Waterville’s Finest: Indie Folk Trio Oliver Hazard Discuss New Single ‘Use Me Up,’ Their Namesake Festival, & More

Born in 1785, Oliver Hazard Perry was a U.S. naval officer who, after defeating a British squadron in the Battle of Lake Erie in the War of 1812, became a national hero. 

He also happens to be the namesake of a three-piece band from Ohio.

Oliver Hazard, consisting of instrumentalists Devin East, Mike Belazis, and Griffin McCulloch, has a sound that embodies the adjectival granola vibe. With a playful indie-folk sound and Americana influences, fans and listeners of Houndmouth, Rayland Baxter, and The Paper Kites will undoubtedly become familiar with the music of Oliver Hazard.

Their soft acoustic sound and seamless three-part harmonies draw fans from far and wide to their hometown of Waterville, Ohio, for the annual Oliver Hazard Day, a single-day music festival with multiple acts (and even a themed IPA named “Oliver Hazy”!). 

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Aside from their own home-base festival, the band also started doing something called a Living Room Tour.

With the Living Room Tour, fans are able to submit a form on their website to host the band for a show of about 50 people in their own living room. Reminiscent of a coffeehouse show, the setting is intimate, holds your attention, and allows for the band to retain all proceeds. What more could you want?

The band most recently dropped their newest single, “Use Me Up,” which delivers on all familiar fronts, and is sure to leave fans of theirs eager for more.

We had the pleasure of chatting with the guys about the new single, Oliver Hazard Day, and more.

So how would you describe your sound and style to those wondering what Oliver Hazard is all about? 

I’d say the main identifier of the Oliver Hazard sound is in the vocals. We are a band of three singers. Depending on the song, we often sing in unison, in harmony, and also as individuals. When we decided to start the band, the chemistry was found in the vocals. We were able to sing with one another effortlessly.  

I was hoping you could talk about your new single, “Use Me Up.” What’s the inspiration and influence behind it? 

“Use Me Up” is definitely a step forward sonically for us. It is a soft song, but it exhibits a lot of energy and swing. We had a lot of fun recording it. The percussion is made up of a combination of various water bottles filled with sand, tambourines, hand claps, and pieces of a drum kit. The inspiration behind the music comes from all three of us. It is a culmination of our musical influences from our formative years. In this song, I hear influences from a lot of our favorite artists, like Talking Heads, The Beatles, Grizzly Bear,  Paul Simon, Springsteen, Alt-J and many others, to name a few. 

How did you get hooked up with producer Jacquire King? 

It was a pretty serendipitous moment. We were hired to play a private event in Columbus, Ohio. Jacquire happened to be attending the event. No one at the venue seemed to be listening to the music. But after the show, we were introduced to Jacquire and he told us that he enjoyed our set. We told him that we were heading to Nashville. He lived down there. So we then planned a meeting at his studio in Nashville for later in the week. And the rest is history.  

How do you know when you have a quality song ready to be cut and distributed? And do you find yourself forever wanting to keep tweaking and changing things?

Someone once compared finishing a song to hanging a painting on the wall. That reference stuck with us. For us, it is more important to have a song that invokes a feeling rather than being “a perfect take.” We appreciate the raw and authentic feeling of imperfection. If you keep tweaking and changing things, the song can lose its authenticity. So we try to keep that in mind when choosing to “hang the painting on the wall.”  

So Waterville, Ohio. Where in Ohio is that exactly, and do you give any thought about shipping out to a bigger music market city? If so, where? 

Waterville is in Northwestern Ohio. It sits on a mud bottom river called the Maumee, which dumps into Lake Erie about 20 miles up river. It is a small town, but we have a very supportive community in Waterville. We actually host our own music festival in Waterville, where we invite national acts from all over the country to perform in our hometown, a place  where they would otherwise never perform. We don’t have any plans to move to a bigger music market at this time.  

I would love to hear more about “Oliver Hazard Day.” How did this come to be, and how  has it been received thus far? 

We touched on our festival a little bit in the last question. The genesis story of the festival starts with our first year as musicians 2018. The mayor of Waterville suggested that we throw a concert downtown. So we shut down the streets of the town and built a stage in the middle  of our main street. We invited a few local bands to open up for us, asked local food trucks and breweries to serve the attendees, and we quickly realized that this event was more of a festival for our community than just a concert.

Since then, we have grown the event and invited artists who we have met on the road while touring including: Daniel Donato,  Michigan Rattlers, Jack Symes, Brother Elsey, Scott T. Smith, Temme Scott, Jacob Sigmon,  Libby Decamp, and a few others. The region really looks forward to the festival each year. We hope to continue to grow the event as we grow as a band. 

What does success as a band and songwriters mean to you? 

For us, we feel fortunate to be able to do what we love for a living. Success is financial independence as musicians, growing a supportive community with our music, giving back  to that community, and growing as three human beings.  

What are one or two pinnacle moments for the band? 

Our first big pinnacle moment was our slot at Bonnaroo in 2018. That set definitely changed the trajectory for the band. We grew a lot that year. Our next pinnacle moment was our decision to play in our fans living rooms rather than conventional music venues. That choice has helped us grow a grassroots fan base in an intimate and intentional way.  

What might fans expect from Oliver Hazard as we close out the year? 

Our main focus right now is releasing more music and an eventual sophomore album in 2022.

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