewhat humorously). After quitting his day job teaching second graders, he made the commitment to music, releasing the first two Strand of Oaks records: Leave Ruin and Pope Killdragon. He followed them up with touring, originally playing solo shows, but more recently experimenting with band arrangements. Along the way, he's become a favorite of many more established artists, as well as a small but ever-growing base of passionate fans.

    It was clear the session would be an opportunity to do something different, as terms like "analog synths" and "Phil Collins' drum sounds" came up repeatedly. "I've been glued to my guitar for 10 years now," says Showalter, "but I've never felt comfortable as a guitar player, or playing any instruments for that matter. Maybe to not have to do those things is a good thing."

    "Spacestations"' most distinguishing feature is the huge amount of space provided by the song's sparse arrangement. There's not a single guitar strum anywhere, and Showalter, who normally plays almost everything in his recordings, only sang. It's something he hopes to do more. We hope this episode of Shaking Through will be a turning point for him, one that shows him he can go in any direction he'd like and we will all eagerly follow.



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