Locals: Eclectic mix spurs Oliver Oak to explore new sounds

Andy Downing, Columbus Alive

As a teenager, Oliver Oak singer and guitarist Kyle Tucker played in a smattering of noisy punk-rock bands and traversed the city by skateboard.

"I was always out there throwing myself off the tallest things I could find," he said.

It's a chaotic world miles removed from that occupied by Oliver Oak, a hushed folk-pop quintet that favors sad, stately songs colored in lilting strings, strummed acoustic guitar and delicate two- and three-part harmonies.

A self-described introvert, Tucker said he often felt miscast playing punk, so he naturally gravitated toward more reflective sounds as he grew older, absorbing lessons from the likes of Bon Iver and Fleet Foxes, both of which exert a heavy gravitational pull on Oliver Oak's 2014 full-length,Sleepless Wilds.

"When I came into it [in 2013] I very specifically wanted to make folk music," said Tucker, 27, who joined singer Erin Mason and singer/violinist/keyboardist Devin Copfer for a mid-April interview at a Clintonville coffee shop (bassist Nate Smith and drummer Chris Guthrie will round out the band for a concert at Big Room Bar on Friday, April 22). "A lot of my vocals I think I got just imitating Robin Pecknold [of Fleet Foxes], but also Andrew Bird and Radiohead. It's just what I heard. I'm a pretty quiet, introspective person, so the music made a lot of sense to me."

In the years since, the bandmates have drifted further afield of these folk roots, incorporating elements of pop and even electronic music (more in arrangements than instrumentation) - a natural byproduct of the increased level of collaboration between the players. Indeed, Tucker, who composed everything down to the string arrangements on the band's debut EP, has become increasingly comfortable stepping back as things have moved forward. On "Young Man," the first single off a still-in-progress new EP expected out this summer, he even ceded lead vocals to Mason.

"That was the first time I was like, 'Maybe I don't need to sing on this song,'" he said. "I was working on the initial idea for the song and the melody and it was not working, and I could not figure out why. So I sat down with Erin ... and I was like, 'Oh yeah, it's not working because it's out of my [vocal] range, and clearly I was writing this for you.'"

Mason, like Tucker, got her start making pop-punk in high school - "We both have aggressive backgrounds for the kind of music we're making," Tucker said, and laughed - while Kopfer grew up in Cleveland studying the violin, eventually enrolling at Ohio State University to pursue a degree in classical music.

This eclectic mix has gradually shaped and refined Oliver Oak's sound - a process the collective views as never-ending.

"The band is all about growing as musicians and artists and people," Mason said. "There's always room for change and improvement."

Big Room Bar

8 p.m. Friday, April 22

1036 S. Front St., Brewery District


ALSO PLAYING: Wilder Maker, Hello Emerson