Happy Mondays Interview — Levy & The Oaks

Written By Laura Curry

Photo Credit: Joe Flannery

The Americana vibes and 70’s inspired harmonies of Levy & The Oaks are perfect for driving on warm days with the windows down. Any time you feel down or stressed out, their songs help to soothe your worries and lift you up. In honor of their show tonight at Wonder Bar in Asbury Park, The Pop Break had the chance to interview Duane Okun of Levy & The Oaks about the style of their music, their upcoming E.P. Out of the Blue and favorite experiences they’ve shared as a band.

Who are Levy & The Oaks? (Names of the band members & the instruments you play): We are Ryan McNulty on the drums, Chris Colon on slide guitar and background vocals, Lou Panico on bass and background vocals, and Duane Okun on guitar and lead vocals.

When did you form as a band: As the band is right now, we formed in July of 2016. Very new!

Are there any bands or artists that you draw inspiration from? Who are they and how do they inspire you: I’m a big fan of Coldplay. They went from an English rock band to a stadium playing pop group—all while keeping themselves grounded and holding onto what their sound is. Everything is changing so fast nowadays that you have to be able to adapt and stay relevant. It can be the hardest thing to do as an artist.

How would you describe the sound of your music? How does your sound reflect the personality of the band: We are a rock based indie group with influences of country and 70’s style harmonies.

How have your past experiences in other bands and music projects influenced how you guys work together: It’s always a learning experience. Every musical release is different, and the reactions to it are always different. I try to keep a positive outlook on the music once it is recorded and released. You can sit there for a year trying to perfect an album or even one song. I’ve learned to let things go and trust that I put my best ideas into it and let the art speak for itself.

What atmosphere do you strive to create with your music? What do you want listeners to be feeling when they hear your songs: I would hope it opens the listener’s mind up a bit. The lyrics are my experiences and I would like to think others have gone through the same emotions that I write about.  It’s always nice to feel like someone else understands you. No one likes feeling isolated.

How would you describe the style of your lyrics: The lyrics can range from first person to third person narrations depending on the song. I never want to write on the same topic too much. I try to keep it interesting. I tend to be bittersweet with my lyrics but always have a moral to the story.

In a past interview, you guys explain that your debut, self-titled album is about growth and maturity and finding yourself. Does your new EP, Out of the Blue touch on these themes too? How do the themes explored on the EP compare with those of your first album: Yes, there are a lot of the same meanings since most of the songs on the E.P. are unplugged versions of the songs on the full length. These batches of songs are specifically about acceptance of self, finding the strength to change, and the rebirth of anew.

From your debut album to your EP, Out of the Blue, how has your music evolved: We have made an effort not to over-analyze and keep the music hard-hitting and to the point. We stripped a lot of instrumentation for the EP and put the focus on the story. We’re constantly in the studio, at rehearsal or out playing shows. We try not to question too much and have really begun to simply trust our musicianship and songwriting ability. We’re excited to show you what’s next and are even more excited to continue writing and performing together.

Are there any songs on the EP that stand out the most to you? If so, what ones are they and why do they stand out from the other tracks: “You Had Me There” is one of my favorite tracks on the E.P. When we took the band out of the song, the words really came to life. I also love the harmonies on this one. It’s a true reflection of how we heard the song in our heads before we brought it to the band. As a songwriter, it’s mind-blowing how the same song can have a completely different effect when listening to it acoustic versus composed with a full band.

What is your favorite song to perform live? What is it about this track that makes you enjoy playing it so much: Playing Out of the Blue is always a great release. It begins almost silent and evolves into a wall of sound. I’m usually beat after playing it, which makes me feel like I put my all into the performance. I like to feel exhausted after a set. No better feeling than leaving it all on stage.

What’s been the most memorable experience you’ve shared together as a band: Playing Webster Hall in NYC for the album release is a highlight. We had a great crowd and they made us feel like all the work was worth it. Making music is a very human experience. I may write something in my room in complete silence and then in a couple months, be playing it for a crowd that’s singing along to it. My music is super personal, but I want people to hear it. Balancing these two can be tricky, but well worth it.

If someone has never heard your music before, what song should they listen to in order to fully grasp what Levy & The Oaks is all about, and why: Go checkout “Slowly in the Water” on Youtube! It’s our first official music video and if you dig on that then you’ll dig on the rest of our music  🙂

LEVY & THE OAKS PLAYS TONIGHT AT WONDER BAR AT 8 P.M. WITH MACK.

Founded in September 2009, The Pop Break is a digital pop culture magazine that covers film, music, television, video games, books and comics books and professional wrestling.