Posted On 20 Oct 2016
The Asbury Park-based four-piece, Levy & The Oaks seamlessly blends clever lyrics, spangled melodies and heady arrangements to deliver a powerful one-two punch of Indie Pop and Grassroots Rock, while putting a tasteful spin on modern (and not so modern) culture.
Levy & The Oaks recently released “Slowly in the Water” which is the first single off their upcoming LP of the same name. The track was recorded at Portrait Studios in Pompton Plains and mastered by three-time Grammy winner, Adam Ayan at Gateway Mastering (Nirvana, Madonna, Foo Fighters).
Of the single, lead singer Duane Okun says, “The track is about rebirth. Finding yourself feeling lost, extremely envious about those around you who seem better off. The first verse maps a struggle between society and status quo. What defines us? So many of us feel trapped in a mindless routine. The second verse needed a kick, so we went with a hip-hop influenced style for vocals. The format never changed, everyone added their parts and sang along. One of the easiest songs written for the record.”
Comprised of Duane Okun (lead singer/rhythm guitar), Lou Panico (bass/backing vocals), Chris Colon (lead guitar/backing vocals) and David O’Neal (drums), members of Levy & The Oaks have played all over the world with acts like Incubus, All American Rejects, Say Anything and many others. Additionally, they performed at CMJ and South by Southwest with a variety of mainstream acts.
“We’ve been in a band with each other since we were 15,” shares Okun. “My biggest musical influences are these guys. We love to make music, and we’re not concerned about trying to fit in. We never fit in anyway.”
Learn more about Levy & The Oaks in the following All Access interview:
Thanks for your time! Now that we are entering the fall of 2016, what are some words you would use to describe this year? What have been some of the highlights for the band?
This year has been great for us. We’re a new band so everything is exciting. Most importantly, we finished our first album. We poured our all into this one and didn’t cut any corners. We’re extremely proud of it and can’t wait for it to come out October 21st. We’ve also got a music video coming out and an album release show October 28th at Webster Hall Studio in NYC. Those are certainly going to be highlights for our year.
Growing up, did you all always want to be musicians? Can you recall your earliest musical memories?
Duane (lead singer) has loved Nirvana ever since he was 7 years old. Lou (bassist) started playing along on pots and pans to his father’s Talking Heads “Stop Making Sense” VHS tape when he was a mere toddler. Like most kids we all played sports when we were younger. It wasn’t until we were 12, 13 years old when we picked up our first instruments. It was then where we really started to begin our journey into what being a musician is all about. We were into the punk scene, we loved Greenday, Blink 182, and Saves The Day. We went to VFW shows. Haven’t looked back since.
How did Levy & The Oaks first come together? You were all childhood friends, correct? How did you come up with your band name?
Duane and Lou played in a band called Socratic for many years. They were both born and raised in Linden, NJ. They’ve certainly grown up together over the years. “We always got together and wrote songs. That’s just what we did. We lived down the street from one another. It just made sense.” – Duane
Levy came about pretty organically. Duane and Lou had been writing in Linden. They reached out to their buddy Matt Koziol who also lived in Linden at the time. Matt is super talented and had just gotten into slide guitar and dobro tunings. Duane an Lou added his slide guitar and started recording some simple demos. Lou worked with some amazing musicians at the time so he asked his buddy David O’Neal to play drums and Demar Brown to rip the keys. Dave and Demar had been playing together for years in the gospel scene and came highly recommended. We put everyone in a room and started to play. Next thing you know, we had a record. But we still didn’t have a band name. We bounced around the ideas of calling ourselves The Levees, The Oaks, and Okun (Duane’s last name). We ultimately decided to merge the ideas together and call ourselves “Levy & The Oaks”.
How would you describe your sound to someone that has never heard it before?
Singer-songwriter folk with rock and roll pop elements out the wazoo. It’s american rock and roll. We don’t really think about it too much. Songs start on the acoustic guitar and end full band in the recording studio. We play, we sing. We look up to bands like Mumford and Sons and The Avett Brothers. We’re based out of Asbury Park these days so there’s definitely some influence there as well.
Next month you will release your debut self-titled album. What was it like putting this collection together? What was the inspiration behind this album?
All of the songs came pretty naturally on this record. We had a batch of 12 or so songs and picked our favorite 8 for the album. “Love With The Lights Off”, an acoustic tune, was the last addition. The album was done but we had this strange feeling that something was missing. So Duane and Lou got together and recorded “Love With The Lights Off”. Other than that last minute song, we really didn’t second guess anything throughout the songwriting and recording process. Everyone involved was so talented. We trusted one another. Lyrically the album is about growth and maturity. It’s about finding yourself. It’s about leaving your bad parts behind. Evolution. Rebirth.
Your album’s lead single, “Slowly In The Water” is currently out now. What was it like shooting the video for it? How creatively involved were you with the making of it? I’ve always been curious to know how you decide what will be the first song released from a collection. How did you pick that one?
The filming was quite fun actually. We shot on the streets on Manhattan and Jersey City. We’ve never really performed in front of so many strangers on a city street before. The funny part is that New York City is so alive and packed with thousands of people, right? But no one really cares what you’re doing or where you’re filming. Everyone is simply caught up with what they’re doing so we pretty much got away with anything we wanted to do. Duane and our videographer Peter Dolshun came up with the idea to film in the city.
The band collectively agreed that Slowly In The Water was the best song to lead into the album release. Lyrically, the song is more relevant than ever. With everything that’s been going on with the country lately, it was the perfect song to pick.
Who are some of your favorite artists and what bands continue to inspire you and your music? Who would you still love to work with in the future?
When you aren’t performing, working in the studio, what do you like to do for fun? How do you unwind from it all?
Duane takes weekend trips all over the country actually. He recently visited Rockefeller’s house in the Hudson Valley. Lou lives in Asbury Park and hangs by the beach. He’s also a huge professional wrestling nerd. Chris plays in a Beatles tribute band as George Harrison and gets to travel the world playing Beatles songs. He’s also a huge nerd and works with his buddies on a podcast called Nerd Jersey.
At the end of the day, what do you hope is the message of your music? What do you hope listeners take away from your songs?
At the end of the day we want to connect with our audience. We want to be the vehicle that helps them forget about their bad day or get through a tough time. That’s what music does. That’s why we do what we do. Life’s a trip and life is tough. But we’re all in it together. If we can help remind someone that everything is going to be ok, then it’s all worth it.
We do what we do because we love it. We recommend everyone out there follow their passions and do what they love. Life’s too short not to. Hope you enjoy the new album and check us out at a show! See ya there.