Four years ago, The OaKs's Ryan Costello sold everything he owned, joined a humanitarian organization and moved to Afghanistan. Costello lived there for two years, working in the Central Afghan mountains with returned refugees, teaching them creative agricultural techniques and becoming fluent in their native language, Farsi. Late at night, while the dust storms blocked out the stars and rattled the windows, he would sit and work out impressions of what he had seen and heard that day on his acoustic guitar. [more]
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In 2005, Costello returned to the United States, reuniting with his long-time creative partner, The OaKs's drummer Matthew Antolick. The seeds were sown years earlier when Costello and Antolick met at the University of South Florida in Tampa. Costello was pursuing a BA in Biology, while Antolick was working on his Master's in Philosophy and teaching Environmental Ethics. The duo spent their evenings tracing musical pathways through forests of everything from jazz to electronica, Indian and Middle-Eastern music to indie rock, folk and country to experimental music. Once Costello returned to Florida, he and Antolick took the ideas they had traded back and forth via email while separated by an ocean, and began writing and recording the material that would become The OaKs's first full-length CD, Our Fathers and the Things They Left Behind. The self-released album was completely home recorded by the pair, mixed by Martin Feveyear of Jupiter Studios, Seattle (Modest Mouse, Damien Jurado), and mastered by Alan Douches of West West Side Music, NY (Sufjan Stevens). The release of Our Fathers… drew immediate attention to The OaKs in Orlando's local music and art scene, and the attention quickly went national as Paste magazine featured Costello and The OaKs in their July 2007 cover story "Can Rock Save the World," alongside such well known activist musicians as Bono, Peter Gabriel, and Steve Earle. Costello's experiences in Afghanistan are the beating heart at the core of the album. "Survey For A Distribution of Winter Clothing," one of the album's featured tracks, finds a weaving of organ, bells, mandolin and other textures over actual sounds recorded by Costello in Afghanistan's capital city of Kabul. Owing to Costello's relationship in Afghanistan with 'Global Hope Network', The OaKs partnered with the humanitarian organization on the release of Our Fathers…and agreed to donate 50% of the profits from each CD or track download to aid widows and recently-returned refugees from Afghanistan. Recently, The OaKs expanded to a six piece ensemble, allowing for much more versatile and innovative musical textures. Imagine this palette of colors: the edgy poignancy of Flannery O'Conner, the folk of Paul Simon, the aggressive jazz of Thelonious Monk, the compositional experimentation of the Doors, and the on-stage energy of Jane's Addiction. The OaKs's live show is a dynamic, energetic, and thought provoking display of both high emotion and exploratory introspection. Their eclectic mix of instruments-which includes accordion, mandolin, bells, vibes, horns, assorted percussion, organ and Wurlitzer to name a few-creates a layered and impressionistic soundscape that floats, propels and grooves. Costello's poetic lyrics reach from quiet self-examination to challenging social critique; from lonely spiritual quests to the celebration of the lives of self-sacrificing figures such as Hugh Thompson and Dietrich Boenhoffer, and pulls probing inspiration from the southern gothic fiction of Flannery O'Conner and Carson McCullers. Spurred by the reaction to their unique combination of an original musical and poetic aesthetic coupled with an acute social consciousness and powerful, moving live show, the members of The OaKs have already been inspired to commence the recording of a follow-up to Our Fathers….
The band is currently in the studio working on a new full length album to be released in April 2008. With the addition of Greg Willson on guitar and saxophone, Tim Cocking on keys and trumpet, Jeremy Siegel on bass guitars, mandolin and trombone, and Melissa Reyes on backing vocals, bells and assorted instruments, the band's compositions are coming to life in a whole new way. For now, please enjoy the depth of sound and story that is Our Fathers… and for images of Kabul and its people as photographed by Costello during his time in the region, visit www.ryancostello.com. Hopefully these sounds and images will create a sense for you of something greater than ourselves. We know it has for us.
"This group was my biggest and most pleasant surprise of 2006. The Oaks ended up being my dark horse candidate for indie-rock album of the year...these guys are just so unbelievably talented that they capture the do-it-yourself spirit of indie music while taking their musicianship to the next level." - Ryan's Smashing Life
"All of the songs on the album are very well written, and they are as inspiring as they are introspective. You can hear their influences including Guided By Voices, Sigur Ros, Paul Simon, Radiohead and Donovan, with a fluid mingling of sounds that creates a musical atmosphere well suited to their poetic lyrics." - Delusions Of Adequacy
"It could be imagined as what would happen if Leslie Feist was replaced by Jose Gonzalez in Broken Social Scene, with the religious paranoia of Bright Eyes. It embraces you and lets you float across its soundscape." - Dirty Bronson
"Cerebral, harmony-rich...the OaKs' lovely album, Our Fathers and the Things They Left Behind, is gaining the Orlando band some deserved attention" - Jim Abbott, Orlando Sentinel