Few people have heard of Waterville, Ohio. A rust-belt city of a few thousand comfortably settled against the Maumee River, it’s the kind of Americana often romanticized as a place of unvarnished love, bitter outcomes, and hometown grit. The entire place feels like a dream—a sense found in the music of Waterville’s ascendant indie-folk trio, Oliver Hazard.
The story of Oliver Hazard - Michael Belazis (vocals, guitar) and Devin East (vocals, guitar) and joined by Nate Miner (keys, vocals) - is the digital age’s version of classic band mythmaking. One member of the band returned home to Ohio after leading camping trips in California and decided to make an album with two of his childhood friends, a door-to-door salesman and a construction worker. They won a Facebook raffle to record a single song at a recording studio. Instead, they pitched playing their whole album straight through once, and so came their debut album 34 N River in 2018. They sent it to a friend who sent it to a friend, who sent it to The Fader, who called it a “folk-pop masterpiece.” The band was booked at Bonnaroo and Mountain Jam shortly thereafter.
A year later, in 2019, the band released their 6 track EP The Flood, in which Billboard called it a “souvenir.” A souvenir from the band’s self-launched “Living Room Tour,” where they toured the country, performing in over 60 of their fans' living rooms, all in the same year. “We wanted to figure out a way a band our size could really put ourselves in the right context and be heard and create these magical, intimate moments.”
This brings the band to their December 2022 EP, Northern Lights, and sophomore self-titled album, out July 2023, which includes music from the Northern Lights EP. “Not only is this our sophomore record, but also our self-titled album. This album continues to define our identity as a band but also individual songwriters existing symbiotically as Oliver Hazard. It is the story of shared experiences, a shared sense of place, and a shared sense of community,” the band explains.
The sound of their upcoming LP, produced by Jacquire King (Modest Mouse, Of Monsters and Men, Kings of Leon), blends delicate arrangements with sturdy melodies -- whether it’s the buoyant build of “Two x Four," the pensive foreboding of "Use Me Up," the sweet ring of "Saratoga," the smooth sophistication of "Summertime Whiskey" or the austere ambience of “Northern Lights.” The band clearly knows that less can be more, but its impact is the product of careful consideration.
Like its predecessors, this 10-track set is the work of three individual singers, songwriters and multi-instrumentalists, who share an organic connection in the craft -- sensibilities that, when fused together, yield music that's harmonic, haunting and at once ambitious and surprising. The charm is that the songs never sound mannered or constructed; they simply are as natural as something played on a front porch or the side of a river, around a campfire after a strenuous canoe trip.
The band’s growth as songwriters is apparent in the opening guitar melodies of “Ballerina,” a simple and uplifting chorus that sends us back to the early 1970’s. During the recording process of “Ballerina,” they started playing with a little Yamaha PSS-30 synthesizer from the 1980s. “We recorded our voices onto the synthesizer and played it back into the recording microphones. This bridge section of this song feels like the most experimental moment Oliver Hazard has recorded to date,” states Dev.
The raw effortless energy of the band’s melody making shines in their folk-pop anthem “Saratoga.” “The melody in this song was written when the band first started, we always knew there was something there,” says Mike. “It is a song about being disarmed by someone else. There is a mystical quality to the music and lyrics. Yet, like many of Oliver Hazard’s songs, the melody makes you want to drive into the sunset with the windows down.”
Much of the album, written individually and collectively by each band member, covers the subject of love, loss and growing apart. One of the more dynamic builds of the record, “Natalie,” is a lonely tale about growing apart. “There’s pain in leaving and being left behind, but there’s also a levity,” says the band. The timeless and unlocking instrumental at the end of the song makes you feel like not giving up.
Recorded in 2020, the shared experience of isolation is found in tracks like “Northern Lights.” “It is a song about longing for better days, but appreciating the tough ones,” says Mike. It was written during the winter months in Ohio, a time that often feels dark, cold, and isolating. Nevertheless, there is a beauty to an Ohio winter and the pause it gives you to reevaluate your life. “Northern Lights” is about coming to terms with your past and embracing the present. It is a rejection of regret.
The songs on this record feel like they belong together. If love, loss, and hope from each member could morph into an indie-folk concept album, this is it. Hear it in the love letter to a hometown girlfriend found in “Fly Right,” and also the desire to receive more letters in “Oh Mama Won’t You Write Me.” These songs are meant to be played side-by-side. Even the dusty instrumentation of “Let Down” and “Summertime Whiskey” sends the listener on a journey into a simpler time.
"This album feels different than anything we've done in the past. We’re very simple people, all three of us. I think the album reflects that, and I hope it captures something you probably can't describe yourself, but that speaks to you.” Dev says. “And as far as the message, it’s just shared experiences,” says the band.
Oliver Hazard is the result of some conscientious kismet, and a unique creative kinship between its three band members. At their essence, they are indie-folk seemingly meant to be accidentally discovered—at a bar somewhere in the Midwest–sung by three earnest, harmonizing musicians, who make you turn your head and feel like not giving up just yet.
Venue Pre-sale: Thursday July 27, 10:00 AM ET
Public On-sale: Friday July 28, 10:00 AM ET
Tickets are $15 in advance and $18 day of show.
Doors at 7:00 pm | Music starts at 8:00 pm.