Hey OK Fantastic's hiatus takes members in new direction with the Folk You Buddies

Candace Minard/special to knoxville.com
The Folk You Buddies are, from left, Alex Minard, Hannah Oster, Burton Knight, Sam Harding and Ian Daniels.

Copyright 2009

Candace Minard/special to knoxville.com The Folk You Buddies are, from left, Alex Minard, Hannah Oster, Burton Knight, Sam Harding and Ian Daniels.

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After a year’s break from Hey OK Fantastic, most of the band’s lineup has re-emerged as The Folk You Buddies. Established earlier this year, the band has already performed three live radio sets and numerous shows in and out of town. With an album currently in the works, co-frontman Alex Minard seems to have a new top priority.

Upon losing its drummer in late 2012, beloved Knoxville rock act Hey OK Fantastic disbanded, to some degree, amid its second full-length recording effort. Despite the group’s status, former vocalist/guitarist Minard, bassist Ian Daniels and guitarist Sam Harding have scheduled occasional shows and continue to slowly work toward completing the album they started, but point out that it may be a long time coming.

“Hey OK Fantastic has been on hold since late 2012,” Minard explains. “Sam, Ian, and myself still work on the new album, but it’s not a top priority anymore. We have some shows lined up with Hey OK, but it’s not something that we are going to push anymore unless our drummer decides to come back. It just doesn’t feel the same without him. If he felt that he was ready to return to the group, then Knoxville would most likely see a lot more of Hey OK Fantastic. The new album is the only thing to expect, and don’t expect it too soon.”

Sidelined due to Hey OK’s working hiatus, Minard was prompted to assemble an act at the urging of venue requests. Quickly recruiting some familiar faces in Harding, Daniels and another former Hey OK member Burton Knight, essentially the same band reconvened with folkier instruments. Donning the moniker of The Folk You Buddies, the group began a new musical storytelling endeavor to the backdrop of banjos, mandolins and accordions. Months after the act’s official launch, it was joined by violinist Hannah Oster, whose impromptu play-along at a house party won her a permanent spot on The Folk You Buddies roster.

“At the time we started playing, I hadn’t been on a stage in a year,” recalls Minard, “so it was an opportunity to get out there and play again, which was nice, especially since it was with good friends who are all top-notch musicians. What really drew me into the concept was that I knew that our style wouldn’t be straight-up folk and bluegrass. We all have unique musical tastes and backgrounds, so it’s only natural that our influences show through here and there. We don’t set out to make folk or bluegrass music; we just write songs we enjoy playing.”

After six months of writing and performing, The Folk You Buddies are steadily building their debut album. Although recording has begun and is ongoing, the full-length record is not expected for release before 2014. The band is economically self-recording the offering gradually, taking full control of the sound to ensure an accurate representation of the group’s live sets.

“The Folk You Buddies album is not something we are rushing,” says Minard. “We are still writing a lot of songs. We plan to produce the entire thing on our own. We learned a lot recording the first Hey OK album. We kind of rushed it. The album is fantastic, but what you hear on the album is not what you get live. We want to get the raw, live feel on the FYB album. We really want the listener to hear what it is we actually do. It will probably be available early 2014. Our summer has been packed with shows so once they start to slow down we plan on dedicating much more time to the album.”

On the advent of his 30th birthday, Minard is optimistic. Rather than lament the end of his run as a 20-something, he will mark the beginning of a new personal era with a light heart, performing a double-header set with both of his acts before enduring a scathing roast by close friends, family and coworkers.

“Turning 30 is pretty interesting for me,” Minard describes. “I’m not doing at all what I thought I would be doing at 30, which is interesting. I feel good about it though. I feel like I’m entering the prime of my life. I have a much better outlook on things. I like change though, and I feel a lot of things shifting in my life, all for the better as well. I think the roast is going to be pretty funny. ... The only person I’m worried about is my brother. He’s going to bring the house down, I’m sure.”

Friday night, Minard celebrates his birthday in grand fashion with a party at Relix Variety Theatre. The fledgling Folk You Buddies and the not-quite-defunct Hey OK Fantastic will perform along with The Biscuitheads, The Casual Encounters and Salome Cabaret. The night of music will be topped off with a comedic roast of Minard given by friends and family. The event kicks off at 8 p.m. Admission is only $3.

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