Near-death experience spurs Strand of Oaks frontman 

Just like Ebenezer Scrooge, Timothy Showalter had a life-changing, and frightening, epiphany on Christmas Day. It was last year, when the Strand of Oaks founder and his wife Sue were driving on the interstate back to Philadelphia from their rustic hometown of Goshen, Ind., after visiting family for the holidays.

“We were in a tiny little Honda, and we hit black ice and slid from the eastbound lane to the westbound lane, and we landed perpendicular to the yellow line,” he says. “And just at that moment, a truck was passing another truck, and we got hit simultaneously by the both of them.”

One semi drove over the car’s trunk, crushing it. The second collided head on, sending the vehicle spinning into a guardrail, where it remained lodged until paramedics arrived to extract the unconscious, blood-soaked Showalter from the wreckage using the jaws of life.

“There is no possible way that we should have survived,” says the singer, who – only two days later – returned to work on his latest album “HEAL,” after being treated for a concussion and several broken ribs.

Spurred to inventive new heights by the near-death experience, he made a masterpiece, which Strand of Oaks will spotlight in San Francisco concert this weekend.

Ironically, all of the dark, mortality-themed anthems on “HEAL” were written and recorded before the accident – only the mixing remained unfinished.

Showalter had imagined a soft, reverb-echoey sound for his fourth effort, and reflective confessionals like “Shut In” and “Same Emotions.” But he’s grown into a folk-rock Andrew W.K.

“I’m a cautious person and it’s hard for me to take risks sometimes,” he says. “But the combination of almost dying and heavy amounts of pain medication let me approach the mixing session like ‘Who gives a f---? Let’s do whatever we want!’”

The AC/DC-meets-E.L.O. “HEAL” opener “Goshen ‘97” relates Strand of Oaks’ origin story, as Showalter passionately intones, “I was writing in the basement/ Buying Casios with my friend/ Then I found my dad’s old tape machine/ That’s where the magic began.”

He didn’t appreciate his secluded Midwest upbringing as a kid. “But I grew up without a scene, so now I have no musical allegiances,” he says. “So I’ll do a New Order-type song alongside a punk song, and I still love Def Leppard as much as Nirvana. There are no rules, in my mind.”

Now that Showalter, 32, has had time to consider last Dec. 25, is there a new car-themed album in the works? He laughs. “I’m going to make a total doom/apocalypse metal record next, with low-tuned guitars and 25-minute-long songs,” he says. “And I’ll call it ‘HARM’!”


Strand of Oaks

Where: Independent, 628 Divisadero St., S.F.

When: 9 p.m. Saturday

Tickets: $12 to $14

Contact: (415) 771-1421,

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Tom Lanham

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