Back in bloom
Sacramento band Oleander comes back from hiatus rested, re-energized and ready to take on the new era of social media
After Oleander played a farewell show at Empire Events Center in July 2004, lead singer Thomas Flowers had second thoughts about embarking on what would be a nearly five-year hiatus.
“[Following] the experience there, the way we were treated, the crowd response, the show overall, we actually left the venue that night scratching our heads going, ’Geez, are we sure we want to hang it up for a little while right now?’” said Flowers, speaking to SN&R by phone from his home in Orange County just a few weeks before his band is set to take the stage in Sacramento once again with a show at Ace of Spades on Friday, May 3.
After that particular mid-2000s show, the Sacramento-born rock group, whose sophomore album February Son topped Billboard’s Heatseekers Albums chart in 1999, still didn’t know what would happen. Its third album, 2001’s Unwind, had failed to live up to the commercial success of February Son, and the group moved from the Universal Music record label to Sanctuary Records for its 2003 release, Joyride. Eventually, the rockers decided they needed some time away from the constant repetition of writing, recording and touring. So Oleander went on hiatus, its members finally finding time to enjoy “normal,” nonrock-band-related things, including spending time with friends and raising families. Flowers made the move to Southern California, where he sang with a band called Black Summer Crush.
When Oleander finally did reconvene in the practice room—nearly five years after taking a break—it was completely different. The band had shed the baggage and stress from years on the road and felt a renewed sense of energy.
“The biggest difference is that we’re doing it because we want to do it, not because we have to do it,” said Flowers. “We’re doing this because we really want to, [and] that’s a nice place to be.”
In August 2010, the group got back onstage at The Boardwalk in Orangevale and announced plans to record a new album. Something Beautiful—which was released in April through Kobalt Music Group and took nearly two years to record—is a testament to the band’s new outlook. Each detail in the crunching hard-rock songs, spacey arena-sized anthems and the mellower melodic tunes is carefully planned out. And the lyrics are partly about “really valuing those moments in our everyday lives that give it meaning,” said Flowers.
Now the group is poised to tour the United States at a more leisurely pace, stopping in Sacramento for its CD-release show—at the venue formerly known as Empire, of course. Technology has also helped the band lighten up its touring schedule. In the old days, Flowers said, touring filled the role of social media. So the band followed a relentless road schedule—playing a gamut of shows, including Woodstock 1999 in New York in front of thousands of people to small venues in Texas.
“We’ve learned in our career, it’s all about quality, not necessarily quantity,” said Flowers. “It’s also about finding a healthy balance between home life and your career.”
Oleander now has a management company that leverages social-media platforms and is planning a tour that will allow the group to slowly stretch its legs out. Basically, the band is now running without stress and with “zero pressure from any outside influence,” Flowers said.
“You’ve got a band … that’s very fired up and is ready to start punching people in the mouth with our live show.”