The OaKs
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The OaKs


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"Orlando Citybeat - The OaKs CD Review"

The OaKs CD review

By Soorya Arsala


Published January 4, 2007

Rating: 4 STARS (out of 5)
ALBUM: Our Fathers And The Things They Left Behind

Over the ages, each generation inherits the history of their ancestors, shapes it accordingly, and then passes it along to their predecessors. This cycle of social responsibility, or lack there of, is turned over continuously. Although the past is predetermined, the variable that's not fixed is what's at hand.

The OaKs, led by Ryan Costello and Matt Antolick, have their eyes wide open to social awareness, their fate for change, and wisdom through their debut record, Our Fathers and the Things They Left Behind.

With an earnest and modest delivery on the spectrum somewhere between Aloha and Damien Rice, combined with subject matter that traverse cultures and coming of age, the 10 tracks on the album sympathize with The OaKs' mission to bring humanitarian aid to the children, widows, and returning refugees in Afghanistan via the Global Hope Network. In fact, half of the proceeds from the sale of this record benefit the non-profit organization.

"My Heart is Weighed and Waiting, Kabul" stands out on the album as an introspective monologue that's torn with a heavy heart and living up to one's full potential. Halfway through the album, "Survey for a Distribution of Winter Clothing," is an instrumental track that includes an extended sound clip amidst a busy exchange of Afghans greeting one another in the native language of Farsi. By the closer, "Epilogue, Celebration," the textual mood turns more optimistic while a combination of layered guitars with male and female vocals leave an aftertaste of hope.

The OaKs serve as a symbol of strength that one can make a difference by transforming what's been left behind by Our Fathers into a legacy.
- Orlando City Beat (

"Orlando Sentinel - OaKs' Music Resonates with a Humanitarian Tone"

Band members' experiences, philosophies color their debut album
Published January 5, 2007

Jan 2, 2007

A lot of bands do benefit shows, but the OaKs' devotion to a cause is part of its DNA -- not just a one-time gesture.

Orlando multi-instrumentalists Ryan Costello, 28, and Matt Antolick, 32, focus on the human side of life in Afghanistan on the OaKs debut album, Our Fathers and the Things They Left Behind. The music will be showcased in the band's headlining set with opening acts Jason Choi & the Sea, Northerness and Alleys on Saturday at the Social.

The cerebral, harmony-rich Our Fathers was inspired by the two years that Costello spent working in Afghanistan for the humanitarian and aid organization Global Hope Network International. There, he worked as director of agricultural development in a program that taught Afghan widows skills related to nutrition and lifestyle issues.

Along the way, Costello learned his own lessons about the kind of person that he wanted to be and the kind of world that he wanted to live in. The 10 songs on Our Fathers relate those gentle lessons, but it's more than a flowery tribute.

Costello and Antolick are contributing half of the proceeds from the album to Global Help Network: Since the album's September release, it has raised nearly $800.

"The sales are just getting off the ground, so I feel like it's just the beginning of something that could be really big," says Costello, who was a pre-med biology major at the University of South Florida in Tampa before his career goals started to change in 2001.

Around the same time, Antolick -- a friend and musical collaborator at USF -- also started doubting his goal of being a philosophy professor.

"We both had this parallel transition out of being kids into making ourselves into who we were going to be the rest of our lives," says Antolick, now a musician with the Moroccan ensemble at Epcot's World Showcase. "I had a lot to say in my philosophy courses about what was wrong with the world, but then I had a moment of clarity when I realized I didn't know anything about it."

As the two musicians started learning about the world, they also started to learn about the music business. The bulk of Our Fathers was created in a home studio, with Costello (vocals, guitar, keyboards) and Antolick (percussion, marimba, vibraphone) using a trial-and-error approach to recording and mixing. The duo is operating in the same way when it comes to marketing the disc, which is available at and Park Avenue CDs.

The band, which has swelled into a six-piece ensemble with accordion, brass and mandolin, accompanies its live shows with video images culled from Costello's time in Afghanistan. Eventually, there might be artifacts on display to open the eyes of audience members to what Costello has seen.

He finds that, for many, the perception of Afghanistan is altered by the filter of war-related news reports.

"One of the things I wanted to do was communicate to my generation what I had seen and experienced," Costello says. "When I initially went to Afghanistan, the poverty and the devastation, the things you typically see, were what overwhelmed me."

Eventually, however, all he saw were the people and "the struggles and the joys, the difficulties and the relationships, all the things that make life good, bad, beautiful and sad."

"I've found a lot of people are really surprised to see that side of Afghanistan, and it really resonates with them," Costello says. "They had imagined that was underneath the surface, but because of the media portrayals, they had never seen it or heard it."

As for the OaKs, the band is making new music that Costello and Antolick say is more upbeat than the subdued mood on Our Fathers, but the band expects that it will also have a message.

"I think there's a huge void in my generation for the kind of thing that we bring," Costello says. "We feel at any moment that the fire could start, and this could spread in a big way."

Jim Abbott can be reached at
- Orlando Sentinel (

"Orlando Weekly Feature Selection - The OaKs"

The Oaks How the muse will strike and when is an unknown to any artist, but when it does, others realize the presence. That’s how we’d describe our reaction to meeting two members of local band the Oaks who just happened to drop by our almost empty offices unexpectedly during the holidays to stir up interest in their show at the Social. Ryan Costello and Matt Antolick shared their inspirations with us: The former lived among the Afghan people from 2003 to 2005, teaching basics in agriculture and helping to build schools that had been lost in the bombing. The latter taught philosophy at USF before returning to music, this time with the perspective of a father and husband. Performed with a handful of various musicians and eclectic instruments, the songs captured on their full-length CD Our Fathers and the Things They Left Behind are harmonious soundscapes that are designed to awaken — more through music than words — the spirit of “humanitarian consciousness.” Sound wussy? We understand. Feelings are scary. (with Jason Choi and the Sea, the Northerness and Alleys, 9 p.m. Saturday at the Social; $7; 407-246-1419) - Orlando Weekly (

"Ink 19 REVIEW The Oaks - Our Fathers and the Things They Left Behind"

In the midst of a controversial war in the Middle East, a musician in Orlando packed up his belongings and shipped off to the mountains of central Afghanistan. Living amongst newly returned Afghan refugees, Ryan Costello worked as part of the humanitarian organization, Global Hope Network. He learned Farsi, taught agriculture and nutrition development -- all the while the seeds of a new musical adventure were being planted.

Meanwhile, back home in Florida, his writing partner Matthew Antolick was finishing up a Master's degree in Environmental Ethics and teaching undergrads philosophy. When Costello returned to the States after two years overseas, he brought with him the experiences and influences of that life-altering experience in the form of melodies and words.

The Oaks have produced a uniquely moving debut, Our Fathers & the Things They Left Behind, that is reminiscent of the '60s folk songs of Simon & Garfunkel, but updated for a generation living in the midst of a new Vietnam. The Middle Eastern vibes play themselves out in the form of mandolins, the marimba, vibraphones and bell sounds.

That's not to say The Oaks are just another folky protest band. Layered on top of the folk foundation are layers of textured atmosphere a la Radiohead, or more accurately, The Album Leaf. What's really special about this band is their commitment to their cause, "to inspiring us to wake up -- to introspect and to look with new eyes at how we can change the world around us." Putting their money where their mouth is, 50% of the profits from every album sold will go directly to benefit widows and recently-returned refugees in the mountains of Afghanistan. The album can be purchased through the band's website.

The Oaks:

Jen Cray

- Ink 19 (

"PASTE Magazine Feature Story -- Seeds of Hope"

Seeds of Hope:
Finding Family in Afghanistan

In the weeks following September 11, 2001, most Americans sat in front of their TVs feeling pissed-off, overwhelmed and helpless to effect change anywhere but in CNN's ratings.

Ryan Costello, an Orlando-based songwriter and multi-instrumentalist in his mid 20s, had even more reasons to feel helpless. Shortly after the towers fell, his car's engine dramatically caught fire and he was let go from his job, all in the same week. As if things weren't bad enough, he then fell ill and was bed-ridden for several days. The unbroken silence forced him to look inward.

I had to confront some difficult questions about myself and the vanity and spiritual irrelevance of my life up to then, Costello says. After that point of surrender I began to feel myself drawn to Afghanistan, a feeling that became stronger and stronger until I would almost describe it as a calling. I knew literally nothing about it as a country, but somehow I knew I was headed overseas to be a part of the change that was going to happen there.

During a two-week trip to Afghanistan's capital city, Kabul, in February 2003, Costello met with locals and foreign-aid workers to find out how he could help. They all stressed how sorely agricultural development was needed in the region. Afghan refugees who'd fled the Taliban were returning home to find their farms destroyed and seed stock wiped out.

When Costello returned to the States, he enrolled in training at the Educational Concerns for Hunger Organization (ECHO), building on what he'd learned as a kid working orange groves in florida. He finished selling the remainder of his belongings and returned to Afghanistan in fall 2003.

For the next two years Costello worked in Afghanistan as part of the Global Hope Network, splitting time between Kabul and the central mountain village Yawcalang. He learned to speak Farsi, made friends, worked in the fields, took photographs and returned to his room each night, exhausted and barely able to muster the energy to cradle an acoustic guitar in his lap. But he was intent on setting his experiences to music.

I had friends in the central mountains who saw their family gunned down, saw the Taliban pour oil across their fields and destroy their whole livelihood. But what amazed me was the hope they carried, and how, when this strange foreigner showed up with vegetable seed and some agricultural techniques, they were so ready to make a new start.

Costello left Afghanistan for good in August 2005. After returning home to central florida, he formed The OaKs with a musician friend of his, Matt Antolick, and began fleshing out the songs he'd penned overseas. The resulting album, Our Fathers And The Things They Left Behind, pins Costello's feathery vocals to a rich backdrop of acoustic guitar, horns, vibes and organ, proudly bearing the orchestral stamp of artists like Sufjan Stevens and Beirut. The band, now swelled to a six-piece, donates 50 percent of the record's proceeds to the Global Hope Network, whose work with Afghan refugees continues in Costello's absence.

The Afghans have a proverb in their culture: ˜The first day you meet, you are friends; the next day you meet, you are brothers. I came face to face with my selfishness as a single American male.

The real inspiration in this whole story is that, after stumbling upon that prickly realization, Ryan Costello didn't go looking for a pulpit. He found himself a pilot.

For more information about the Global Hope Network, visit Costello's photos from Afghanistan can be found at

[This article can also be found online via
- PASTE Magazine - July 2007 issue

" feature - The Oaks"

After spending 2 years with a humanitarian organization in Afganistan and teaching agriculture to recently-returned refugees, Ryan Costello returned to the states with a number of songs inspired by his experience. Partnering with longtime friend and former bandmate Matthew Antolick, they started The Oaks. The songs are very well-written, and the band does a stellar job of encompassing guitars, drums, horns, bells, organs, and mandolins into a big beautiful sound. The vocals are perfect, only adding a strong element to each piece and never taking away from anything. Go buy their debut album, Our Fathers and the Things They Left Behind, as the band is giving 50% of each sale to Global Hope Network. -

" - The Oaks: To The Other Side of the World and Back"

Every album has a story. The story behind The OaKs� debut album, Our Fathers And The Things They Left Behind, is one of the most interesting I�ve come across. Singer and guitarist Ryan Costello was a college student during the attacks of September 11th. After the impacting event, Costello joined the Global Hope Network (whose goal is to help deprived nations around the world). In 2003, Costello travelled to Afghanistan with the GHN, where he gained some of the most memorable experiences of his life. He also was educated in various Afghan traditions, from general culture to agriculture. In 2005, Costello returned to his native Florida with musical visions of his experiences in Afghanistan. During his stay, he would strum interpretative songs on his acoustic guitar of his daily experiences. After his return, he formed The OaKs with his best friend Matt Antolick. Their sound is primarily lo-fi, with a variety of instruments bustling underneath. Costello plays the guitars, mandolins, organs, and synths, while Antolick takes care of the marimba, vibraphones, bells, and drums. Over the next eight months, they would construct Our Fathers And The Things They Left Behind in their living rooms.

As expected from Costello�s travels, the album has a heavy historical influence. A couple of the tracks are about Hugh Thompson, a helicopter pilot during the Vietnam war who risked his life to save dozens of innocent Vietnamese citizens in 1968 (more�). A few tracks on the album also feature ambience of general life in Afghanistan recorded by Costello. Though the album is not particulary lively, there is plenty of emotion put into each and every song. While many of the songs are acoustic recollections, there is such a diverse amount of instrumentation with a few surprises here and there. The primary focus here is war � highlighting both the heroes and villians equally. The lyrics are particulary impressive, from the dramatically heroic �My Father�s God� to symbolically effective �Message From The Moon�. All are weaved in light but memorable melodies. The album also features a few of the duo�s friends, with delightful vocals by Naomi Schalm and additional bass and guitar work by Jeremy Siegel and Greg Willson.

I strongly recommend the purchase for a mere $10. Not just because it�s quality music, but also because 50% of the proceeds from the album go to the GBN, in aid to Afghan refugees. Great job, Ryan and Matt.


Its first CD, which features original music, raises money to aid Afghanistan.

Debbie Barr | Special to the Sentinel
Posted November 12, 2006

When it comes to making music, Ryan Costello of Winter Park and Matt Antolick of Winter Springs are marching to the beat of a different drum.

Costello and Antolick, co-founders of the band The OaKs, believe in creating music with a message and a mission.

Their first compact disc, titled Our Fathers and the Things They Left Behind ($10, Jupiter Studios), uses original music to further humanitarian aid projects in Afghanistan, where Costello, 28, recently worked to help refugee families find creative ways to cultivate the land for survival.

In the process, he connected with Afghan fathers, mothers and children who made a lasting impression on him.

"I experienced all these different things that I felt like people in America don't get to experience but need to become aware of. Music is one of the best ways to express thoughts," Costello said.

Half of the sales from the album will go toward funding two programs in Afghanistan sponsored by Global Hope Network International, a humanitarian and aid organization with a branch in Orlando.

The nonprofit agency heads up the Hope Center for Agriculture and Nutrition based in the capital city of Kabul, where Costello worked as director of agricultural development from 2003 to 2005. The agency also runs a program that teaches Afghan widows employable skills, such as jamming fruit and making quilts.

The 10-track CD was pieced together from song ideas Costello began working on while in Afghanistan.

When Costello returned to Central Florida a year ago, he and Antolick, 31, set those impressions to music.

The lyrics of the songs are meant to inspire introspection, selflessness and the search for truth "woven into the kind of music that just moves us," Antolick said.

Antolick and Costello embodied these themes in two anchor songs telling the story of Hugh Thompson, a helicopter pilot in Vietnam who risked his life to save Vietnamese civilians during the My Lai Massacre in 1968.

"We felt like it was a great story that needed to be told, but we also felt like it was the perfect vehicle to illustrate the concepts we wanted to talk about," Costello said.

"The message is just the search for truth; the struggles along the way are just part of it."

In the song "My Heart Is Weighed and Found Wanting, Kabul," Costello writes about "the dark parts" of himself that surfaced while in Afghanistan: his struggle to stifle his own selfishness amid the suffering around him and his fight to avoid desensitization to it.

"Even having 'given up everything' to go to Afghanistan, I'm still sitting in the middle of all these refugees, and sadness and need, and being selfish. . . . I'm still having to push away the selfish parts of myself and learn how to help people," Costello said.

In the divider track of the album, the band has interwoven music with audio of Afghani men and women speaking in their native Farsi accompanied by the everyday sounds of children crying, laughing and playing in the background.

The audio for the track, titled "Survey for a Distribution of Winter Clothing," was recorded by Costello on videotape while he was assessing needs and handing out winter clothing to squatter households in the poorest regions of Kabul.

The audio is a poignant reminder of the similarities all people share in the small, everyday activities that make up life, Costello said.

Antolick added that hearing the voices of Afghani families transported him directly to Kabul.

"This track in particular evokes a lot of imagery for me. It's really emotional and inspiring because I feel like I'm there," Antolick said.

Costello and Antolick became fast friends and bandmates during their college days at the University of South Florida in Tampa.

After graduating and going their separate ways to experience "real life," they joined up again last year.

"When we started to write songs together, there seemed to be such a deeper message and concept to it," said Costello, a social worker at the Children's Home Society in Orlando.

Antolick works as a musician at Walt Disney World's Epcot Center.

Beginning in January, the musical duo spent eight months working around their day jobs to piece together the album in Costello's living room.

Costello provided vocals, guitar and keyboard tracks for each song, while Antolick laid down tracks for percussion, drum set, marimba and vibraphone. Naomi Schalm of Orlando contributed backup vocals.

Now that the album has been recorded, Costello said the band has expanded to six members to begin live local performances.

Newest members include Greg Willson on guitar, Jeremy Siegel on bass, trombone and mandolin and Tim Cocking on keyboard, harmonica, accordion and trumpet.

The band will promote the CD during shows, which will also include a combinatio - The Orlando Sentinel

"DOA Review - The OaKs - Our Fathers and the Things They Left Behind"

The Oaks’ debut album, Our Fathers and the Things They Left Behind is a thought-provoking recording of several songs that have their roots in the soil of Afghanistan. Songwriter Ryan Costello spent two years there on a humanitarian mission living with recently returned refugees, learning from them, and helping teach them nutrition development and agriculture. He was incredibly moved by the experience and expressed these emotions through his guitar. These musical expressions became the seeds for the songs featured on his first full-length album.
After returning from the Middle East, Ryan joined with his best friend and long-time musical partner, Matt Antolick, to expand these songs and refine them for recording. Over the next eight months, they worked together to produce their first album, recording it entirely in their living room with the help of several friends.

The album begins with beautiful, fluttery acoustic guitar, a prelude to their musical homage to Hugh Thompson, Jr., one of the heroes of the Mai Lai massacre in Vietnam who saved a village of wounded civilians from being massacred by US troops. The song, “For Hugh Thompson, Who Stood Alone. My Lai Massacre, Vietnam, 1968” is quite possibly the best on the album, with flowing guitar, fluid drums, bells, horns and back-up vocals that frame the inspiring lyrics, “In the line of fire you raised your hands / as the silence slowly descended / between infamy and fame your name was on the lips / of both angels and demons.”

Another song, “Hugh Thompson, the aftermath” laments the result of the My Lai incident, in which Officer Thompson was punished by the military and rejected by who he thought were his close friends. “The silence still remained as you lay in your bunk that night / as your friends prepared to make of you a sacrifice.”

“Message from the Moon” is another great song, with beautiful rhythms and a full sound created by layers of guitars, vocals, and marimba. The lyrics, “my light won’t shine forever / so lift up your head and look around at the cave you’re in” urges the listener to live life now because, “all our days are numbered / until we stand before our maker.”

All of the songs on the album are very well written, and they are as inspiring as they are introspective. You can hear their influences including Guided By Voices, Sigur Ros, Paul Simon, Radiohead and Donovan, with a fluid mingling of sounds that creates a musical atmosphere well suited to their poetic lyrics. This album is worth a listen, and with 50% of all profits going to aid Afghan refugees, you can feel even better about purchasing the CD.

-Alicia Olivant
10/30/06 - Delusions of Adequacy (DOA)


2006 - Our Fathers and the Things They Left Behind (LP)
2008 - Songs for Waiting (Release date: March 4, 2008)



See this month's BASS PLAYER MAGAZINE, p62- Matthew and Jeremy get mentions for their playing on Songs For Waiting, and BP recommends the album!

Stream the new album Songs For Waiting (Release Date March 4, 2008) through

Join us on MYSPACE --
In late 2003, just two years after 9/11, The OaKs's Ryan Costello sold everything he owned, joined a humanitarian organization and moved to Afghanistan. Costello lived there for two years, working in the Central Afghan mountains with returned refugees, teaching them creative agricultural techniques and becoming fluent in their native language, Farsi. Late at night, while the dust storms blocked out the stars and rattled the windows, he would sit and work out impressions of what he had seen and heard that day on his acoustic guitar.

After returning to the United States, Costello joined back up with his long-time creative and song-writing partner Matthew Antolick, who was drumming full-time in a Moroccan band. Antolick and Costello began working out Costello’s melodic ideas and lyrical concepts, home-recording in Antolick’s apartment what eventually became Our Fathers and the Things They Left Behind. Exploring themes of self-sacrifice and introspection over roots-folk and jazzy melodic layers, Our Fathers... was an original breath of fresh air for independent music.

The release of Our Fathers... drew immediate attention to The OaKs in Orlando's press and music scene, and the attention quickly went national as Paste magazine featured Costello and The OaKs in their July 2007 cover story "Can Rock Save the World." The OaKs also partnered with Global Hope Network on the release of Our Fathers...and agreed to donate 50% of the profits from each CD or track download from that album to aid widows and recently-returned refugees from Afghanistan.

Costello and Antolick immediately realized the difficulty of translating their multi-tracked compositions into a live setting with just a duo, and began working to put together a band of diverse musicians who could make the compositions come to life on stage. They were joined by Jeremy Siegel, a classically trained bassist steeped in Led Zeppelin and Bootsy Collins riffs, and also fluent in classical and jazz trombone. Tim Cocking came next - a piano major and audio engineer who's as dexterous on his trumpet as he is on his keyboard and accordion, and Greg Willson, a seminary student wielding a mandolin and electric guitar and who played the breathiest Stan Getz-style saxophone they had ever heard. Their lineup was completed shortly thereafter by Melissa Reyes, a singer-songwriter whose alto voice and folk harmonies complemented perfectly with Costello’s high vibrato. From the first guitar riff at their debut show on stage at the 2006 Anti-Pop Music Festival, it was apparent that they were meant to be making music together – the energy in the room was electric, and the reviews were raving.

Out of this natural chemistry was born many new songs over the winter of 2006/2007. Inspired by the unique talents of each member, Costello and Antolick began writing songs that would showcase the bands rhythmic tightness and diverse instrumentation. Lyrically, Costello delved into themes of spirituality in the midst of brokenness, of longing and searching, and continued to explore the previous album’s themes of social justice and self-sacrifice. The OaKs honed these tracks in the living room of Costello’s wood-floored 1950’s style house, and at live shows across the state, until the musical complexity and rhythmic tightness of the music exceeded anything they had created before.

In late July of 2007, Costello put in for part-time employment at his social work job and the OaKs began recording Songs For Waiting. Using the warm, full sound of Costello’s old house, they determined to use no artificial reverb on the new album, instead using room mic’ing techniques to mix the elements together in the style of their favorite 1960’s jazz and rock albums. Even synthesizers were played through amplifiers and speakers and run into the room to give them the woody ambience of Costello’s house. Over the next few months The OaKs employed trumpet, trombone, sax, Hammond organ, bells, synths from the 70’s and 80’s, acoustic and classical guitars, electric and acoustic bass, a plethora of shakers, tambourines, and hand-drums, and a Wurlitzer electric piano from 1959.

In mid October Antolick, Costello, and keyboardist Tim Cocking began mixing the new album. Using as few modern mixing tricks as possible, including no artificial reverb or delay, they carefully arranged each song. Throughout