PJ Hildebrand and an Army of Ukuleles

Patrick Hildebrand and Charlie Diaz play a little Ook for us
A few chords strummed on a ukulele, enough to please a few others beside yourself, does more good in this world than the combined efforts of all the financiers and politicians that ever lived. -Frank Littig

You'll find that quote from a producer in the 1920s at the top of the BAND page on the Ooks Of Hazzard site. Not far down, you'll read the unattributed: "What The Ooks Of Hazzard lack in marketable style, exorbitant youthfulness, and unrelenting buzz, they make up for in ukuleles."

The Ooks of Hazzard refer to themselves as an army of ukuleles playing rock and roll. If they think of themselves as warriors, they wear their courage lightly and their battleground resounds with good humor and pure music. They came together organically in October of 2009 at an open mic jam session in Venice Beach. They've been growing and playing ever since.

The Ooks can be seen performing at various local venues, festivals and charity fundraiser events nationwide. Most notable recent performances include the 2013 Denver Ukefest in Colorado, The Woodsongs Old Time Radio Show Live in Kentucky and The Orpheum Theatre and in Sioux City Iowa for the Sioux City Conservatory of Music.

Luna sits down for an interview with PJ Hildebrand

PJ Hildebrand

Q: There really is no other band like the Ooks Of Hazzard. You gotta tell us more.

A: First about the music. We are all big fans of Morning Becomes Eclectic on KCRW if that sheds any light. The band consists of musicians who have toured, had/have record deals, and are into having an outlet to play music for music's sake.

We like to take songs for example like "Kids" by MGMT which is a techno/electronic groove and arrange the song using organic instrumentation say like, ukulele and accordion. We also like to cover Radiohead, Devo, Alabama Shakes, to name a few and put it thru the Ooks shredder. No song is safe from the ukulele, just have a look online.

We also write our own music but have trouble focusing on it sometimes because we are having to much fun arranging and performing what we just heard on the radio on the way to a recording or writing session. We are like a bunch of kids discovering songs and artist's for the first time when ever we get together.

To answer how the band name came about: Charlie Diaz and I were hanging out at a weekly open mic gathering in Venice Beach and discovered we both had an affinity for ukulele. We both understood the potential of this sometimes under-rated and misunderstood instrument. We started learning songs others would request or "challenge" us to play in the parking lot and perform them at this open mic and at parties. After one of these performances someone walked up and said "man, you guys should call yourself "The Ukes Of Hazzard". After a few months we had friends coming out of the woodwork asking to join "the band". We got about 9 of us together and played a benefit show.

The response at the first show was excellent so we decided to make a promotional video to get more gigs. After a brutal lengthy discussion about which song to do for the video, we all agreed on "Kids" by MGMT. The group vocal vibe was the perfect fit. As we were mixing this live recording it was suggested we put the video up on youtube. As we started the process of uploading this video to youtube we noticed there were already 3 other Ukes of Hazzard in the world. So we changed the spelling to Ooks, which just so happens to sound more like the Hawaiian pronunciation of the instrument. The video went viral within days of posting it. Then things soon got interesting.

Q: I think anyone who's been in a band knows that sometimes personalities clash and things can become difficult. How do you guys handle all the diverse energy in the band to make it work?

A: As I was saying before about the sudden youtube viral scenario and sudden notoriety, literally worldwide, there was a brief moment of fear of control and direction of the band. To be honest some personality clashes and other fear based drama between band members followed. Although it was more bizarre to see the effect it had on people outside of the band. The inter band solution seemed to be some people left and new people joined, but there was always a core. Charlie, Myself, Ed Marshall and Nick Dean seem to be able to tolerate each other enough in heated moments to keep it rolling.

Ooks in Santa Cruz
Release date: Oct. 14, 2013. From Radiohead to Zeppelin to MGMT.
Plus Ooks Originals.

Some people left and new people joined, but there was always a core. Charlie, Myself, Ed Marshall and Nick Dean seem to be able to tolerate each other enough in heated moments to keep it rolling. The addition of Rick Torres, Sam Morrow, Matt Tecu and Diana Hobbstetter to form the current line up is a great mix of personalities


Q: Tell us about your best gig.

A: If I had to give one answer it would be the many benefits and fundraisers we have played to raise money for people or causes in need. The feeling of being of service afterword trumps any of the ego based good show/bad show judgments my brain can place on a show. Ask a simple question get a complex answer.

Q: On your site and your FB page you share the quote we mentioned above about pleaseing others beside yourself. More to say on that?

A: When I was setting up our Facebook page I was trying to think of a mission statement type blurb for our description. Then I remembered the quote hanging in our music shop as a child. Seemed perfect. Again the current line up have all tasted the successes and failure of the music biz. We do this for fun, for the love of music and performing for others and to be of service. All else is icing on the cake. Try to wear it like a loose robe so it doesn't get constrictive.

Q: I'm sure every member of the band is inspired by a different type of music and/or artist.   Tell us a little about the band's individual or collective inspiration.

A: I can keep it short by saying collectively we dig everything from Americana, Bluegrass, Rock, Punk to Funky and all else in-between. A big inspiration for me are the Punch Brothers. Such talent in that band. I love that they can play Radiohead's most electronic tunes on blue grass instruments, then break into a classical piece and transition seamlessly into a blue grass ass kicker. I only hope we come off half as cool on a good night.

Ooks in Santa Cruz

Q: Share a little about the band's plans for the future.

A: We are finishing up a full length album of original material. We hope to keep doing what were doing, playing festivals, benefits and clubs. More radio and tv shows would be nice. Having a good time making music and bringing smiles is the ultimate goal.

Q: What's your after-show ritual?

Usually involves us busting each others chops around piles of greasy meat and fixings at one of the local diners before returning home to our girlfriends or wives and kids. We have an excellent fellowship and enjoy hanging out. I believe that translates on stage and the fun appears to be contagious.

Purchase Ooks of Hazzard's music on iTunes, Amazon and all the usual internet distribution channels.

Visit the Ooks of Hazzard online at www.theooks.com

Find out more about Patrick "PJ" Hildebrand at www.patrickhildebrand.com

And check out the High Tide ukuleles PJ Hildebrand plays.

Luna Guitars - Copyright Inclusion
Site Contents Copyright © 2005-2015 Luna Guitars