In 1999, the Sacramento-based collective Oleander scored a massive hit with their song Why I’m Here, from their major label debut entitled February Son. Three albums in, the band declared a much needed hiatus and wound up taking a break for nearly a decade. And now Oleander is back in action, ready and willing to rock your world!. Something Beautiful is the name of their dynamic new effort on Cobalt Music Group – a collection of wondrously melodic tunes destined to sweep you off your feet. Highwire Daze recently had the chance to interview Oleander front man Thomas Flowers to find out more about their brand new recording, the gems and perils of the past, and the glorious future that is ready to be discovered. Read on as we go on the road again with the one and only Oleander…
It’s been ten since the last Oleander full length record. How frustrating was it to wait so long to record and release a new album?
It wasn’t at all. We made a conscious decision to step away from our obligations as it relates to the industry – the business. We were ready for a break. Coming off of Joyride that year, I believe we had performed 200 dates – we were burnt. We’d been looking forward to going home for what we thought was going to be reasonably short vacation, if you will. And once we got home, we realized how good life is on that side of the fence. We decided that we were in no rush or under any obligation to step back onto the treadmill that is the industry. Little by little, we just started passing ideas back and forth to each other, and we decided once we were ready to get back and start knocking out a new album, we would do that. It just turned out that we were enjoying life at home so much that we just weren’t in that much of a rush to swing. So, it wasn’t frustrating at all. In fact, this was the most enjoyable album that we have ever written and recorded – and I think that’s due in a large part to the fact that we had all the time in the world to do it, and we had zero pressure from outside influences. And that’s a luxury we hadn’t be afforded in quite some time. I think that the strength of the album is a direct result to the fact that we paid attention to every detail on every song.
Is there any story or overall concept to the CD title Something Beautiful?
You know, man, the song came from me just looking for moments throughout every day, amidst a lot of chaos, to find things that would carry me through to the next day. I don’t know how else to describe it, except for finding those moments amidst a lot of chaos that all of us experience on a daily basis – and finding those elements in our lives that provide meaning and get us through to the next.
Select any two songs from Something Beautiful and what inspired the lyrics for you.
Bullet Proof is one of my favorites on the album. It’s a really well narrated depiction of what my life looks like. It’s near and dear to my heart because I was able to articulate my gratitude towards my wife and children in the course of that song. The lyrics are very pertinent to my feelings towards them. And Something Beautiful is also near and dear to my heart for the reasons that we discussed – it’s just a reminder of how good life can be every day.
How has it been to play shows and tour again in support of the new record?
Coming back after such a long break, we were able to discard a lot of the clutter and the baggage that we’d accumulated over the course of a relatively long career. Coming back now, we’re regenerated – we’re healthier, happier. We just did a run through Texas and we had the best time of our lives. We’re almost back to being those kids that are jumping into a vehicle to go out and conquer the world. The recording process was an absolute joy. Getting into a van with my friends and going out to play for thousands and thousands of people that were excited to see us for the first time in years – it doesn’t get much than that man.
Who is the new drummer in the band, and what other bands or projects has he been involved with in the past?
Steve Brown has been a friend of ours forever. We’ve known him pretty much our whole lives. He’s a phenomenal drummer based out of Sacramento. He’s always been kind of in the mix with us. We’ve had a few different drummers over the years. Steve has filled in with us in the past. Coming back after a break to get committing to writing and recording a new album – and then obviously embracing the promotion and touring and all that – it was a no brainer for us to choose Steve. He’s family – he’s a friend of ours – and he’s also a bad ass on the drums. As far as other side projects that guy has been involved in – mostly local stuff. He’s played in a lot of Sacramento local bands. But he’s kind of always been in the mix with us. He’s played a handful of shows with us in the past, and we just thought it was time to bring him into the fold.
What could one expect from a live Oleander 2013 show?
You’re going to definitely see a high energy rock and roll show with an awful lot of songs that you are going to be familiar with. We’ve put together a body of work over the last four albums that has actually lent itself to a real punch in the mouth – from an audience perspective. I don’t know how else to describe it, except that you will walk away from a live show of our remembering who we are.
Any chance of Oleander making it out here in the Los Angeles / Southern California area?
Absolutely! We’ve just know announced a handful of dates with Daughtry and Three Doors Down in July and August. We’re going to also focus our attention on the West Coast everywhere from Seattle down to San Diego on this run as well. We’re actually pulling some offers together with some clubs. Don’t be surprised if you have an opportunity to see us at The Viper Room. Don’t be surprised if you have an opportunity to see us at The Palladium. Hopefully this summer, but certainly this year.
When you look back on the two Republic / Universal releases, what do you think of them now and about working with a major label?
Republic / Universal Records was a great experience for us. My god, they put their money and their backing behind us. Certainly February Son had a pretty massive single on it. We were fortunate enough to have caught lightning in a bottle with that. They supported us the whole way. Those two albums are near and dear to my heart. It was a nice platform for which we were able to put together a nice, respectable career. It was a tough decision to leave Universal Records at the time, but it was a decision that we felt we needed to make – and it played itself out the way that it did. We moved on to another label with another album that didn’t particularly work out. But at that point, you’re basically learning from your mistakes and the decisions that you make. At this point now moving forward, I think that we’re in a better spot not being on a major label – because I think we’re building up a story again. I think it’s always better in this day and age to be in control of as many aspects of your business as possible. We are currently with Cobalt Music Group. We are ecstatic to be a part of their roster. And we have a management team at Union Entertainment Group – Brian Coleman. We feel that we have everything at our disposal necessary to adequately promote this new record. So am I opposed to dealing with a major label in the future? Absolutely not! But right now for where we are, we feel like we are in the best situation, because we need to build up the story. We need to build upon whatever momentum we currently have going on.
What advice would you give a young band looking to be signed to a record label?
I would say first and foremost that tenacity is imperative – tenacity and a willingness to do whatever it takes to continue to improve on your songwriting and your recordings. It’s funny, because on this run through Texas, I had a lot of young up-and-coming bands that we had a chance to meet – and they asked us those very questions. And I just continued to encouraged them to save up their money – to record and produce their songs as professionally as possible – listen and pay attention to the radio – diagram the songs that are their favorite songs – figure out what these bands are doing – not just notes but how many choruses, when they get to the choruses and how long the songs are. The only school that we have to study in is the radio, in my opinion – at least from a commercial perspective. Mostly I think it’s just tenacity and a belief in yourself – confidence.
What are your thoughts on Joyride – looking back on it?
Until we recorded this one, that was my favorite album. It really galvanized us as a band. We wrote that album with a chip on our shoulder. It’s definitely our most cohesive record. My biggest regret is that it didn’t properly see the light of day as far as label promotion and marketing. It amazes to that to this day – even while we were in Texas on this last run – that we had hardcore Oleander fans coming up to us that were really unaware that Joyride was really in existence. But it’s one my favorite albums – it shows a rock edge to the band that has always been in existence, but we were able to articulate it.
Is there any chance of re-releasing that album, now that you are on a new label?
I think that there’s a very high likelihood that we will do a retrospective album – where what we basically do is we go back and re-record songs from each one of our first three albums. We’re talking about that! We’re also talking about including acoustic versions of the same songs. Especially Joyride! People didn’t have the awareness of it that I think it deserved.
Tell me about Black Summer Crush – and is the band still together?
I moved down to Southern California during that break. Relocated the family down here – fell in love with South Orange County. The Black Summer Crush was an opportunity for me to stay creative, but take a different role. In Oleander for years, I was pretty much the main songwriter. I wanted to continue to be creative, but not necessarily have all of the writing pressure put upon my shoulders. I hooked up with a handful of great guys – great musicians that gave me a platform to just kind of go in and be the singer. And it was fun, but it was never going to be a long term project for me. From the moment I started playing with them, it actually made me look forward to getting back together with the guys in Oleander even sooner. It kind of re-enforced my first love, which is my own band. But yes, they’re still together – those guys moved forward. They’re a phenomenal band – they’re called Rival Sons. They got a local cat jump in as a singer – his name is Jay Buchanan. They are working very, very hard and they are making a name for themselves in Europe. And then they keep coming back, and they’re slowly but surely building up a following for themselves here in the States – and I wish them all the best.
If Oleander if open up for any band, either now or from the past, which band would it be and why?
That’s a tough, tough question. Well, I want to open for whoever is going to put the most people in front of us. Look man, if I could open for The Rolling Stones in their heyday – if I could open up for U2 right now – if I could open up for even Nickelback right now – whoever is going to put the most people in that stadium so I that I can reach out and make a connection with those people – that’s who I want to open for.
Do you think it will take another ten years for Oleander to record another full length? I hope not!
Nope! Absolutely not! In fact, we’re already starting the process of logging and sharing ideas for the next album. We’re fired up – the door is now open for us to continue writing and recording and releasing music! Our goal is to continue to write, record and put out music as often as possible.
Do you have any messages for fans who have stayed with Oleander after all of this time?
Yes, thank you! Thank you! Thank you for supporting us over the years. At the end of the day, we can’t do what we do without them. I truly appreciate their patience in waiting for us to come back, and the fact that they’re still there waiting with open arms now. It’s been a phenomenal experience for us to get back out on the road and to be embraced by so many fans of the music that we’ve created. Listen, I would encourage them to get proactive and spread the word that we are back.
Thomas Flowers – lead vocals
Doug Eldridge – bass guitar
Ric Ivanisevich – rhythm guitar
Steve Brown – drums, percussion
Rich Mouser – lead guitar
(Interview by Kenneth Morton)
Oleander on Facebook