Faith some more

Oliver's Organ

Four-fifths of Oliver's Organ: Sarah Irvin, Josiah Hejny, Daniel Ruben and Kevin Stamps. Bassist Eric Laster was AWOL on photo day.

Four-fifths of Oliver's Organ: Sarah Irvin, Josiah Hejny, Daniel Ruben and Kevin Stamps. Bassist Eric Laster was AWOL on photo day.

Photo/Anna Hart

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“We’re a Head and the Heart cover band” joke the members of Reno band Oliver’s Organ. “Except we never play any of their songs. We’re the worst cover band. We write music they should play.”

Originally formed as a trio in 2011, the band, now a quintet, is made up of Josiah Hejny playing guitar and vocals, Eric Laster on bass, Kevin Stamps on keyboard, and Daniel Ruben on drums, and their newest addition, Sarah Irvin, on vocals and the occasional French horn part.

As the size and diversity in instrumentation grew, occasionally challenges have presented themselves.

“We all come from different musical backgrounds,” said Ruben. “Sometimes it’s hard to find a middle ground. We have to be more creative, which ends up being a cool part of the process.”

Oliver’s Organ is the type of band whose music wakes up your dancing feet, but whose lyrics shoots you through the heart and in the tear ducts. Their songs throb with the spirited pulse of indie folk music, yet quiver with the humble, artistic intimacy that characterizes the singer-songwriter genre.

The lyrics broach numerous topics, but all strike a deep chord with Hejny, who writes them.

“Most of my songs are like letters to myself,” he said. “They’re sad, because I write about the struggles in my life. But they do have a positive overtone, of the happiness and joy in Jesus Christ.”

All of the members are practicing Christians. But that’s not to say that Oliver’s Organ just plays thinly veiled worship music. The biggest impact that their faith has had on the band has nothing to do with its music per se, but with the people in and around the band. While other bands might cycle through drummers or guitarists more frequently than fresh pairs of underwear, Oliver’s Organ prides itself on the familial bond that join its members, which is only strengthened by their shared beliefs.

“We don’t just [play music] to get praise or admiration, but because we love people and want them to see the gifts God has given us,” said Laster.

However, religion isn’t the focus of Oliver’s Organ’s music, but a happy byproduct.

“Christianity isn’t just a tag on our life or our genre, like indie/folk/Christian. … It just kind of plays out in our music, which is cool,” said Stamps.

The band name Oliver’s Organ is a combination of Hejny’s YouTube account, Oliver Ending, and a nod to his favorite children’s book, Harold and the Purple Crayon.

“Harold has this purple crayon, and anything he draws with it is his adventure,” Hejny said. “At the end, he realizes that he doesn’t know how to get home. I view music in the same way. We can create these perfect moments, but then the song ends and we’re longing for home—which, in my case, happens to be heaven. It’s a musical organ that we can make our own adventures with.”

But while this maxim rings true throughout the band, sometimes the details are still a little hazy.

“What!” Irvin interjected. “The organ isn’t a heart? I thought it was a musical instrument first. But then I thought that wouldn’t make any sense.”

These days, the band is taking a break from shows to enjoy the holiday season and is in the midst of preparing music to record, as well as setting up a Kickstarter to fund an album.