Blue Oaks
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Blue Oaks

Sacramento, CA | Established. Jan 01, 2008 | INDIE

Sacramento, CA | INDIE
Established on Jan, 2008
Band Rock Indie


This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos




Folk singers are the novelists of the music world. Each song they write is a different chapter that ultimately creates the story that they wish to tell. Brendan Stone, lead singer and founder of Sacramento outfit Blue Oaks, makes more than folk music, but the music he makes follows the folk tradition in that it tells a story—one that he’s been wanting to tell for nearly a decade.

Stone doesn’t make simple folk. His music is often darker than not and takes inspiration from genres across the board. He might end up making a psych record if that’s the music he’s gravitating toward when he’s writing. Genre isn’t so cut and dry for Stone. A Blue Oaks tune may start with some guitar plucking that comes straight from the mountains, but quickly turns into a track that will remind you more of Kurt Cobain than Woodie Guthrie.

Adhering to genre just isn’t Stone’s thing. He expresses a deep love of all music and wanted to contribute more than what Blue Oaks puts out into the world. So, he opened Stone Vintage Music Boutique (1409 R St. Ste. 103) just a few doors down from Ace of Spades to create a space for Sacramento’s music community. The shop will be closing for a time, however, while Stone heads out on tour, and he has plans to eventually relocate to a new location so he can add a full-fledged venue to the space.

We recently visited Stone’s shop to talk to him about Blue Oaks’ new album To Be Kind is Sin, religion and letting go of perfection. Blue Oaks released its new LP on Oct. 13 with the full band, including longtime drummer Cody Walker, with a seven-deadly-sins-themed album release show Monday, Oct. 30, 2017, at the Clara Auditorium (1425 24th St.).

Brendan Stone - Blue Oaks

How long ago did you start Blue Oaks?
It started with me solo, playing acoustic, and that went from when I was 12 with another name but the same songs. From when I was 15 until now, it’s gone by Blue Oaks. From when I was 15 until 21, I played solo. It was the same songs, but not a lot of them were written yet from the album. Then I got Cody on drums when I was around 21 and he wasn’t a drummer.

You got him to do it anyway?
That works out better because there’s no competitive nature. It’s just primal instinct, which sounds better in my opinion. I feel like that’s part of what made the White Stripes’ dynamic work—that Meg was kind of a terrible drummer but she could play with feeling.

It’s just you two?
We went from solo to two-piece to three-piece to two-piece to four musicians, and I think last time we played Harlow’s we had five. Then it went back to a full-band setup again. The record release we’re doing on the 30th will have bass, drums, guitars, keys, violin—the full shebang of instruments. It’s really cool because that’s always how the songs sounded in my head when I wrote them, but it’s not always possible to do [what you want] live. You can’t copy yourself and play all the parts.

Yeah, that’s true. Once you’re live, you have to compromise sometimes.
In the studio you can, which is cool, but not in real life. The To Be Kind is Sin album is interesting because a lot of the songs, the folk songs from the record, were back from when I was 17 through 19. It’s funny because I was more of a folk singer-songwriter playing open mics and kind of built an audience, then started writing. I was really getting into Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan and Nick Drake at the time, so it was kind of just happening subconsciously. You’re just listening to so much of that, it comes off on your music. I got a decent following from that, and I probably could have recorded a folk record. Then I got into Delta blues and started realizing there’s a genre that’s like folk-blues. That’s kind of where Bob Dylan was going. It worked out in a way, getting into Delta blues, then I started writing songs like “Nicotine” that’s on the record and “To Be Kind is Sin” and I was like, “Woah, this feels much more like what I want to be doing.”

I still hadn’t recorded the folk record, and I had all these new songs and I felt like those [folk songs] weren’t who I was anymore. They were just, like, diary entries.

What was it like once Blue Oaks stopped being a solo project?
I met Cody and we started playing live and it just gets louder and louder as you play with a drummer. We started creating builds. Like the song “Nicotine,” it builds up from this John Lee Hooker shuffle and keeps getting heavier. It has very strong dynamic—it goes quiet, loud. That’s one of the things that good rock music is known for doing, like the Pixies and Nirvana.

All that early ‘90s stuff.
To be able to go down quiet and kick up, and we started doing that, which really derived from getting sick of people talking over you.

I can believe that.
When you play open mics, a lot of the people are very attentive and want to hear every verse. They’ll notice if you annunciate weird. Then once rock guitar comes into it, you can’t really hear annunciations at all. So, there’s this weird beauty, in that folk is so pure. When you end up on rock shows playing folk music, people just talk over you. It just gets really negative. It got to this point where I felt—not disconnected from the Sacramento music scene—but I felt we could do everything we could do at the time. I was putting in so much effort at the time. We had played most of the venues. We had done most of the interviews. We had gone out of the city and realized that playing out of the city was more fruitful than playing in our hometown, which was upsetting. I ended up moving to Austin. Living there and seeing a real music city that’s fully developed and has been for a long time, it’s amazing. When you’re there, you start to realize how oversaturated those cities are and how everyone is trying to “make it.” It overshadows people who are doing it honestly. I ended up spending most of my time working, not doing music and it was really isolating. I ended up missing my bandmate, Cody. I ended up going into the studio and hiring session players. We did all the songs. Going in with the session players, [the music] just kind of molded itself, but they didn’t play it how I wanted it.

They just played it the way it’s supposed to be played.
Yeah, and it’s nothing against them, but their job is to just come in and play the music. It’s not the same as you vibing with someone. Cody and I vibe together really well, always have.

It sucks because the songs were finally recorded, a lot of them sounded amazing and I paid a lot of money to be there. I could tell that Cody wasn’t happy with it and it wasn’t what the record was supposed to sound like. I ended up flying home after recording the whole album.

We recorded the whole album again in Placerville. We scrapped that, too. It sounded pretty close to what I thought it should sound like, but the quality wasn’t there. Then Cody and I thought we would go with a minimal approach and just recorded it with two mics in a room. Almost like the early Black Keys record where it’s just raw. It sounded really good, but it wasn’t the same. So, we ended up going into Gold Standard Sounds. It sounds exactly how it was supposed to sound in my imagination, which is a good feeling as a musician or as any artist. Like I [would] guess if you’re a painter and it comes out exactly how you want it. It’s never going to be perfect, but it’s just letting go of the idea of perfection and knowing that letting go is what makes it good.

You seem like a nice guy. Why is being kind sin?
I’m not going to tell what it means because I want to leave it up to interpretation, but it did come from a feeling I had growing up. The record embodies the human state, the good and evil within people and the eternal battles we have on a daily basis. I think that everyone has that, whether you’re religious or not.

There’s a moral compass in everybody.
One thing I noticed growing up is that a lot of the most righteous people were the most judgmental, hateful, negative people. A lot of the bohemian, hippie, goth, alternative kids were the most welcoming, open-minded, beautiful people. You have these judgmental people who claim to be of Christ-like descent, and it’s crazy to me that they are the ones that are seen as the non-sinners. So, the title derives from something along the lines of that. Asking “is to be kind sin if this is how the world is?”

No amount of religion is going to tell you about someone’s life experience.
The songs actually have a lot to do with that if you listen to the record. I try to leave it up to interpretation. I’m not a religious person.

I didn’t think so.
I don’t judge those who are. It’s no opinion of mine to do so. I don’t really appreciate being criticized for my personal beliefs either. It’s important that light is cast upon the things that people are too scared to talk about and the album has to do with that. I figured there’s no better title to call it because it encapsulates that feeling.

Blue Oaks’ new album To Be Kind is Sin came out Oct. 13, 2017. Watch them play the new album live in its entirety on Monday, Oct. 30, 2017, at CLARA Auditorium, located at 1425 24th Street. Doors open at 7 p.m., a $5 minimum donation is suggested, 21-and-over only. Learn more at or

**This piece first appeared in print on pages 20 – 21 of issue #250 (Oct. 9 – 23, 2017)** - Submerge Magazine

"To Be Kind Is Sin"

Brendan Stone has been performing under the stage name Blue Oaks for about ten years, until his friend and drummer Cody Walker joined the band five years ago.

Blue Oaks shared their debut full-length album "To Be Kind Is Sin" on Insight on Friday the 13th. They're hosting a Seven Deadly Sins-themed record release party at the CLARA Auditorium on Monday Oct. 30. - Capital Public Radio NPR

"The devil and Brendan Stone"

The devil and Brendan Stone
Folk band Blue Oaks channels dark magic on debut album

By Mozes Zarate

This article was published on 10.19.17.

To barter his soul, Robert Johnson met the devil at a crossroad. He took Johnson’s guitar that midnight, perfectly tuned its strings, played a few songs and returned it with a curse of Delta blues mastery. Others claim the two traded in a graveyard. The myth of how Johnson got the ability to make Depression-era music history—overnight­—depends on the maker.

Almost a century after Johnson’s death, Blue Oaks frontman Brendan Stone says he may have encountered the Old Boy, too. Cute, curious and creepy signs of Satan’s intervention turn up in his story of making the four-piece’s debut album, To Be Kind is Sin.

First, on Craigslist: A used guitar ad beckoned Stone’s wallet with a 1928 Gibson just two models away from the one Johnson played. Deteriorated gear cycled through the trade counter at Skips Music, where Stone worked: a Big Muff fuzz pedal (aka the “Ram’s Head”) and a rare Marshall amp with a serial number that includes “666.” He bought all three instruments and restored them.

Stone summons the Big Muff throughout To Be Kind is Sin, disturbing the quieter parts with its mighty curtain of fuzz. Part blues, folk and heavy rock, the record weeps like Muddy Waters, poeticizes like Bob Dylan and terrorizes like Black Sabbath.

The album is Stone’s coming-of-age memoir put to music. His rasped whispers narrate his struggles making moral choices (“Devil on My Side”), his pessimism about the sacredness of life (“Nicotine”) and death (“Time Signals”). Stone wrote and rewrote the songs over the last decade, between job transitions, ended relationships and bad days. It finishes with his reconciliation: “What’s done is done.”

“I see it as a current record,” Stone, 27, says. “But on a personal level, all of it’s from the past.”

The album also explores traditional ideas of good and evil. So when that evil ventured from old gear and into the recording space, Stone knew why.

In 1968, the Rolling Stones’ studio burned down after they recorded “Sympathy for the Devil.” The ultra-flammable tape somehow survived the wreckage. On its live debut, a concertgoer was stabbed to death in the crowd, and the Stones decided not to perform the song for a while.

Back in 2017, Stone witnessed a strange coincidence during the recording of “Sin Will Find You Out,” a short interlude sung a cappella. After Stone finished his vocal take, drummer Cody Walker, who’d been reading comic books on his tablet, rushed into the room. There, on the current page, they both saw it. The Joker, cryptically warning: “Sin will find you out, Batman!”

But was some cosmic presence really signalling to Stone? Choosing him, just as he believed certain people were predestined to a life of music, to carry the same torch as Johnson and Mick Jagger? Or is he just chasing the devil, trying to join a legacy he admired?

Stone has long dressed like his idols, Elvis Presley and Bob Dylan, even though his high school classmates taunted him for it. At 17, promoters booked his folk act because it was good—and unusual: He’d sing and strum along to a phonograph playing vinyl.

Today, his Stone Vintage Music Boutique on R Street is a museum of weathered instruments, a space furnished with a 1950s television and retro-futuristic machines. The R Street store will close after opening in May. The temporary lease ends this year, and while he’ll tour the new record for a while, Stone plans to try again with a new shop when he returns.

Some customers who enter the store scoff that it’s pretentious and nostalgic, Stone says. But he sees it as a much-needed homage. He devotes his life to preserving the past, and worries that the younger generation is losing sight of its value.

“Being able to see where things come from, and know how they grew to be the way they are; I want people to understand that,” Stone says. “And I don’t think anyone is growing up [saying that they] don’t want to know about those things. It’s because their parents aren’t teaching them.”

About theramins, for example, which produce those UFO sounds in black-and-white horror films. They’re difficult to play. You wave your hands over two antennas to produce the sound.

You’ll hear the theramin’s eerie flight in the song “Sand and Skin.” Stone’s hands—or some other force—produced a perfect melody in the first take. And the second.

“[The melody] had accents and flows right where it needed to be,” Stone says. “And it was right in key. We just went like, ’OK, that’s the take. Let’s not touch that thing again.’” - SN&R

"No cut-and-paste sound"

It’s not easy to find a recording studio with a producer experienced in old-school analog recording technology. This detail was so important to local folksy-blues duo Blue Oaks, however, that they traveled miles away to East Palo Alto to track their debut 7-inch single “Hit By a Train From New York City Blues.” There, the duo worked with Jack Shirley at The Atomic Garden Recording Studio, which typically attracts punk and metal bands, to record the single and B-side “Skeleton Key.”

But, while both members are fans of the analog aesthetic, sound quality alone wasn’t the sole reasoning for studio choice.

“If we recorded it digitally on my laptop, it would sound pretty good—with the patches you can probably replicate certain sounds,” says Blue Oaks singer-guitarist Brendan Stone. “Most people probably wouldn’t know. But we would have to live with knowing that say, we screwed up that drum part and just pasted that in there.”

Drummer Cody Walker couldn’t agree more.

“There has to be full takes. There is no cut and paste. I think that jeopardizes the authenticity of the whole thing,” he says.

Walker’s vehemence on the subject might explain why after five years of Stone flying solo under the moniker Blue Oaks, he picked Walker to join and make it a band proper in 2012.

Now, together they apply this philosophy of dodging the easier digital route to stick with older, more hands-on technologies.

Stone has an endless fondness for all things old—he grew up listening to ’50s and ’60s rock ’n’ roll, he owns an a ’60s Cavalier Coca-Cola vending machine, and even had a saddlemaker craft a custom leather guitar strap like he’d seen some musicians of days past do.

Still, the music of Blue Oaks isn’t retro. Sure, there are influences like Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash in the mix, but Stone has just as much love for doom metal and Radiohead.

“People ask me all the time, ’Do you wish you could live in the ’60s?’ I’m happy that I live now, because I’m able to keep something alive for our generation, because it needs it more than ever with computer technology,” Stone says.

What Stone does bring to his music is an appreciation for older traditions. Blue Oaks’ music is a loose amalgam of blues, country, folk, rock ’n’ roll, and soul. The songs are gritty, mysterious and sometimes wander into the familiar sounds of past generations, all while taking unpredictable detours.

“One of the best things about being able to write music is being able to pick all the things you like and put them together. I’ll write an intro that sounds like Muddy Waters, then I’ll bridge it into a Neil Young-sounding verse, then going into some superdroney, buzzy Sabbath-y riff,” Stone says.

He’s very passionate about structure in particular, but not interested in the traditional verse-chorus-verse-chorus route. The band even has a near seven-minute opus, “To Be Kind Is Sin,” that some have suggested they make shorter.

“I don’t think they understand that we’re not looking to make it a radio-friendly song. The point is to have it build and change,” Stone says. “When I listen to music, the dynamics and progressions are what’s most inspiring. It’s not the hooks. Our songs will start at one point, go through a whole spectrum and end up at another point.”

When the pair structures its songs, more often than not, the two don’t know where they’re going. But they like the freedom to be imperfect, a quality that’s needed to chart new territory.

“You need the freedom for accidents to happen. A lot of bands make sure that everything’s perfect. I think the computers have a lot to do with that. Personally, I’ve been really disappointed going to shows in the past year; everything’s so precise,” says Stone. “That’s not what you get if you see us live. … I would rather risk playing a bad show than have everything be pitched and autocorrected.” - Sacramento News and Review - SN&R

"Sound Advice - Blue Oaks"

There are certain singer-songwriters who soak up so many influences that they transcend genres. Artists such as Leonard Cohen, Bruce Springsteen and Neil Young, for example. Blue Oaks, singer Brendan Stone's band, exists in this realm, though its sound has a more rustic, natural quality about it. Stone's smooth baritone compliments the music's tenderness like the wind rustles the leaves on a tree. It's got elements of soul, blues and indie, but really, it's not any of those; it's just Stone singing his heart out onstage for anyone who wants to listen. He's backed by drummer Cody Walker. 1400 E Street, - Sacramento News and Review SN&R

"Gigging for the Weekend - Blue Oaks"

Johnny Cash may be single-handedly responsible for putting the city of Folsom on the pop-culture map with his woeful prison blues, but four decades later, not much else comes to mind when hearing the name. In need of resurgence, Blue Oaks may just be the guys for the job. Frontman Brendan Stone’s smoky, mature vocals are smoothly velveted over somber-sounding minor chords, creating a soundscape reminiscent of singer-songwriter patriarchs—Tom Waits and Neil Young, most notably—that is so often attempted but rarely well-executed. The perfect soundtrack to the impending fall gloom, Blue Oaks should surely not be missed. 1020 20th Street, - Sacramento News and Review - SN&R


2017 - "To Be Kind is Sin" - Blue Oaks - Digital/CD/ Limited 100 Vinyl

2015 - Noise Loves Audio "Valence Effect" Cassette Store Day Compilation - Limited Pressing

2013 - "Hit By A Train From New York City Blues" w/ "Skeleton Key" - 7" mixed color vinyl single - Limited to 300 copies



Through infusing blues, psychedelic, alternative and indie rock genres with lyrical folk ties, Blue Oaks is an ever changing amalgam of sound and vibe.

Founded by Brendan Stone in 2007, Blue Oaks has grown from a solo moniker, which became a duo putting forth an early country/blues inspired debut single "Hit By a Train from New York City Blues" in 2013, a full length album exploring the darker side of the human condition "Blue Oaks” in 2017, and now in it's current lineup with guitarist Stephen Hendry and drummer Roman Anderson, Blue Oaks is once again evolving into a new realm with dark undercurrents, lush texture, and gritty psychedelia laden rhythms in their new live single “Ghosts” and a live to tape EP on the way in 2020.

Band Members