Andy Shauf is one of Canada’s most eminent multi-instrumentalist singer-songwriters, and he got his start in Regina’s unlikely booming Christian punk scene. But even from within, he never would drink the Kool-Aid.
“The mid-2000s punk scene in Regina was about positivity and community with a religious tone,” says Shauf. “But when it came to the faith, I was kind of following along. I tried really hard to get into it, but something just didn’t line up in my brain.”
Perhaps this sums up the appeal of Shauf’s music. His album, The Party (2016), is a contemplation on a single night, offering minute observations of a humanity we all recognize. It masterfully weaves together ornate arrangements, fuzzed-out guitars, string sections, clarinets and hazy synths. It’s the diary entry of wallflowers and outsiders everywhere, written in the small hours of the morning following a crowded house party.
“The punk shows of Regina were always mix-matched,” says Shauf. “It was a mix of metal bands and hardcore bands. I was the acoustic emo kid. I’ve never been very extreme so I found myself just a little out of place.”
Shauf’s repertoire manages to capture the yearning feeling of being “just a little out of place.”
His latest work with Foxwarren is no exception and has been ten years in the making. Reuniting with high-school friends Dallas Bryson and brothers Avery and Darryl Kissick, Foxwarren released a debut self-titled LP in November. Compared to Shauf’s solo work, the album is artfully spacious and wields lyrical ambiguity masterfully. Yet, despite the connection that comes from a collaboration Shauf describes as ‘the Simon and Garfunkel of his high school,’ the words unsaid and the chords unplayed carry with them that same melancholy sense of otherness.
“The album did not come out the way we expected it to,” says Shauf. “When recording, we planned a rock and roll album inspired by the Rolling Stones. That’s not how it turned out.”
Shauf’s ethereal, honey-toned voice and acoustic guitar melds with eccentric, diverse instrumentation. It’s the perfect complement to a summer afternoon — nostalgic, yet somehow filled with conflict.
Shauf’s music resonates because it speaks to our “out of place” sentimentality. The chords mirror the touch of frigid glass on fingertips as one peers through a locked window into a world that is seemingly populated by insiders. In capturing that sentiment through masterful songwriting and instrumentalism, Shauf and Foxwarren create an awareness of the living and breathing community beyond the looking glass. Only time will tell if the orchestrators of our awareness, Foxwarren, will continue their collaborative study of the uncollaborated soul.