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The Poison Oaks: Chicken, Waffles, and Musical Collaboration

by Kate Risi
photography by Sam Balling

It’s no surprise that The Poison Oaks, with their generally upbeat and fun music, are a good group of people to sit down to dinner with, and after a short set at Radio Bean following an earlier show at the Half Lounge, from the moment the menus arrived it was clear, food is a big deal for these Boston and Brooklyn natives.

“Ooh, jerk chicken!” lead singer Laura Cortese peruses the options. “I want that but do you think I can substitute steamed kale? Wait! They have chicken and waffles, too! Ooohh and they have tacos! No. I think I’ll go with the jerk chicken.”

Laura Cortese | The Poison Oaks

But the waiter responds that they’re out of Jerk Chicken. “Well, then maybe a burger. With a side of steamed kale. But maybe not. Wait. I think I have the wrong menu! There are more options on this other one! Well, now I need some more time… Okay. I know what I want.”

And this how Laura Cortese fronts The Poison Oaks too; sort of an all-in, all hands on deck method of music making, drilling catchy melodies into our heads with an amazing voice, playing the fiddle like it’s a rock instrument, and the band tossing up a delicious salad of indie tune-fullness. It’s like steamed kale: a bit new age, but genuinely organic… and quite delicious.

Have you ever played Radio Bean before?

I was up here two years ago with Neil Cleary. He lives In L.A. now but we played together for several years. We played Radio Bean and I don’t even remember what else we did, hung out, whatever. He used to have some crazy thing he would do sometimes where they would put a TV on and they’d play the news and him and this other guy, they would turn the sound off on the news and make up the shit the people were saying.

Do you still know Neil?

Yeah, we’re still good friends. He played on The Poison Oaks record and when we do shows in L.A. he’ll play with us. His parents still live here and his fiancé's parents live here so they’re back a couple times a year. I was like, “Neil, are you going to be in Burlington?! You can play with us!” and he was like, “I leave that morning!” and I was like, “Are you fucking kidding me?!”


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