The Shuvs Offer An Antidote to Chaotic Times

This Friday’s dinner shows at Bruce Wine Bar will feature The Shuvs, a Toronto based band that is imbued with the sound of soul.  Central to the band is the songwriting of Rob Nicholls but it is the group contribution that makes the band unique.

Rob Nicholls, originally from Victoria B.C. has been writing and recording music sing he was eighteen, playing piano and guitar.  With this new configuration in The Shuvs, he is bringing out some of his favourite influences, echoing the soul mastery of performers like Curtis Mayfield and Al Green but through his musical odyssey he has explored every genre.  Back in 2009 he had a band with Galen Rigter called LAND, which ranged through a catalogue of styles from heavy metal to ska, and did them all well.  It was persistence and a gradual defining of focus that brought him to The Shuvs.

Rob Nicholls is a painter whose visual expressions find their equivalent in the sounds he creates with his music.  In many musicians who are also visual artists (e.g. Joni Mitchell, Miles Davis, Tom Wilson), you’ll often find that their music, like their painting, has a concern with texture.  This can be seen, or rather heard, in the music of The Shuvs.

As a practising artist and instructor at OCADU, Rob works out of a studio in a Toronto heritage building known as The Coffin Factory.  He crossed paths there with the building superintendent Richard Verdin, who also happened to be a drummer.  As he told Digest DX3, Richard “went to an open mike with another band and saw Rob was there playing as a solo artist. I was watching him and I thought, ‘This guy’s great; he just needs some beat behind him.’ I asked him to jam and everything just went great from the start.

As they worked together they developed a sound that blended the lyrics approach of writers like Neil Young and Bob Dylan with the smooth soul sounds of a performer like Curtis Mayfield.  They added bass player Jack Gunn and percussionist/vocalist Laura Anderson, giving them everything they needed to create the sound they were looking for.

As Exclaim! magazine said in their review of the band’s debut album, “the band shines when vocalist Laura Anderson takes the lead, as on the opening/title trackCan’t Find Love.’ From there, the album rarely wavers from its steady rhythm, seemingly riding a breeze through to the final track. Vocal contrasts between Anderson and guitarist Rob Nicholls provide enough variation to keep things intriguing.”

“Listeners will find themselves coming around for another listen just to keep the feeling going —exactly what a lot of people could use in this era of constant restlessness.”

With an ear for atmospherics, the group used The Coffin Factory as a recording studio.  . They used vintage analog equipment and recording techniques to capture the warmth and directness in their music. Each track, recorded live off-the-floor and on tape, is coloured by the openness and echo of the building’s interior.  The result, “Can’t Find Love”, is a sweet, soul offering with lyrics to ponder.  As Stylus magazine commented, “The Shuvs are all about the soft touch. Breezy and mellow but with real intent, this record creeps up on you.”  In its review, Exclaim! said, “In contrast to the overwhelmingly anxious music of today, Can’t Find Love comes across as completely carefree. Listeners will find themselves coming around for another listen just to keep the feeling going —exactly what a lot of people could use in this era of constant restlessness.”

Respect for the ambience of the style of music they were inspired by dictated that the album be released on vinyl, which makes it an analog effort from start to finish.  Vinyl, after being displaced a couple of decades ago by CD’s, is enjoying a resurgence because of the warmth of a technology that retains the original waveform without converting it to the on/off coding of a digital recording.  It is the perfect medium for music with this sensibility.  Real, human and organic, from the recording technology to the live-off-the-floor sessions, are the elements that make this music work.

As Dan Colussi has written in his review of the album, “It’s not so much about where these songs go, as it is about setting a vibe and exploring the ways to stay there. Without a doubt there’s a soulful R&B flavour across the whole record, particularly in the smooth-out vocal inflections, but there’s also touches of spacey folk guitar and outsider country.”

From this genesis it is a good bet that the live sound of the band will be pretty close to what they managed to put down on their debut album.  That means that diners at Bruce Wine Bar on Friday are likely to not only find themselves grooving to the sound as they enjoy their meal, but quite likely will set down their forks here and there to give this band a really good listen.

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2 Responses to The Shuvs Offer An Antidote to Chaotic Times

  1. Gillian says:

    The lead guitarist of Cry For Ophelia is heading to OCAD U next year. Synchronicity!

  2. Lois Hislop says:

    Let’s hear more of Laura Anderson. Fantastic voice that I would love to hear doing solos. Very unique voice that I want to hear!! Does Laura have any solo performances. An amazing, unusual voice!

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