All too often do I encounter snobby, adolescent bands that spend more time gelling hair than playing instruments. It's a common plague: buy a mediocre instrument, take music lessons at Ted Brown, then write some generic self-loathing sounding music and you're golden. Fans and females will come in droves. You'll be a teen-age icon - the musical manifestation of youth angst.
Not so fast.
This plan only goes so far. Sure, it will yield some success in certain arenas such as high school or other less-informed musical communities. But in the real world - that is, in the Tacoma all-ages music scene - following this plan will plant you directly on your face, kick you when you're down and never let you forget it happened. Achieving success in Tacoma takes true tenacity and true grit.
Every week, I'm pleased to listen to and write about a new band that understands what it means to be a band. They look past the superficialness of it all, and get down to the nitty-gritty. I've observed that the common thread between all the Tacoma bands I admire is that they understand that the song trumps all else. If you don't have good songs, you don't have anything. If a band drops a killer six-song EP - just as young Tacoma band Oaklawn has recently done - success is more likely.
Oaklawn is comprised of Zach Rowell (vocals, guitar, piano), Chance Martineau (guitar, vocals), Sean Murphy (bass/vocals) and Tyler Dahl (drums). Having officially formed in September 2012, Rowell, Martineau and Murphy have known each other since elementary school. Dahl is the most recent addition, and has been with the band since June. With influences such as The Foo Fighters and Alter Bridge, Oaklawn has released a six-song original EP that is currently available through iTunes.
When Rowell contacted me and told me about Oaklawn, he mentioned that he often performed with fellow Tacoma band Innocent Bystander. Already smitten with the work of Innocent Bystander, my thought process was, "If Innocent Bystander likes them, so will I." After listening to Oaklawn's EP, I must say this simple logic didn't steer me wrong.
The EP begins with the slightly nostalgic "My Someone." The first thing I noticed about Oaklawn is its layering of parts. Vocal harmonies and instrument parts are overlapped and composed far beyond their years. The EP then takes a sharp left turn with the second song "If I Could Change," abandoning the thoughtfulness of the first song and adopting an intricate-yet-driving feel for the next.
Closing the EP with the song "Always" - a number that's within shouting distance of the title "rock ballad" - Oaklawn really drives home its wide skill set and dynamics.
Oaklawn has two upcoming shows at The Live Room in Sumner. It will be playing with Fall Days, Just Cuz and Audentia Feb. 2. Feb. 8, the band will be back with Innocent Bystander, The Voodoos, Far From the Genuine and The Informal Gentleman.