Union Transfer


Strand Of Oaks

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Strand Of Oaks


Wed, December 3, 2014

Doors: 8:00 pm / Show: 8:30 pm

Union Transfer

Philadelphia, PA


This event is all ages

Strand Of Oaks
Strand Of Oaks
Hard Love, Tim Showalter’s latest release as Strand of Oaks, is a record that explores the balancing act between overindulgence and accountability. Recounting Showalter’s decadent tour experiences, his struggling marriage, and the near death of his younger brother, Hard Love emanates an unabashed, raw, and manic energy that embodies both the songs and the songwriter behind them. “For me, there are always two forces at work: the side that’s constantly on the hunt for the perfect song, and the side that’s naked in the desert screaming at the moon. It’s about finding a place where neither side is compromised, only elevated.”

During some much-needed downtime following the release of his previous album, HEAL, Showalter began writing Hard Love and found himself in a now familiar pattern of tour exhaustion, chemically-induced flashbacks, and ongoing domestic turmoil. Drawing from his love of Creation Records, Trojan dub compilations, and Jane’s Addiction, and informed by a particularly wild time at Australia’s Boogie Festival, he sought to create a record that would merge all of these influences while evoking something new and visceral. Showalter’s first attempt at recording the album led to an unsatisfying result—a fully recorded version of Hard Love that didn’t fully achieve the ambitious sounds he heard in his head. He realized that his vision for the album demanded collaboration, and enlisted producer Nicolas Vernhes, who helped push him into making the most fearless album of his career.

Throughout the recording process, both Showalter and Vernhes maintained an environment that paired musical experimentation with a mindset that defied Showalter’s previous studio endeavors: the atmosphere had to be loose, a celebration of the creative process and a reinforcement of the record’s core themes. “In a time of calculation and overthinking, I wanted to bring back the raw, impulsive nature that is the DNA of so many records I love.” And in keeping with that loose, hedonistic vibe that encompasses so much of Hard Love, Showalter looked to his best friend, Jason Anderson, whose musical prowess and expert shredding augmented the unrelenting energy that would become the record’s backbone.

This uninhibited and collaborative studio experience led to the most dynamic album in Strand of Oaks discography, moving beyond Showalter’s original concept for a singularly feel-good record to something more complex and real. For as much as Showalter wants this record to seem like a party, it’s more than that. It feels like living. “You went away…you went searching…came back tired of looking” is how Showalter begins the title track, a sentiment that epitomizes Showalter’s own mentality in beginning Hard Love. And as the record progresses, so do the themes of dissatisfaction and frustration with love, and family, and success, and aging, both in personal experience and songwriting.

“Radio Kids,” Showalter’s infectious, synth-driven ode to youth and a time when music represented something pure and uncomplicated, perfectly encapsulates his desire for escapism from both his adult responsibilities and a world he no longer recognizes. But if there’s a sun in the Hard Love solar system, it’s “On the Hill,” a psychedelic, celebratory homage to three days in the excesses of that mind-altering Boogie Festival. “On the Hill” captures the true zeitgeist of how Showalter wants this record to feel. “It’s like I had to fly across the world to find out who I was…it was all about getting loose, and connecting with people on a primordial level…letting go of all the bad things, losing your inhibitions, and figuring out what it means to be alive.” The accumulating intensity that Showalter crafts throughout this flagship track seems to effortlessly achieve an almost hallucinogenic ambiance, with images of lighters being lifted, concert-goers embracing, and the magnitude of the moment eliciting nothing less than mass euphoria.

And then, there’s “Cry.”

“Eventually there’s this crushing reality of what it means to hurt someone, what you did to hurt someone…you’re not the victim anymore, it’s not romantic, it’s not a narrative…you just realize you’re the cause of problems.” This noticeable shift in the tone of Hard Love—a heartbreaking, piano-laden ballad with the chorus “Hey…you’re making me cry”—is a sobering reality check in Showalter’s universe. And as Showalter struggles to reconcile his youthful desires with the realities of adulthood, we’re eventually led into the final death rattle of his pervasive partying, “Rest of It.” With its loud, raucous arrangement of sing-along vocals and searing guitars solos, “Rest of It” emerges as Hard Love’s flawless manifestation of an exceedingly fun, belligerently drunk night where you try to forego life’s responsibilities and have one more good time.

Much of Hard Love was either written or conceptualized during Showalter’s post-tour break, as he reveled in the memory of what he considered to be life-changing experiences. But it was during this period that he received devastating news: his younger brother, Jon, had suffered massive cardiac failure. “He was 27 years old at the time…it happened out of nowhere. I flew out [to Indiana] and stayed in the hospital for almost two weeks. They said he had a 10% chance of surviving and they had to induce a coma to prevent brain damage. Sometimes he would start to wake up and look me in the eyes…it was the worst thing that ever happened to me. But he got better. That’s all that matters.” In so many ways, it only seems fitting that Showalter’s psychedelic journey, his awakening to drug-fueled excess, the loss of inhibitions, the inevitable reality check, and his subsequent last hurrah be capped with his darkest, most life-affirming experience yet. The title of the record’s final track, “Taking Acid and Talking With my Brother,” represents Showalter’s last-ditch attempt at reconciling his personal life and his impulsions, crafting a clear connection between what were previously considered trippy experiences and the now extraordinary surrealism of witnessing his younger brother’s medical emergency.

And as Hard Love comes to its conclusion, it becomes that much more obvious that the singer/songwriter has grown to something larger and more momentous, crafting a passionate, brazen, and fully realized rock and roll record that captures the escapism of sex and drugs while offering an equally sincere perspective on the responsibilities, complications, and traumas that punctuate our lives and force us to evolve. “Some records are built like monuments, set in stone…I want this record to be burned in effigy, I want it to be burned in celebration of the limited time we have on this Earth.”
When does a musician finally hit upon his or her particular "sound"? For some, it bursts forth from their body fully formed; for others, it takes months or sometimes years of trial-and-error. For Mackenzie Scott, the singer-songwriter from Nashville who performs under the name Torres, the foundation and framework of her distinctive sound were already in place but it just needed that one crucial final piece.

"My family pitched in to get me a Gibson 335 last year for Christmas," she says. "I didn't quite find the sound I was looking for until I started playing electric." Listen to her self-titled debut album and you'll hear just how crucial that instrument is to her songs now. The delicacy and intimacy that was born from acoustic roots are still there, but now that she's fully plugged in, her music has intensified, with deeper shades of darkness creeping into the mix.

The album also carries with it a rawness and humanism that only serves to increase the feelings of isolation, longing, fear, guilt, revelation, and resolution that Scott expresses beautifully throughout. Torres was recorded over the course of five days in a Tennessee home owned by fellow singer-songwriter Tony Joe White (he of "Polk Salad Annie" fame), and recorded live to tape with as few overdubs as could be managed.

"I wanted this record to be the most honest version of itself that it could be," the 22-year-old songwriter says, "and ultimately that meant that it needed to remain unpolished and fairly raw. I left in a few imperfect vocal takes because I thought it sounded more human that way."

The effect provides the album with a rough-hewn beauty. The cracks that sharpen the edges of songs like the pointed "Jealousy & I" or the drum machine-driven "Chains" gives listeners an even starker look into the heart of these deeply felt songs. And if you lean in close, you might be able to hear the creak of the wooden floors in the house and the hum of the tape machine capturing it all.

To preserve the sonic warmth and integrity of this gritty, heartfelt album, Torres will be available on double vinyl, as well as on CD and digital formats. No matter how you listen to it, though, the songs will cut right to the bone. Scott spills every inch of her soul on these tracks, reflecting the joys and sorrows, and the unpredictability and uncertainty of life and love.
Venue Information:
Union Transfer
1026 Spring Garden St.
Philadelphia, PA, 19123