the Ooks of Hazzard
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the Ooks of Hazzard

Los Angeles, California, United States

Los Angeles, California, United States
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"Ukulele band Strikes a Chord"

A ukulele band strikes a chord
Venice's Ooks of Hazzard, which plays covers of famous bands, finds a measure of fame thanks to YouTube.

By Daiana Feuer, Special to the Los Angeles Times
September 24, 2010
A few months ago at a Venice Beach party called the Seventh Chakra Purple Party, the directive on the invitation was simple: "Wear purple and come with an open mind!"

Inside the upscale house, the most mind-opening part was a rather explicit makeshift museum celebrating the female anatomy. Outside, New Age types in their 30s and 40s mingled flirtatiously around a lavish yard featuring a trickling Zen waterfall, floor pillows and artificial grass. Most guests, however, were crammed in the backhouse, where they cheered ukulele cover band the Ooks of Hazzard as the nine musicians headed toward a "Purple Rain" finale.

"We've got tiny guitars!" Ooks member Charlie Diaz yelled out, rallying the crowd. The more audience members drank, the louder they sang along, drowning out the band's renditions of songs by, among others, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Radiohead, Sublime, Aretha Franklin and Merle Haggard. "You show up with ukuleles and people think, 'Here we're going to have some Hawaiian music or Tiny Tim,'" says the Ooks' Patrick Hildebrand. "Then you break out rock songs and soul songs and Pink Floyd."
Covering the right song at the right moment is a cover band's mission. On April 19, the Ooks of Hazzard got lucky in that respect, making its YouTube debut with New York art rock band MGMT's biggest hit, "Kids." Coincidentally, MGMT had excluded "Kids" from its performance at the Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival that same weekend, and disappointed fans began speculating on why the band had stricken the song from its repertoire. As if on cue, the ukulele cover band from Venice Beach stepped in to help.

The group recorded the "Kids" video in hopes of snagging a gig with it, says Diaz, who once charmed his way out of a ticket by playing ukulele for cops. "We decided to just put it on YouTube while we were finishing the mix, and it got 15,000 hits in the first few days." Ten days later it was at 125,000, and it has now surpassed 250,000 plays.

Recorded at Live Rock Studios, the video's soft-lit angles and sentimental cross-fades try to fit all nine musicians onscreen at once. Sitting in a row on a black stage, seven Ooks strum ukuleles, one plays accordion and another taps the cajón, dividing the song's rhythms into nine distinct intricate parts.

"It's all orchestrated," says Ooks member Ed Marshall. "There's the bass uke, the tenor, the concert and the soprano. You have a lot of voices there, and a lot of different timbres." The camera pans beside each deeply engaged musician noodling a tiny guitar. They're a lot older than MGMT. Not a shiny lamé legging or headband appears on them. Stripped of its hipness, "we turned it into a pretty uke song," Diaz says.

To the Ooks' surprise, music bloggers found the video and started spreading the word. The Ooks put the song on iTunes, where it peaked at No. 13 on the singer-songwriter charts. A 3-month-old unknown band, the Ooks of Hazzard soon was fielding calls from around the world.

Venice Beach is strange. For every spandex-wrapped muscleman cruising the boardwalk, there's a crystal-toting chakra enthusiast living around the corner. Residents talk about the cosmos the way Merle Haggard talks about Jesus. Some Ooks of Hazzard members, in fact, believe that the band's unusual genesis, as well as the unexpected "Kids" attention, boils down to interplanetary alignment. Such also is the ukulele's power: "On the energy level," Marshall says, "it's one more thing that connects you to the planet. You can't be in a bad mood with a uke in your hand."

The ukulele's vibey magnetism guided the band members to the same Venice jam session, where they found each other earlier this year. "You ever get nine people together of all different walks and talks? It gets pretty interesting," Marshall says.

Hildebrand, Diaz, Marshall and cajón player Dave Botkin are surfers from Venice and Santa Monica. Nick Deane is a bit goth. He and Meredith MacArthur come from the theater world. When the Ooks formed, Jay Ponti was leaving on a spiritual quest. He took his soprano uke to India and traveled nomadically, playing ukulele. "He brought back the juju in time for our first show," Hildebrand says. Danny Kopel is the patriarch on accordion, and Timm Freeman, "a well-rounded Northern California biker type," plays bass uke.

"The spectrum of all of us is kind of bizarre. It normally wouldn't mix," Diaz admits.

New Age socialites and surfers aren't the only ones picking up ukuleles lately. At this year's South by Soutwest festival in Austin, Texas, " The Beatles Complete on Ukulele" showcase spent two days in presenting the entire Beatles catalog on ukulele. A new documentary, "The Mighty Uke: The Amazing Comeback of a Musical Underdog," highlights the influence of Israel Kamakawiwo'ole's "Over the Rainbow" and Jake Shimabukuro, the ukulele's Jimi Hendrix. The last few years, Paul McCartney, Amanda Palmer, Jack Johnson, and Rilo Kiley have been caught strumming the four-string chordophone in front of large audiences.

Until its recent resurgence, the ukulele hadn't been cool since Tiny Tim tiptoed through the tulips with one in 1968. Perhaps, Hildebrand speculates, a gravitation toward organic ideas cultivates the interest in more simple musical forms and instruments — which leads to musical union.

"Given ukuleles, we become one," Hildebrand says. "Strip it away, we are all human and know these songs and we want to be happy. The uke translates that energy of connectiveness between us."

calendar@latimes.com
Copyright © 2011, Los Angeles Times
- Los Angeles times


"top 10 videos of the year"

I’ve been looking back through this year’s UkeTubes and there’s been some really fantastic stuff. There’s been so much variety in the stuff that’s been produced. I was about to say best year ever, but perhaps it’s not quite as good as last year – I’ll say this year is best for videos and last year was best for records.

So today I’ve put together two posts with my favourite videos from UkeTubes this year* along with ones that caused a stir in the comments and those that spread on the net. Let me know your favourites and what I’ve missed out in the comments.
- Ukulele hunt


Discography

kids single available on itunes and amazon.com
ooks of hazzard ep release on feb 1 2011.
videos on youtube
music streaming on last.fm
reverbnation - http://www.reverbnation.com/theooksofhazzard

Photos

Bio

The Ooks of Hazzard
ooksofhazzard@gmail.com
"What The Ooks Of Hazzard lack in marketable style, exorbitant youthfulness, and unrelenting buzz, they make up for in ukuleles."
"This is not your daddy's ukulele band, my friends. While the arrangements might be Skifflish, the seven ukists play riffs that are more Crüe than Creole. Source material trends towards brilliant classic and modern Rock covers. The sound is organic and hip at the same time. That's something you can't do on purpose, it just happens."
"Audiences are enchanted by the Ooks. Not just because of the collected musical talent, but because they have taken Rock, a genre of music often associated with self-absorbed angry brats, and they made it fun again. Lyrics tell a story because the musicians relate to each other as well as the music. Seven four- string ukes can sound like one full stringed instrument when it's done right, and these guys are doing it right in a band that was formed 5 minutes ago. Amazing."
"American music has come full circle with the Ooks of Hazard. This Rock band is anything but rock. An accordion, a cajon, and
seven ukuleles zip through the music like a roller-coaster riding a xylophone."
The 9 Non-UkuleleThings About The Ooks of Hazzard
This band, featuring an accordion, a cajon, and seven ukuleles continues to excite people everywhere. The following is my list of the top ten reasons, other than those little guitars, for their ascending success.
9. EVENING BECOMES ECLECTIC 60's pop, country, early rock, glam, classic rock, indi rock, blues, boogie-woogie and Zydeco are not only on the same set list, they actually segue beautifully. No other band can make this claim or for that matter, cover so many genres of music all at once if at all. This is because the Ooks put their own well defined unique musical personality into each song, and also because the band members are talented enough to pull it off. This is no Fake Book wedding band, my friends, these people are artists.
8. THE MUSICAL ARRANGEMENTS The loose charts allow for the character of this band to shine without compromising the quality of the music. Music blends into one distinguishable sound that has many textures. Nine instruments and nine vocalists allow for depth and flexibility. If the charts were written and played strictly it would give the Ooks a slick commercial sound, remove the subtle grit and reduce them to a talented novelty band. They have found that place between jammin' and performing, a very small grey area, musically speaking.
7. THE VOCALISTS
The Ooks of Hazzard
ooksofhazzard@gmail.com
There are enough people onstage for back-up singers on any number, and sharing the leads and even the individual verses on songs gives this band range. The Ooks vocals are infectious.
6. THE BUTT BOX (Cajon) Drummers are usually under-rated musicians, and the butt of many musicians' jokes about being late for the gig because the van broke down...again. The cajon is the driving source for many of their songs. The Ooks could have used an ordinary drum set but then they would have had an ordinary sound. Cymbal crashes and snare rolls from a standard drum kit have no place in a band with tiny instruments, as the drummer should never take focus in this pure ensemble.
5. ACCORDION AND TOY PIANO The accordion is completely essential part of the Ooks' sound. There's an organic, almost vocal quality that breathes from the bellows of a squeezebox that you don't get from an electric keyboard, no matter how many presets you use or buttons you push. Music is about blending sounds and the addition of the accordion in the Ooks band allows the melody to gently rise above the chorus of seven small 4 string guitars, creating a balance without being overbearing. An organ or clavinet would have been too much.
4. THE BAND'S SENSE OF HUMOR There are blues artists that sing like a pick-up truck ran over their foot. There are indi bands that scornfully have to both condemn and save the world in every song. There are metal and punk bands that, well, scream a lot. The Ooks' music is seriously good, but the members are anything but serious. Their sense of humor is obvious, genuine, and sincere, and helps to make the music fun because the musicians are comfortable in their own skins. It forms an immediate trust that bonds the band with the
The Ooks of Hazzard
ooksofhazzard@gmail.com
audience. There are plenty of things to be serious about in the world, but those things will just have to wait until after the gig.
3. NO HAWAIIAN SONGS Hawaiian Songs are like Hawaiian Pizza. It's not for everybody. Thankfully the band recognized this.
2. EVERYBODY IS SITTING DOWN Music is supposed to be relaxing. For cryin' out loud, why the heck is everybody standing up all the time in bands these days? Even keyboard players and sometimes drummers are standing up on stages all over the world. You don't need legs to sing and play guitar. The Ooks get it. They are intimate with the audience, i