XPoNential Artist Spotlight: Strand of Oaks talks prepping for tour, summer hangouts and the songs that didn’t end up on Heal
It’s pretty much impossible to miss the gleeful buoyancy in Strand of Oaks frontman Tim Showalter’s voice when chatting with him. Maybe it’s something encoded into his personality, or maybe he’s still riding the waves of critical and commercial acclaim that the fourth Strand of Oaks record, Heal (Dead Oceans), has been generating since its release last month. Regardless, his cheer is infectious, and that acclaim for HEAL, an examination of catharsis steeped in the burst and bloom of a decades-spanning rock ‘n’ roll (as opposed to “rock”) tradition, is well deserved. But in that month since its release, Showalter has been taking this summer relatively easy, and was happy to catch up with The Key to chat about HEAL, how he manages his songwriting, and his (lack of) preparation for a nearly three-month tour, which starts this Saturday at the XPoNential Music Festival.
The Key: Since its release last month, Heal has pretty much blown up all over the place. How have you been handling this massively positive reception?
Tim Showalter: I worked very hard to make this record, but everyone works hard when they’re making records, so I always approach things with modest expectations. I made this record and I love this record, but you can’t control how people react to something. I always have this Midwestern modesty where I think, ‘Well, who knows if the crop is going to be good this year.’ But [after the release], I was just so excited to see not only the critical reaction but the amount of people who have connected with this record, and it was a good way to remind me that I should write however I want. I made a record that I wanted to make and all the songs on it are songs that I want to play. I feel like this reaction to HEAL is almost a validation of people saying, ‘Yeah! Do whatever you want, dude! It’s fine! We like it!’
TK: You wrote over 30 songs before recording Heal. Does anything ever happen to the songs that never make it to your records?
TS: I’d say there were about 40 or even 50 songs this time and maybe 75 percent were just not very good. There are maybe ten other songs among those that could’ve been on the record. But they’re all sitting on a hard drive somewhere and I’m still deciding what to do with them. [Laughs.] We’re up against a pretty long tour coming up soon and I don’t think I’ll find my way into a studio for a while, but I’d like to do something with them. The problem is… I’ve already written another 20 since the record came out. So I have another two records that are floating around in this nerdy, comic book guy world of mine where I’ve already named them all. Maybe nothing will happen with them but I have a good time just treating songs as these shiny new toys. They’re really sexy and enticing when they’re first being written. But then a new toy comes out!
TK: Since you haven’t been spending this summer recording or being on tour for forever just yet, how have you been spending some much-earned time off?
TS: I’ve been spending most of this summer in the Wissahickon Creek, actually. Just kind of swimming in the somewhat brackish waters of Philadelphia. I’ve been getting this interesting smell about me. Three days in the creek and you need like, a bleach bath. I don’t go to bars. I don’t go hang out at like… dance nights. When I’m not on tour, I’m probably at home watching Frasier and drinking too many beers or something, maybe starting a fire somewhere. I like it pretty simple. I’ve been hanging out with my cats and my wife.
TK: It looks like you’re about to be on tour until the end of October. That’s a really long time!
TS: And we just added more dates! We had a pool party the other day with the band members and we realized that this is the last week of summer for us. It’s the middle of July but we’re going to be gone until like, November 10th. It’s a good problem to have. If people are wanting to come to the shows, I’ll tour for as long as I can.
TK: How do you prepare for being gone for such long periods of time?
TS: I… don’t. I’m horrible at preparing. I just realized that after XPoNential Music Festival on Saturday, we leave on Monday. And then we’re gone, and I’m thinking, ‘Oh shit! I don’t have any laundry done. I need to buy guitar strings.’ And I just realized that my driver’s license has been expired for two weeks. You know, I think I need a life manager. [Laughs.]
Strand of Oaks will play the River Stage at 3:00 p.m. on Saturday, July 27th. More details here.