For Timothy Showalter of Strand of Oaks, being a consumer of music is just as important as being a purveyor of sounds.
"You should support the people that are putting out records," said the Mount Airy resident and front man of the Philly-based band. "That's my favorite thing to do, to like a record."
And Showalter, 32, wasn't shy with disclosing his top releases in 2014, his own personal "best-of" list: Sun Kil Moon's Benji, Marissa Nadler's July, Sharon Van Etten's Are We There and Ryan Adams' self-titled.
"Sharon Van Etten, Are We There — totally unstoppable. I can't imagine a better record until I listen to the Ryan Adams record."
"I consider going to concerts as an insurance agent going to the office," he said. It's just another part of the job.
Coming off of the monumental summer release of HEAL, the poignant, self-reflective, no-holds-barred genre-bender, Strand of Oaks have been spending their time largely on the road — as most bands do following a new album — and less time at home in Philadelphia and the outlying area, where Showalter has lived since 2001.
"This is kind of like my sublet, this is my hotel in between tours."
Though when he does get downtime, Showalter lives fairly simply, balancing time between his recording space in Fishtown, going on walks, and keeping to himself — no surprise given "Shut In," a track on HEAL that almost joyously depicts home life through lyrics: "So I just get loaded and never leave my house."
"A lot of people make fun of me," he jokes about art imitating life. "I just can't leave."
That's not to say Showalter is antisocial. He can't afford to be, being a touring artist — there are people to engage at every turn: audiences, bandmates, industry, etc. There just comes a point when he's had too much.
"I exhaust every ounce of my social abilities. Even last night when I went to the concert, I was like 'Ahhh.'"
Which is why he recoils to the comfort of his home and his porch, inviting friends into his personal bubble for parties, where he, from time to time, will perform tarot card readings.
"It's a good porch. We've had some wild parties on this porch," he said. "Many cases of beer were consumed."
However, don't count on many drinking games — Showalter doesn't believe in the frivolity of it all: "Drinking's not a game for me. I'll play ping-pong with you, but I'll drink."
It would be fun imagining yourself a member of the rowdy Mount Airy porch party, getting to see firsthand the handmade tarot card deck Showalter raves about because this laid-back, charismatic guy seems a far stretch from the one wearing all black and so heartbreakingly singing about being "in love, but it was changing," as in "Mirage Year."
Alas, they are the same guy, for simplicity's sake — at least the wardrobe choices, that is. Having decided years ago to only wear black (his closet consists of but two pairs of jeans, a few t-shirts he bought on the road, one pair of shoes and a jacket…all black), Showalter describes his look as "Hells Angels or homeless."
It's a very calculated effort to look that timeless, which is a slightly shocking revelation coming from a man, an observant one at that, as he further explains. "I look at these kids running around Philly in Bart Simpson tees on. You're like 27 years old, you're going to see a picture of yourself in a few years and be really embarrassed of yourself."
While the fashion choices of the Philadelphia youth may not be in Showalter's taste, thankfully their music preferences have suited Strand of Oaks just fine, because despite spending over a decade in the area, fears still arose concerning the city's reception of HEAL, an album from a musician who grew up in Indiana.
"I'm not from Philly, is that going to matter?" he recalled questioning prior to the album's release. "It's amazing how much Philly has embraced this record."
A Union Transfer homecoming show on Wednesday, Dec. 3 awaits Strand of Oaks and Showalter says the band is in better shape than ever.
"We've been prepping for this one for a long time. It's the biggest show we've ever played. If we're lucky enough to live in Philly and have a venue as nice as Union Transfer, you have to take it seriously."
But not too seriously: "I'll probably lose my voice and get too drunk and hug everybody."
Strand of Oaks play Union Transfer on Wednesday, Dec. 3; tickets are still available.