by M. Lewis Barker
I have been jonesing to get my hands on Ferocious Oaks‘ Polyamory EP and was finally able to last night. The band released the EP headlining Velour a week ago, to much success. They are relatively new but have been quickly growing in success thanks to their energetic and unpredictable live shows. (They are also the only band in town brave enough to take a harp on stage, after all.) Within the next year, Ferocious Oaks can very easily become one of the bigger bands in town, and hopefully have enough exposure to be known on a much broader scale.
Polyamory has been in my hands for less than 12 hours, but it’s short enough that I have given it quite a few listens already. It is 15 solid minutes of new music. I emphasize the “new” because frankly nothing sounds quite like this. Sure, it’s an indie folk album, but it avoids the many cliches of the increasingly popular genre. Halfway through the title track, the band shoves a whole lot of coal into the engine, setting the tone for the rest of the record. Instead of slide guitar, there’s a flute. Instead of banjo, there’s a harp. Instead of four-part vocal harmonies, the melody is accompanied by bitter (yet upbeat) screaming. Like the virtually unknown Parenthetical Girls, Ferocious Oaks takes a pair of scissors and cuts out different styles and influences then glues them onto construction paper in whatever way they please.Strong songwriting is at the base of the EP. Any band can be weird or different yet completely awful. Polyamory shows us that you can do whatever you like with a song if the song is well written. It is as catchy as anything you’ll hear on the radio. Justin Duckwitz with nothing but an acoustic guitar and his voice would make for a great show. The songs underneath the instrumentation are simple enough that one could translate them to rock or pop or really anything, but it’s the way they are performed and arranged that gives the band its unique flavor.Despite all the strings and woodwinds present in the EP, it still feels very raw. But I mean that in a very positive way. Too often a band goes into a studio and loses everything that makes them special. They become a sanitized, boring version of themselves. Polyamory does not suffer this same fate. Duckwitz puts so much emotion and energy into each song that one feels as though he is in the recording booth with him. Everything stays acoustic where other bands would be tempted to put in some loud, distorted guitars. The Oaks fill that space up with an orchestra’s instruments. (An occasional mandolin in thrown in for good measure.) This record feels like the listener is watching a jam session of seasoned musicians, maybe even playing along on a djembe or piano.Despite the diversity in orchestration and song structure, Polyamory is very cohesive. It suffers a bit from homogeny. I found myself barely noticing that a new song had started on my first couple listens. On my list of praise, that is my only complaint and it may not be a valid one. The record is short enough that a bit of homogeny does it good.
What gets me most excited about Ferocious Oaks is, like I said earlier, they do something NEW. The influences are obvious, but they have a unique sound while the majority of bands do their best to imitate whatever is popular. As an art student, I am surrounded by artists and am often lectured on the subject of growing a unique voice while understanding the importance of those who have come before me. Songs are paintings, yet musicians and songwriters often lack artistic sensibility. It’s not something exclusive to a select few, but merely a different perspective that literally anyone can have. Ferocious Oaks are artists, and they paint some beautiful portraits.I urge you to pick up a copy of the record. On Saturday, March 12, Ferocious Oaks will be playing at Muse Music with Wild Apples and Tighty Willis. You can grab your own copy ofthe Polyamory EP there, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. Ferocious Oaks puts on one of Provo’s best live shows while Wild Apples and Tighty Willis are two of the most energetic bands in town. (I am not above shameless self-promotion.) Ferocious Oaks will be playing again at Velour on March 26 with The Archer’s Apple, Timber!, and The Mighty Sequoyah so be sure to catch that show too.Comments? Complaints? Threats? Leave them below!And if you’d like to write an article about the local scene, just let me know and I shall post it here!