During the recent XPoNential Festival in Camden, NJ, which took place right across the river from Philadelphia, we spoke to Strand of Oaks frontman (and incredible hugger) Timothy Showalter about the band's upcoming tour, hometown pride and making an album his parents can be proud of. Interview by Katie Gregory
Hi Tim! Thanks for talking to us. Are you guys excited about your headlining tour?
Yes! We're gone until November. We have a couple Philly shows at Boot and Saddle in September, and then we go to Europe directly after. Like three days after the Philly shows, we're gone. And then we added two more weeks in Europe, so that's exciting.
Are you guys still headlining in Europe too?
Yeah, we actually have a lot of groundwork laid in Europe, so we've been headlining there for like a year or two now. We headlined Europe before we headlined the US. We wanted to wait. I was lucky enough to open up for killer bands in the states, like every band was so good. We got to open for them, see how it worked, and just took our time until it was the right moment to do it.
We were talking earlier about how you'd opened for Tallest Man on Earth.
Yeah, Kristian [Matsson, of Tallest Man] and I, we were only supposed to play four shows together and then it turned out to be two years of tour [laughs]. It was supposed to be four shows and then it turned into, like, five different tours together, all over the world. He's one of my best friends. I love that guy.
He seems like a great inspiration.
He's like my brother. We call each other warriors. He's my man, I love that guy. Man, I wish we lived closer.
Your newest album is a little different from your older ones. How has the reception been from the fans?
Surprisingly great. It helped being paired with Dead Oceans, because it's such an awesome label. They believed in it as much as I did and... well, they also believed enough in what I did to let me do whatever the fuck I wanted. Like, I made a record that was very different from my previous records, but they were totally open and just told me to do it. And that's the best thing you can get from a label, just to have someone 100% behind it. Plus, it paid off. I think listeners react to a record when they know the person loves the music that they're making, when they know that it's genuine. I think this is my first record that I genuinely loved making.
The videos that you've put out so far for this album have been amazing, very thoughtful. Did you put a lot of time into fleshing out their concepts?
I actually thought a lot more about the directors than the videos. Rick Alverson [directed "Goshen '97"], he's my hero. He did The Comedy with Tim & Eric and James Murphy. That movie is just bonkers. But yeah, I wanted to work with him forever. And then Zia Anger who did the other video ["Shut In"], she's worked with Angel Olsen and she's just fabulous. We lucked out. It's just a matter of choosing the best team of people to work with. I'm not inherently talented so it's a matter of choosing people who make me look more talented. I pick people who are better than me to be surrounded by [laughs]. You saw the band! They're so much better at music than me, that's why I work with them.
How long were you all recording the latest album?
I started writing and recording last September. I finished the record around Christmastime. It was a pretty quick process.
We love that it got great reception from so many publications and music blogs.
Yeah, which I just feel like... I think it's a good time to be making records. I'm proud of music. I'm proud of my contemporaries. I think right now some of the best records being put out in years are happening, as we speak. It's a really good year to be putting out a record, like there's a really good crop of things [laughs].
Do you have anything you're looking forward to?
Man. Well, those two Boot and Saddle shows. They're super intimate. We wanted to play smaller venues for the first round. They're going to be intense. Wild.
That venue is pretty perfect.
It's one of my favorites. We decided to play there because I've been there a few times and I was like, “Holy shit, this place is incredible.” I'm really excited to get back into it. We're playing some awesome gigs, cool rooms. Like The Independent in San Francisco is awesome. I'm actually playing my hometown in Goshen [Indiana]. I'm super nervous about that. It's gonna be people like family members. I'd rather play to thousands of people than to two family members [laughs]. You can't really be cool around people who used to change your diapers when you were a baby. It's hard to pull that off.
That's exciting, though! When's that one?
August. So it's coming up soon. Old girlfriends and old friends.
But now you have this cool new record so you can be like...
[Deep voice] Look what I've done! Look at me! Exactly! My goal is... well, I don't know how to use the internet, but I need to get on the Goshen Wikipedia page under notable people. I don't know how that happens, but I need to find a way to get on there.
Anyone can edit it! You should totally add it in.
I know [laughs]! That's my goal. We've been kind of everywhere with this record, but my local newspaper wrote about it and that was what did it for my parents. They were like, “You were in the NEWSPAPER.” And I was like, “I know, I was also in...” And they're like, “No, but YOU were in the NEWSPAPER.” [Laughs] I made it! There it is!
Do you feel more like Goshen is your home or Philly?
Philly. I mean, I moved in 2000, so like at this point, that's almost 15 years. Playing something like this [WXPN festival] is hometown. When you grow up, you can't consider where you're from your home. I lived in Goshen for my upbringing but I was never an adult there. I moved out when I was 18, so it's pretty much over [laughs]. I go there because my family is there but this is where I live. I love it here. Especially right now. I don't think there's a prettier city in the fuckin' world looking at this [gestures to skyline]. This is amazing.
It's great looking over from Camden.
Who woulda thought! The Camden view is the view to have.
[At this point a woman comes up and asks Tim if he is Dawes. When he explains who he is, she gets her picture taken with him before leaving.]
Nice. You're Dawes!
Usually I get like, “Are you in Skeleton Witch? Are you in a doom metal band?” Somebody asked me about Skeleton Witch like four times once, so I finally looked at their press photos and I was like holy shit, I look like I'm in Skeleton Witch [laughs]. Valiant Thor! If I didn't have my shirt on right now, I'd definitely be in Valiant Thor [laughs]. Doom metal.
Years ago, you played this small art gallery, Eckhaus, in Kutztown, PA, and now you're starting to get recognized and playing big shows.
I love [Lehigh Valley]. There were so many good shows there. It took a long time to do big things. It definitely didn't come fast. People still ask me if we're a new band and I tell them yeah, we played our first show in 2004, we're pretty new [laughs].
Do you feel like you're where you want to be now or...
No, I want to sell out stadiums. If you're from Indiana, you don't do something without doing it all the way. Basically, parents aren't instantly satisfied with you if you're a little successful. Like if you got an A- they'd be like, “You didn't get an A?” So, for me right now, it's not even for my own ego or anything, I just need to prove to my family that I'm making it. They don't understand under-the-radar stuff, so I need to get much bigger for them to understand what I'm doing. [Pauses] This is like a therapy session! But no, I love what we're doing now. I think it's exceeding my expectations, for sure. It's awesome.
Are you guys already working on the next record?
We'll be touring until, like, fall of 2015, so we're not too worried about it. I can make a record in two weeks. I can't do anything else in life except make music [laughs]. The best is when you tour for a long time and then you stop touring. You play the guitar on the road, but you're playing it for a purpose. You don't get a lot of time to just write on the road, for me at least, so it's so awesome to finally get done with touring. Like, then it's record time and your mind just opens up. I already have another record written, but I don't think I'll put it out. I like it, though. It's fun. I was writing R&B songs a lot, singing up in the falsetto range. Thinking, “I wonder if people would ever want to have sex to my music.”
You should definitely try that.
I was listening to that one Drake song that everybody likes, "Hold On We're Going Home," and I was like, “I wonder if I could write a song like this.” [Laughs] I think that song is so good. But no, I'm into playing the guitar. The next album will probably be even louder, more rock. I want to make records that sound good in stadiums. I'm kind of a scatterbrain, but I think it works out.