At the start of the year, Oliver Hazard launched The Living Room Tour, an alternative to bar and club gigs that the rootsy pop trio deemed less suitable for its melodic, easygoing sound. Its video for “Gold Teeth Girl,” premiering exclusively on Billboard below, from this year’s The Flood EP, is a souvenir of sorts from the trek — though it was actually from a staged session at Big Foot Studio in Waterville, Ohio, where Oliver Hazard recorded the EP as well as its debut album, 34 N. River.
“We wanted to figure a way a band our size could really put ourselves in the right context and be heard and create these magical, intimate moments,” the group’s Mike Belazis tells Billboard. “[The Living Room Tour] was perfect and really special, so the video is trying to emulate what it looks like inside the tour and how intimate and magical that moment can be when we play these songs. We felt like we really captured that.”
Bandmate Devin East adds, “We’ve played probably between 50-60 of those [shows] at this point, and the biggest thing is the interaction is so different. In a theater or bar you can’t go up to talk to somebody afterwards. But if you’re in their own home, or a friend’s home, it’s much different.”
Griffin McCulloch notes that the Living Room Tour has taken on a life of its own that none of the band members expected. “I don’t think we intended for it to continue this entire year, or even into next year,” he says, “but it’s been so good for us that we’re going to keep continuing. We enjoy it. every house is different. Every host is different. The food at every place is similar — it’s always hummus. But it’s been rewarding. It’s almost the lifeblood of our band right now,” though the group has played at festivals such as Bonnaroo, Mountain Jam and Americana Fest.
Belazis says Oliver Hazard is even getting inquiries from Europe for living room shows. “This is going to continue to happen,” he says. “It’s too strong to stop.”
The unexpected success of those shows mirrors Oliver Hazard’s ad hoc origins. The group formed after Belazis, working in California as a camping trip guide, came home for a 2016 holiday visit and hooked up with childhood friend McCulloch. The fact that they never played music together didn’t deter them from writing songs and booking a show at a local bar. McCulloch recruited East, and in addition to the April 2017 gig Oliver Hazard won a Facebook contest for recording time, which led them into the studio and helped to kickstart the band.
“None of us had the intention of this becoming a full-time thing,” McCulloch says, “but we’re happy it has.”
Oliver Hazard is planning to record some fresh music in the new year in addition to continuing the Living Room Tour. It’s also planning a larger venue detour; The group will play a special holiday show on Dec. 21 at the Maumee Indoor Theatre in Ohio, which sold out 500 tickets in less than three days.
“We put it all together ourselves, and we’re really stoked,” East says. “We’ve always wanted to play in a theater like that. We’re reached out to community members from all over northwest Ohio to pop onstage with us for different songs, so hopefully it’ll be this Last Waltz kind of feel.”
Listen to “Gold Teeth Girl” below.