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Oh Voices

Humiliating others through beauty

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It’s not easy to be happy. It might surprise you to know that making cheerful music that doesn’t sound cheesy is a challenge for many musicians. When I hear a band that is making happy music that doesn’t involve lyrics about getting wasted or carving initials in leather seats, I appreciate it.

I recently discovered that Tacoma band Oh Voices sounds beautifully soothing and content like a cool breeze on a sunny afternoon. The music sounds like friends standing arm in arm around an old-timey piano and an acoustic guitar, grinning ear to ear and singing together in harmonizing voices. It makes you want to sing along — or maybe that’s just me.

I was surprised to learn that band members Andrew McNeely (lead vocals and guitar), Nicolas Hartzell (piano, organ and vocals), and Shannon Donahue (bass and vocals) have been playing together less than a year because the music flows from them easily and relaxed as if they’ve been doing it for years.

The band states its influences as the Beach Boys, Randy Newman, The Carter Family, Gillian Welch, the Beatles, Panda Bear and Debussy. But the comparisons they’ve been accused of encompass pretty much anything with harmony and a sweet, simple melody.

“We use classical music, jazz, the Beatles, and Pet Soundsesque melodies to convey ideas — musical and conceptual,” McNeely says.

Proving that recording an album doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive, the band records in the University of Puget Sound practice room in order to get that live piano feel. They simply bring their Macintosh laptop and use the Garageband software that comes pre-installed with most Macs. They record the piano and guitar parts live and then record the vocals later at home. They have no producer, no expensive recording gear, no recording studio — just three musicians and a laptop, and it sounds fantastic. 

At first I wondered if the band name alluded to voices in the songwriters’ heads, but McNeely says the name came from a song lyric.

“In an early song that I was performing called ‘My Brothers,’” he explains, “the lyrics call out ‘oh voices!’ to carry a particular tune and ‘oh heavens’ to sing about a pivotal time passing away.”

When asked what sort of people they are, McNeely has this to say: “Nicolas is a musician and a philosopher. He intends to create something great with his and our music. I intend to be there with him. Shannon is kind of a wildcat, Beatle-loving character — like Bob in Wes Anderson’s movie ‘Bottle Rocket.’

“I would describe myself as someone who wants to convey truth, joy, and reality in a beautiful way. I am a bearded type of guy. I like to smile and get one back. I am a UWT student and a family man. I have a wife and try to eat my meals every day sitting down with her. I write down lines while I do the dishes every day.”  From the band’s music, I’d say McNeely comes up with better ideas than other people’s dishwashers.

“We are not out there going to shows in Tacoma and Seattle all the time, every weekend, meeting people, wasting time and drinking tons of beer like other 26-year-old musicians. We are at home, living our lives, listening to records and creating something new. Tell them that we are coming, humiliating others through beauty,” McNeely says.

Oh Voices’ music is available at shows or very affordably via e-mail. Songs also are offered often as free downloads on the band’s MySpace page. To buy music, contact the band via MySpace at or their Web site —

[Origin 23 Coffee, with Allan Boothe and John Nichols, Saturday, Dec. 8, 8 p.m., no cover, 3518 Sixth Ave., Tacoma, 253.212.1503]

[Viaduct, with Ghost & Liars, Cavalier, and Tumbledown (with Mike from MXPX), Saturday, Dec. 15, 7 p.m. $8, 5412 S. Tacoma Way, Tacoma,]

My name is Angie and I’m just a shot away — If you can’t rock me, somebody will.

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