Scarlet Oaks
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Scarlet Oaks

Detroit, Michigan, United States | INDIE

Detroit, Michigan, United States | INDIE
Band Americana Folk


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This band has not uploaded any videos



"In My Ear"

In My Ear
Scarlet Oaks
June 3rd, 2009

What happens when the alt-country of Whiskeytown meets up with The Byrds' sweet melodies and the raucous punk/country of X? You get Detroit’s own country darlings, Scarlet Oaks, who create outstanding, countrified folk/blues/pop that is pleasing enough to get any Yankee slapping his knees like a southern boy. Check out their suggested listening material and then head to PJ’s Lager House on June 12 to catch the band live:

Bon Iver
For Emma, Forever Ago
Johnny Horton
The Essential Johnny Horton 1956-1960
The Replacements
Pleased To Meet Me
Fleet Foxes
Fleet Foxes
Speedy West
Steel Guitar
Bonnie "Prince" Billy
Loretta Lynn
Blue Kentucky Girl
Caetano Veloso
Silver Jews
Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea
Faron Young
Live Fast, Love Hard - Real Detroit Weekly

"Interview: Scarlet Oaks"

Interview: Scarlet Oaks
Deep Cutz
May, 3rd 2009

Scarlet Oaks, Detroit-based souther-swathed folk and gutteral indie-rockers, had an industrious 2008, playing consistently throughout the south east hand-shaped-state, including City Fest and releasing a debut EP, Innocence Isn't Easy. The debut was a mix of the harmonious and the rough crackling, the shuffled pop and the gritty grind, the swooning and the spook.

This year's bringing on considerable changes for the band. Started by Steve McCauley and Noelle Lothamer in late 06, the quartet has solidified its line up with James Anthony on guitar and Joe Lavis on bass. They'll release their latest, Canadien Dew EP, in July on Bellyache Records.

"All the songs on Innocence were pretty much written before Scarlet Oaks was even band," said McCauley. "The new record has all been written with the band and it's musicians in mind. And, Noelle wrote a really great duet for us to sing. Plus, we're recording it totally different. We recorded Innocence over a year. It was a tough and grueling process with member changes and a lot of rerecording. The new record is being recorded pretty much live(at Ghetto Records) with the exception of the vocals and solos. We are hoping for a more "authentic" and "raw" Scarlet Oaks sound."

Asked about the source of their sound, often read as penchants for southern murk as refracted through the scuff of cement jungles, McCauley said, "Like the South for other artists, living in the City of Detroit is a pretty big part of my lyrical content. It's hard to be "sentimental" and "upbeat" a lot of the time with all of the economic problems and decay. So that cynicism makes it's way into the songs. Still, I've made a lot of strong bonds and great friendships, and have had a lot of great times in this City, and that is definitely a part of the new EP."

Coming up next for the band: I've been trying to defy my own conventions as a songwriter," said McCauley. "So hopefully people will hear some different sounds from Scarlet Oaks in the near future. This year is the year we get out of Detroit! Now that we have a more stable line up, we're going to be able to get out of town more. It's great to play here, but we're trying to expand our audience and not wear out our welcome. We're currently putting together some Midwest stuff as well as a swing down South." - Deep Cutz

"Ghosts of forgotten style"

Ghosts of Forgotten Style -
Scarlet Oaks aims to reinvent the long-lost art of true alt-country

By Wendy Case

Singer-drummer Noelle Lothamer has no illusions about the popular perception of rock 'n' roll stalwarts bailing for country music's more pastoral pastures."Country is where rockers go to age gracefully," the 35-year-old muses, as she sips white wine at the kitchen table of her Ferndale home with Scarlet Oaks bandmate, singer-songwriter Steve McCauley. A vet of area rock acts like Outrageous Cherry and Troy Gregory & the Stepsisters, Lothamer's seen enough of the musical landscape to be a fairly good judge of the terrain. "We've gone from hard rock to punk rock and now we've graduated to country," she says of the pair's individual musical evolutions. She's joking, of course — but just a little.

More than "graduating," what she and McCauley have done with their fledgling, Detroit-area alt-country act is to bind the freewheeling forces of rock with the candor of country's storytelling legacy. The band's impressive debut EP, Innocence Isn't Easy, shows as much reverence for X as it does for Gram Parsons. But while those comparisons come easily, there's something about Scarlet Oaks' unusual song structures that reaches well beyond the Tweedy-aping of its contemporaries. There's an almost gothic quality to these creations. Like Nirvana, even the most glittering moments and euphoric arrangements carry with them a subtle shroud of uneasiness.

"No matter how upbeat their songs are, I always find something a little haunting in there," says Scotty Hagen of Ferndale's Bellyache Records. Hagen, who put out the EP along with the band, says that McCauley's songwriting is what lured him to the project. "His sound is so unique," he says. "It's a little ghostly, like the ghost of a forgotten style."

Sitting across the table from the earnest, sweet-faced McCauley, it's sometimes difficult to put into context the fact that he's the primary force behind the band's searching, slightly doleful homages to obsessive love, musket-toting heroines and urban sprawl. But like the songs themselves, one gets the feeling that there's a lot more going on in there than the surface is willing to allow.

"I try to be vague," the 31-year-old says. A multi-instrumentalist who broke into the scene with his twin brother, Patrick, in Fifth Period Fever, McCauley also plays guitar and harmonica in Scarlet Oaks. Though his pop sensibilities are keen, he has a bluesman's perspective when it comes to crafting a lyric. "The lyrics are just part of the song — the overall picture is what matters," he says. "You can make words mean whatever you want them to. I can't write an overt love song — the heartache and dysfunction are so much easier to define."

Although McCauley's songwriting career began years earlier in his hometown of Plymouth, in many ways, his collaboration with Lothamer seemed predestined. The two first met when Lothamer's aunt hired one of McCauley's early lineups to perform at a family party on her Eaton Rapids farm in 2001. Their paths would cross again a few years later when Lothamer auditioned as a drummer for Fifth Period Fever.

"Apparently I wasn't good enough, because he never called me back," she crabs good-naturedly. But when McCauley began to shift gears, stylistically, in 2006, he found a perfect partner in Lothamer who, at that time, had transitioned away from her primary instrument (bass) and was becoming a dominant force on the drums — "dominant" being the key word. Behind the kit, Lothamer looks like a Victorian rendering of a woman possessed. Focused and intense, with big eyes flashing, she knocks out rock solid shuffles and dramatic fills while McCauley works the stage — her voice mingling with his in strangely harmonious bedlam.

"Obviously, I'm not the most technically proficient drummer," Lothamer shrugs, "but my enthusiasm must be what people respond to. I think the singing adds to the performance aspect — and it's easier for me to play drums and sing than it was to play bass – my arms just kinda go on autopilot."

If Lothamer is the wild card, McCauley is Scarlet Oaks' anchor – the stabilizing force whose own exemplary showmanship was shaped by seeing punk legends the Bad Brains live when he was in the eighth grade. "Combining the songs with the passion is really important," says the singer, whose vocal chops have the rasp of early Kris Kristofferson and the gentility of Parsons. "I like the mentality of laying it on the line. I hate watching bands just stand there."

The band has played at all the usual Detroit area watering holes, as well as delivering a spirited on-air performance at WDET. And as is de rigueur in this town, they've also endured several member changes along the way.

The present lineup features James Anthony on guitar and Ian Williamson (formerly of Capitol Cities) on bass. But the foundation of the band lies in the bond that has grown between McCauley and Lothamer. "Bands are harder than marriage," says McCauley, who currently resides in Woodbridge with wife Sarah. "It's the most complicated relationship you'll ever have." Lothamer, who is also in a relationship, has her own take on it: "In this great, polyamorous business of being in a band, Steve and I are monogamous. We can count on each other. This is probably the first band I've been in where I feel 100 percent comfortable in my role. As a result, I've definitely gotten better — I'm taking it a lot more seriously."

For both of them, "seriously" means putting all of their focus on the music. There are no pie-in-the-sky career ambitions in this camp — they've been too close to the flame, historically, to put their faith in the beleaguered entertainment industry. Instead they keep their goals simple: make better songs, make better records, play your ass off and, in the tradition of their heroes, keep it close to the vest.

"The more you learn about somebody, the less you idolize them," says McCauley, who, for his part, prefers not to be too literal.

"It's like hotdogs and Twinkies. Do you really want to know what's in there?"

Wendy Case is a freelance writer for Metro Times. Send comments to - Metro Times - 1/21/09

"When North Meets South"

Scarlet Oaks -
When North Meets South

by Eric Allen

Someone once said that Detroit is a Southern city misplaced in the North. With our penchant for the blues, a stellar working class attitude and the fact that there are farms only 30 minutes north of the city, it’s hard to disagree with this statement. At least, the Scarlet Oaks definitely subscribe to this line of thinking anyway.

The band, which features guitarist/vocalist Steve McCauley, drummer Noelle Christine and bassist Ian Williamson, takes the country music of the South and serves it through a late-'90s Detroit filter. The band even met in an odd mix of Southern and Yankee traditions. “Originally, Noelle and I met at a pig roast outside of Lansing,” Steve McCauley says. “I was playing with a vegan honky-tonk band and after the show we struck up a great conversation about music. We remained friends for the next few years and, when the bands we were in fell apart, we decided to team up.” The idea of a vegan honky-tonker playing a show at an almost ritualistic style burning of an animal is something that is distinctly Detroit and Scarlet Oaks, for that matter. This sentiment passes on from personal actions into the band’s music as well.

With tinges of glam, rock-a-billy and British Invasion rock ‘n’ roll reflecting the early garage scene, the Scarlet Oaks have opened up their musical reference points to a wide variety of genres as they have grown. “You could even throw some Dixieland Jazz and some French Pop into that mix,” McCauley states. “We try to condense as much of those elements into our songs as we can. We hope the end result is some really nice music.”

McCauley’s talent for songwriting and Christine’s pitch perfect pension for picking out harmonies make for interesting sound. “I always carry a small tape recorder and record ideas when they pop into my head. It might be dangerous, but I do a lot of my writing when I drive.” McCauley says. “From there I tweak it a bit and then bring it to the band where they help establish the arrangements and structure. Then Noelle comes up with the backing vocal and harmony parts.”

The great music that the band has set out to create has resulted in their debut EP, Innocence Isn’t Easy. The record, which is being released this month on Bellyache Records, was recorded in Ann Arbor with help from friend/producer Chris DuRoss at Big Sky Studio. Although the group has only been a band since early 2007, that hasn’t stopped them from writing many songs and pulling from their wide array of influences on this record. “We laid down a good cross section of our material and tried to keep the recording as simple and raw as possible,” McCauley comments.

In a city where many big bands have taken to putting some country twang in their step, it seems like it might be possible for a smaller group to keep their head above water. This isn’t the case with The Scarlet Oaks. “What sets us apart from other bands is the songs,” McCauley says. “I’m not saying we’re better than other bands, but I think we’ve got some really good songs. We want a listener to hear one of our songs and know it’s a Scarlet Oaks song. Hopefully, that’s enough to cut through and get people’s attention.” - Real Detroit Weekly - 5/6/09

"Scarlet Oaks at CityFest"

Scarlet Oaks at CityFest

(Relative) Americana newcomers are ready to lay their roots on the Park Stage

By Lauren Roberts
July 1, 2008

In the summer of 2000, Steven McCauley's honky tonk (and partially vegan) band played a pig roast in Lansing where he struck up a conversation with a young woman by the name of Noelle Christine. Over the years, Steve and Noelle's friendship grew and when Steve needed a drummer for a new project he was working on in late 2006, he called on Noelle to join him. It was then that the roots of the Scarlet Oaks were planted.

With their first show in the bank in January of 2007 and the very recent release of their five song "Innocence Isn't Easy" EP, the Scarlet Oaks have hit the ground running and won't be looking back anytime soon.

The addition of bassist Ian Williamson and guitarist/vocalist Mike Munerantz has rounded out the band, to create their unique Americana sound, reminiscent of Johnny Cash or Wilco (before Wilco bored us all to death).

Metromix got down with Steven McCauley to learn some more about Scarlet Oaks before they take to the CityFest Park Stage Thursday.

As a fairly new band, what was your reaction when you were asked to play CityFest?
We were thrilled, CityFest is a great way to reach people. We appeal to anyone who appreciates Willie [Nelson] and Johnny [Cash], so we don't necessarily [cater to] music snobs. Our music is geared toward anyone between the ages of 20 and 60. My grandma likes what we're doing!

You put your EP out on Bellyache Records, which was primarily a garage rock label before the Scarlet Oaks signed on. What drew you to Bellyache?
I love Scotty [Hagen], he's the nicest guy in rock and roll. The Grande Nationals played my former band's CD release party a few years ago and we've been good friends ever since. His label is high quality and we had been [tossing around the idea] of working together, so it just made sense.

Who are you looking forward to seeing perform at CityFest this year?
The Zombies are one of my favorite bands of all time. There isn't a better band...well...there's The Beatles, but you know what I mean. The Zombies are amazing -- I can't wait to see them.

What are you big plans for the summer?
We have a ton of songs lingering around that we're hoping to record this summer. We would like to play out more and tour the Midwest. We have a show booked in Toledo in August, but we'd like to get out to Cleveland and Chicago as well.

If you could form a super-group of musicians (past or present), who would you want to jam with?
I'd put Eddie Hazel (Funkadelic) on guitar, John Brannon (Negative Approach) would be on vocals, Keith Moon (The Who) on drums, James Jamerson on bass, and Bernie Worrell (Talking Heads) on keyboards. I'd want to be Peter Grant (manager of Led Zeppelin and The Yardbirds). - Metromix


"Innocence Isn't Easy" EP - 2008 Bellyache Records

"Canadian Dew" EP - 2009 Bellyache Records



Scarlet Oaks played their first show in January of 2007. Since their inception, they have sought to throw the traditional labels of “americana”, “alt-country” and “country rock” over the falls and forge their own path through the achieve of American music. With a passion for song writing and energetic live performance, Scarlet Oaks will tear down the notions of what a band exploring “folk rock” should sound like.

The roots of Scarlet Oaks go back to 2001 when founding members Steve McCauley and Noelle Christine Lothamer met a pig roast outside of Lansing. Steve’s half vegan honky-tonk band was playing and the two struck up a conversation about music after the set and became good friends. Over the next few years both played in various projects and gigged together around Detroit. In need of a drummer and a new beginning, Steve called on his friend Noelle to lend a hand. That project became Scarlet Oaks. With the addition of bassist Joe Lavis and James Anthony on lead guitar, the line up was complete.

Scarlet Oaks released their second EP “Canadian Dew” in August of 2009. “Dew” along with the their first EP “Innocence Isn’t Easy” highlight Scarlet Oaks’ pension for songwriting and harmonizing, as well as their desire to push the boundaries of American music. Scarlet Oaks is currently working on a follow-up 7" single and a full length record expected sometime in early 2010. Look for them live around the Midwest and East Coast this fall and winter.