Published May 20, 2016Andy Shauf, the Regina singer-songwriter who rounds his 'r's, celebrates his vulnerability, sheds light on things most people wouldn't care to, and creates characters that break your heart, has just released his third album The Party, on Arts & Crafts.
For an artist who has titled releases Darker Days, The Bearer of Bad News and Sam Jones Feeds His Demons, this latest has to be an upbeat dance record, right?
Don't be fooled by The Party — its 10 tunes are a collection of house party vignettes in "a city the size of a dinner plate." Each song tells a different first-person narrative: the fellow shyly confessing and then retracting romantic feelings; the drunk consoling and then flirting with a friend's girlfriend; and being the first to arrive.
"I keep reading about these awkward characters at the party, but when I was writing it, I was just thinking that they were normal," Shauf tells Exclaim! from Berlin before opening for the Lumineers. "I think that all the awkwardness probably got channelled from me being awkward."
Other than setting, there isn't a overarching theme interconnecting these tales, according to Shauf. "I just enjoy making little stories, so that's what I set out to do. It's not like a super tight-knit concept album or anything, I don't know if it can actually fit together totally, but I just wanted to do something a little more challenging than I've done before."
The Party was initially recorded in a studio near Dresden, Germany, in February 2014 before Shauf brought it home to finish it off at Regina's Studio One, rather than his home studio (otherwise known as his parents' basement). As usual, Shauf plays most of the instruments on the record; Colin Nealis helps out with string arrangements (viola, violin and cello).
"I tried to start it as a band director so it wouldn't just be me playing on it this time, but I kind of quickly learned that that was not really the best way for me to work. When we took it to the studio it was kind of early, I had only been writing songs for the album for like six months. I wasn't super ready, I kind of rushed it, and tried to end up with as many songs as I could. When I got to Germany I realized that I just didn't really like most of them — I scrapped half of them, which was a big reason why I had to take it home. When I got home, I just kind of started working on it on my own, and remembered that that's the easiest way for me to work on songs.
"I think I started to do narrative songwriting mostly because things that were actually happening to me were a little bit limiting, so it gets a little tiring if you're always writing about yourself. I listened to a lot of Randy Newman — he's kind of the best guy at creating a short story in two or three minutes."
What Shauf pulls off is telling the same story from different points of view, connecting the party guests from different perspectives. A party-themed album where not everyone is having a good time is a refreshing take as well.
"Trying to make different perspectives of one story is more difficult than just making one story," Shauf explains. "I did two songs that are the same story on The Bearer of Bad News and I made an EP called Sam Jones that was four songs that were all linked together. When I was finished that one, I was pretty disappointed in how it came out. The writing was kind of weak, so I wanted to try and give it another shot at making things tie together."
You can see Shauf's upcoming tour schedule, which includes a few Canadian dates this summer, over here.