The 30th anniversary of Shakamoraine has band leader, keyboardist and vocalist Dan Marshall and his bandmates celebrating upwards of three decades of friendship that commenced in high school.
Tied in with their love for music and joy for creating, the band’s weekend performances will feature band-arranged covers as well as Marshall’s self-penned originals.
While B.C.’s Shakamoraine is a humble band of school friends with a fluid interplay, they possess a truly Canadian, fresh sound.
With a touch of retro, U2-inspired influences and the sophisticated maturity of a band like the Barenaked Ladies, it’s Spirit of the West-type indie meets Canadian nice guy next door.
Marshall and his bandmates demonstrate, through the music itself and the band’s longevity, the value of committed friendships — where the listener feels like they know the band members and want to be their best friend, too.
“I started playing the piano when I was about six. And I’m 48 now. And then I started writing just little silly songs,” says Marshall. “By the time I was eight, I would take a version of a song from my musical songbook and tell my piano teacher I wanted to change it to something else.”
Many Nanaimoites will recognize Marshall’s voice, he’s a local well-known radio host with The Wolf, 106.9 FM, hosting the morning news and sports. The award-winning journalist now does the play-by-play for the Nanaimo Clippers hockey team, of B.C.’s junior ice hockey league.
“Shakamoraine is a word that I just made up accidentally (as a joke to trick the school teacher) because we were learning about moraines…a rock deposit left by a glacier,” says jokester Marshall, who is known locally for his fun sense of humour.
“Our bass player, Paul [Fournier], he’s the oldest of us. He graduated from school two years before we did, but he and I were almost neighbours — we lived two streets apart. And our first-ever gig together was playing for a mutual friend’s birthday party in their basement… just the two of us playing piano and bass,” says keyboardist and vocalist Marshall.
“It was really when I met our drummer, Kevin [Pawluk ], in 1990, in Grade 11, that everything took off,” says Marshall. “We were both in the concert band together in high school. And we just immediately hit it off. And it was Kevin, who said … ‘We’re gonna put together a band for the talent show and win it.’ And sure enough, we did.”
In 1994, the band decided to invite two fine new guitarists — Steve Halfnights and Mike Physick — and the high school trio band became a quintet.
The band enjoyed rehearsing in a music room space built by Marshall’s father.
In 2000, Marshall moved to Penticton to start his radio broadcasting career, so the band went on a hiatus. Then in 2007, Dan moved to Nanaimo and the Nanaimo Clippers Hockey team invited the band to do a performance put on by the team — Shakamoraine was re-born.
Later percussionist Mike Goetz rounded off the band with guest appearances by harmonica player Ian Osborn.
For 30 years, the band has gone through the ups and downs of regular life together as good friends.
“I would say that Shakamoraine has endured for 30 years for a few reasons,” band percussionist Mike Goetz explains. “We’re friends first and bandmates second, and the relationships are long-lasting and genuine.”
“There is something unique and special about playing music with the people that you love. Secondly, Dan is the glue that holds the whole thing together. He is persistent but easygoing, and everyone feeds off his dedication,” says Goetz.
The band does not play often because the band members live in different cities in North America. But when they do get together, the music just happens like magic, as if these special friends were never disconnected or apart.
“[Playing together] reinforces those connections in a unique, unspoken way,” explains Goetz.
Bassist and vocalist Paul Fournier puts the rarity of the band’s special friendships into his own perspective. “Our 30-year reign has endured because of the bonds we formed as teenagers during our time hanging out playing video games and watching movies until 4 a.m., playing ball hockey, and our experiences growing up together.”
“I was in the wedding party for my buddy Steve. My buddy Paul — we’ve been there through tragedies at each other’s family’s funerals… we’ve been there for each other. It’s been so many things that we’ve gone through together.”
Guitarist Steve Halfnights concurs. “I think all the guys in the band really appreciate the talent and musicianship that each member brings to the table as a musician. When you’re able to surround yourself with other talented players it is such a rush to feel what you’re able to create.”
Shakamoraine’s in-demand performances have received excellent audience raves in Nanaimo and B.C. Lead guitarist, Mike Physick has been flying from California to join their band performances.
“There are literally thousands and thousands of bands that did what we did in high school and in early university. But there are very few that have kept any of that together in their adult life,” says Marshall when asked about the band’s longevity.
“To anybody out there that maybe stopped playing at the end of high school or university, always keep playing and find a way to keep that in your life in some way.”
Asked if the band will continue their regular Nanaimo performing tradition, Marshall says, “I can guarantee Shakamoraine is not going to be going away anytime soon. It’s always only a question of what’s next.
“It’s been a lifelong dream for us to play music and to play together. We’re as excited about being in Shakamoraine and playing as Shakamoraine right now than we’ve ever been.”
Shakamoraine performs live in concert Jan. 20, 9 p.m. at The Nanaimo Bar and Jan. 21, 9 p.m. at Parkville’s Rod & Gun. Contact the venue to book your spot. For more updates, follow Shakamoraine’s Facebook page.