Hallowed Oak develops indie-rock sound

Band members with diverse musical experiences that range from Georgia to Washington, D.C. prepare for Oct. 25 show at Bayou in Moscow



Moscow band Hallowed Oak plays as they prepare for their upcoming show on Oct. 16 at The Bayou in Moscow. Gabriel Smith, the band’s vocalist and guitarist, says they hope to release a demo by the end of this year. Hallowed Oak already has music on BandCamp.

ANNA YOUNG, Evergreen reporter

The Bayou looms in the dark, its front porch set with a single chair and light illuminating the window. A large animal skull watches Highway 8 from its post on the wall next to the door, and a tree looms over the dirt-and-grass parking lot on the side of the farmhouse.

Winding through the house past resident Brynn Givans and a huge black dog named Feloe, four men lounge on the back porch. A few of them smoke cigarettes, on a break from band practice.

This is Hallowed Oak.

“I’ve been playing under that name [Hallowed Oak] for about six years now,” guitarist and vocalist Gabriel Smith says, flicking his cigarette over the edge of the porch. “We have an album up on BandCamp that’s pretty old … hopefully by the end of the year we’ll get a demo out.”

Smith says it took a few years to nail down Hallowed Oak’s lineup. But alongside drummer Jeff Larimer, bassist Nish Nandankar and rhythm guitarist Corey Oglesby, he believes he’s found personalities and styles that work well together.

At least, they do now.

“Gabe didn’t like me at first,” Oglesby says, then laughs.

“A lot of my really close friends I don’t like at first,” Smith says.

The fact that this particular set of four musicians came together is unusual in itself. While Smith hails from Boise, Idaho, Larimer, Nandankar and Oglesby uprooted from the East Coast: Atlanta, D.C. and New Jersey, respectively.

Smith says the Bayou was the “initial magnet” that helped him make connections with the group, because the house has been a music venue for at least a couple decades. It’s how he met Nandankar, and the others share a history with both The Bayou and the Palouse.

“[Moscow] is kind of a transient town,” Larimer says.

Stubbing out their cigarettes, the band leads the way back indoors and down a set of narrow wooden steps downstairs. The space has the three C’s of basement bands: concrete, cinderblock and cans.

The simple drumset — three cymbals, kick drum, snare and a single tom — occupies one corner. The other instruments, amps and pedals fan out from there.

The sheer amount of equipment in the small space could be daunting, but Nandankar explains he works in the field of sound engineering — a fact Smith appreciates, since before it was up to him to find a balance without any formal training.

“Having a sound pro in the band is huge at shows,” Oglesby adds.

All four band members have storied musical backgrounds. Oglesby spent time in a three-piece, post-punk band for over a decade. Nandankar’s band Metropolis, active between 2007-2011, marks the last time he went on tour, afterward devoting himself to sound engineering full-time.

Smith says he played piano as a child but didn’t enjoy it and picked up bass instead. Then he got an acoustic guitar and spent the next few years learning to play songs from artists like Neil Young.

This plays into the band’s 90s indie rock sound and cohesion as a group, Smith says. Gathered around the setup, the others nod.

“We can read each other without looking,” Nandankar says, “so that’s kind of been a really big help in learning all of Gabe’s songs.”

It’s true that when the band plays, they keep up a musical flow without any obvious cues. Hallowed Oak’s sound is dark and mellow, with the slightest edge. It rings hollow around the basement while the four play under the string lights wrapped around the low wood ceiling beams.

Larimer’s red beanie bobs just a little as he keeps time on the drums; Smith rocks forward onto his toes whenever he sings into the mic. The group plays through originals “What a Night” and “Yoke.”

The band has a show on Oct. 25. Smith has an advantage by living at the Bayou — he and the rest of Hallowed Oak can practice at the performance venue.

“I’ve been a part of DIY scenes all over the place,” Smith says when they’ve finished. “Here in Moscow, it’s really respectful. People actually come out for the music.”

He says the show is open to all ages. Larimer asks about the Bayou’s slogan, and Oglesby provides it.

“No jerks, no drugs and no underage drinking,” he says.

“If we see any underage drinkers,” Smith adds, “we’re gonna take their alcohol away and drink it.”