Arts & Culture

Discover All Things Regional in Central PA’s art and culture scene. Join hosts Cary Burkett and Joe Ulrich as they make artistic discoveries throughout the midstate. From music and visual arts to theatre, museums, literature and more! Listen every Wednesday and Friday on witf 89.5 and 93.3 for features highlighting the best and brightest cultural happenings in the region.

WITF Music: The Ok-Ok's

Written by Joe Ulrich, Arts & Culture Desk and WITF Host | Mar 5, 2018 7:00 AM
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Live and learn.

The Lancaster band The Ok-Ok's have been doing just that. On their first tour they learned a bit about scheduling. Like don't schedule a tour with only two shows that are far from home, and far from each other.

"We had the Memphis show Friday," says the band's guitarist Isaac Swartz. "So we drove straight there, got done with that show, drove as far as we could, went to a hotel. And then drove the rest of the way to Cleveland that night."

His sister Sadie, the band's singer adds with a laugh, "And then we arrive there just in time to have to play."

"And then we left and went home," Isaac says.

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The two siblings along with Jordan Williamson on drums and Andrew Sterner on bass are The Ok-Ok's (website, Facebook, Instagram) whose music blends rock, blues and a kind of punk spirit.

Andrew's learned that he likes networking with people and routing tours for the band.

"I like people and networking and travelling," he says. "I try to help out people that I meet on the road and then they return the favor...I was kinda lazy about it at first but I would really like to quit my day job so I decided this year this was gonna be the year that I was gonna actively push us outside of Pennsylvania."

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When you meet Sadie she appears to be a very gentle person but she's learned that when she's behind the microphone, she doesn't have to fit anyone's expectations. Her vocal growling came about through some self-discovery.

"My dad was the one who was like, 'You need to do that'," she says. "He was showing me Alabama Shakes one time and he was like 'Do you think you can do that?'"

Adding a growl to her reportoir of vocal techniques helped illuminate some things about her singing.

"It doesn't need to always sound pretty. I'm able to have a voice that's an instrument and used in the same way as a guitar or a bass or the drums. You put different on those things to create different expressions."

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The internet has made it common practice for musicians to release singles instead of albums. It's a different way of thinking about music as isolated songs instead of as part of a collection. The Ok-Ok's released their second full album last year (Spotify, iTunes) and Jordan, the band's drummer talked about consuming an album as a whole rather than just its component songs.

"Sometimes when you listen to a single it's like watching a trailer and not watching the actual movie. I know in the Kendrick [Lamar] album [Good Kid, M.A.A.D City], the whole album kinda tells one story and I would just listen to songs off of it. And I actually sat down and listened to a whole album and it's a cohesive story all the way through."

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As the story of the Ok Ok's unfolds they're learning the things the keep a band going. Planning, networking and a little growling seem to be working well for them so far. 

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(L-R) Sadie Swartz, Andrew Sterner, Jordan Williamson, Isaac Swartz

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