'Thank you universe:' Kelowna's Oot 'n' Oots release a song that offers levity and something to dance to | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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'Thank you universe:' Kelowna's Oot 'n' Oots release a song that offers levity and something to dance to

The Oot n Oots.
Image Credit: YOUTUBE/The Oot n Oots
June 28, 2020 - 5:35 PM

If you follow what happens in local music, you’re probably familiar with the Oot 'n’ Oots.

The Okanagan-based kindie rock band comprised of five members of the Cipes family is a staple at area festivals and has already produced two albums that gained critical acclaim.  

Their 2016 debut, Songs and Tales from the Great Blue Whale, was nominated for Children’s Artist of the Year at the 2017 Western Canadian Music Awards. Their next album, Electric Jellyfish Boogaloo, arrived in May 2018 and was nominated for a Canadian Folk Music Award and was named on the Fids and Kamily Awards top 20 albums for kids and families.

And while the COVID-19 and all its side effects may have caused fallow times for many creatives,  the quintet recently found a sliver of positivity that seemed big enough to explore.

Ezra Cipes, who sings and plays guitar, wrote the song Thank You Universe on a plane and put it aside for a few years, then one day during the quarantine the band decided to record it and make a video.

Ruth Cipes, Ezra’s daughter, is the lead vocalist. Her uncles Ari, Gabe, and Matthew all sing and play an instrument.

“Ruth’s voice is an instrument into itself and  I wrote the song with that in mind,” Ezra said.

“It’s a simple song—two short verses, and one chord.”

They already had tried it out at some festivals last summer, and it got everyone up and dancing, which tipped Ezra off to its potential.

“It was one of the highlights of our set last summer,” Ezra said. “We played at Philadelphia folk festival, on the stage hosted by Cathy O’Connell of the program Kids’ Corner, and when we got off the stage, she said ‘do you have that song on a record? Would you please send it to me. That’s an anthem, I want to play it.”

The band had planned on playing some big festivals and releasing some songs on the road this year, with Thank You Universe being among them. Then the pandemic started and political protests took centre stage.

So they took a breath, absorbed what was happening, adapted to the times and moved ahead.

“We wanted to put some good vibes into the world during (COVID-19),” Ezra said. “It was made on many different people’s cellphones, and filmed through the end of March and the beginning of April.”

People of all walks are represented in the video, expressing gratitude and dancing joyfully while lip-synching to the chorus.

“We thought it would be nice to sing while everybody was alone,” Ezra said.

While part of the most recent chapter of their story is a new release during some of the strangest times in living memory, another is that the band is turning a corner.

The band found a following by creating music for kids that’s fun for adults to also tune into,  but Ruth is changing. At 13-years-old,  her voice, which always had richness beyond her years, has even more depth and it's gained attention.

Among others, the track played this weekend on CBC Radio 2, with the host marvelling over the juxtaposition between Ruth's age and the maturity of her voice.  

“When we started the band, the first show was the day after my eighth birthday and I am 13 now,” Ruth said, noting a lot has changed since then.

One of the changes is her musical tastes, which includes everything from indie to classic rock and punk. But, she still likes what she’s putting into the world with her dad and uncles.

“I enjoy making silly songs —it’s fun,” Ruth said. “I also write a lot of my own stuff and I’m developing my writing. I am really lucky to have family I do, with music, who are helping me learn.”

Ezra said that Ruth’s growth as a person and an artist will ultimately guide the band forward.

“We’re trying to keep up with Ruth now that she’s a teenager,” Ezra said.

“We’re a children’s band. We write and perform novelty songs and I love it; it’s fun. But Ruth is not a kid anymore … the band has to evolve along with her.”

Ezra said that Ruth is also taking on a more active role producing.

“She can hear things and knows what’s hip and how she wants things to come off,” he said.

As all these changes continue to unfurl, the band will keep engaging its audience through different channels, but festivals are where their hearts are.

“We live for them, they are our happy place,” Ezra said.

“It’s a magical atmosphere. This year we were going to cross a couple of things off of our bucket list. We were going to play the Winnipeg folk festival and John Prine was performing.”

That opportunity will never come back, but both Ezra and Ruth know others will. When the world is ready for bands to tour again, they will be ready with a whole new selection of music for families that may reflect maturing tastes.

And they're bound to get them on their feet again to celebrate music and all that's right in the universe.


To contact a reporter for this story, email Kathy Michaels or call 250-718-0428 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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