Have you ever played a team sport and thought “If only I could be every player at once…there’s no way I’d lose.” Andy Shauf sure knows the feeling, but it may not be in the athletic pastime that initially comes to mind. Shauf grew up heavily influenced by his parents ownership of an electronics and music store, developing a knack for a multitude of instruments both customary and askew. Though that malleable boy didn’t develop into the boastful type, his recent toil within the studio was anything but collaborative. After experimenting with a select group of musicians while creating his 2016 album “The Party”, Shauf eventually decided he would play all of the instruments on the album by himself in a sequential and assumingly lonely recording process. Talk about a one man band.
Shauf frequently strays from the typical weapons wielded by a 4 piece band, as songs like “Hometown Hero” utilize a slew of instruments that most listeners would struggle to identify. For instance, could you name the woodwind instrument that plays at the forefront between verses? A friend and I had the same struggle and eventually discovered that it was a melodica. The melodica, also known as pianica, blow-organ, or melodyhorn essentially looks like a piano with a reed on that end that is blown into while playing the keys. Subjectively, the instrument looks silly and has the name of an awful underground rave, but its peaceful sound ironically restores a sense of normalcy to a song that unexpectedly strays in curious directions.
All the goofy instruments are interesting, but what makes Shauf’s work truly fun is the elaborate, alluring, and peculiar storylines that flow from each one of his songs. “Hometown Hero” is a perfect example of such, as Shauf tells a daring narrative of the local football coach living a familiar life only to be interrupted by a climactic encounter with a corner store gunman. The ordinary citizen’s audacious act of valor seems like the bookend to a quintessential story of courage, but the kicker lies in the shade cast at the end of the tale. The protagonist avoids the potential fame his deed would have brought him, buys a pack of Camel Lights from the store that was just on the brink of robbery, and instead questions his life’s longevity as he willing smokes his body into nothing. His 2016 album “The Party” reaffirms his bizarrely enticing storyboard approach to songwriting, as the entire 10 song album focuses around the subtle nuances of a problem-ridden get-together. That’s 10 songs, with every single one pertaining to an instance within a single night. With that sort of creative fixation, there’s no limit to the amount subject lines that could envelope a future album, or poetic novel for that matter.