Solid songwriting. Check.
Stellar instrumentation. Check. Check.
Sibling harmonies. Check. Check. Check.
Zak and Lena Kendall have been singing and playing together for many years and they have been exploring new and different ways to use their musical talents in the form of their band, Golden Oak. In addition to Zak and Lena, their band consists of Mike Knowles on bass and Jackson Cromwell on drums. They call Maine home and have been encouraged by the great reaction from audiences wherever they play. Golden Oak was chosen as Emerging Artists at this year’s Falcon Ridge Folk Festival. The momentum of Golden Oak is building. The buzz is palpable.
Check out their music and videos on their website.
Here’s a video of their recent song, “River.”
Zak and Lena, your website indicates a new approach to the band which really does focus on your leadership as siblings. Does this new mindset feel more natural and freeing to you than in the last configuration of the band?
[Zak] I think our music has always been defined by Lena and my relationship as brother and sister whether we knew it or not. When the band went through its first lineup change it really gave us the chance to embrace that. We started creating music that was built around our sibling harmonies and for us, that felt more natural than ever. Now, as we grow and develop, we have a really strong and natural foundation to build upon.
If you had to describe your music in one sentence, how would you describe your sound?
[Lena] We like to categorize our music as “indie-soul-Folk”. Our sound is rich with brother-sister harmonies and poetic lyrics and livened by groovy bass lines and tasteful percussion.
Can you describe the influence of music as you were growing up and how that led to you making music together? Who would you say were the pivotal artists that drew you in?
[Lena] We were lucky to grow up in a very musical family and community. Our grandfather was in bands his entire life, and we grew up listening to him strum Johnny Cash and old country tunes on his guitar. This sparked a love for music in both of us, me (Lena) constantly singing at the top of my lungs around the house (probably driving Zak crazy) and Zak learning to strum on his new guitar. As we got older, we realized that we could combine our loves and sing songs together, and the more we played, the more we realized just how much we complimented each other. Our music is definitely influenced by the music we listened to growing up, especially Simon and Garfunkel, Fleet Foxes, Jose Gonzales, and even old traditional folk songs.
Lena, you play clarinet … it’s not a typical instrument to see at an indie music show. Have you always included it in your music and what do you feel that the sound brings to your original music?
[Lena] The clarinet is actually a newer addition to the band, and I’ve been having so much fun intertwining it in with our music! We used to have a trumpet player who played with us, and when she had to leave the band, we found that we missed that sound of the horn in our songs. I decided to try a little throwback to my middle school band days and bring out my old clarinet, and the more I played around with it in our music the more we started to really enjoy the sound of the wind instrument! It began as a replacement for the trumpet, but as it evolved it has really begun to take on a voice of its own.
How has your life in Maine impacted your music-making?
[Zak] Maine is an amazing place. We grew up in the foothills of western Maine, surrounded by mountains, rivers, and lakes and nature has always been a big source of inspiration for us. In Maine, we are blessed to have beautiful, unique, and sometimes harsh seasons. And I think that is an amazing catalyst for art. Seasons bring new feels, lights, and experiences to life and that provides us with new and exciting inspiration to work with.
Do you write songs together or do you each share your compositions and work with each other to make the songs become more cohesive and Golden-Oaky?
[Zak] Typically I will bring a song to Lena that is mostly a shell of what the song is to be. A few chords and a few words with a lot of ideas that have yet to be flushed out. From there we work together to bring the song to light. We pinpoint what we are trying to say and from there, it really becomes a puzzle that we have to put together.
What are your immediate and long-term goals?
[Zak] In the immediate future we are working to put together a team to help us grow GoldenOak. As full-time musicians we spend a lot of time working on day to day tasks, booking shows, signing contracts, finding new opportunities. This, unfortunately, leaves us little time to work on what we really love to do which is make music. Over the next 6-12 months, we are working to put together a strong team that helps support and develop our music and gives us more time to write and record and make art.