by Mark Hodgman
photo by Scott Roos
Life can be tough. Other people are scary. We find ways to confine ourselves to echo chambers of our distinct worldviews in spite of the many diverse voices contributing to the cacophony (or symphony) of our planet. How can we have positive meaningful experiences that involve perfect strangers with such a high risk of encountering discomfort? You dive in and dance (or at least tap your toes). For as how deeply personal and individualistic our participation in music can often be, it is also a uniquely communal affair. Bass notes thumping at 130BPM will make anyone nod their head, whatever their thoughts on regulations on the free market, where to find the best coffee in town, or if cursive writing should still be taught in school. One of these providers of unifying grooves is Prince Albert, Saskatchewan's very own, Soulfather.
Soulfather started in Prince Albert in late 2015 with members Abe Lancaster on vocals, synthesizers, guitar and percussion, Stephen Williams on guitar and Zachary Kerr on drums. At times Soulfather can be more of a solo project with Lancaster performing by himself, and most often as a duo between Lancaster and Williams. Described as a live looping ensemble, Soulfather creates music that is as unique as it is accessible, and impressive as it is fun.
Creating a dancy alt-electronic sound with an experimental edge, Soulfather brings a world class live experience close to home with passionate and emotional performances.
I recently had a conversation with Lancaster where he described his return to music after a two year hiatus, his songwriting process and Soulfather's upcoming album Good Buy a follow up to the 2016 EP Pandamonium. Lancaster described the fruitful break as an important much needed one, but not one void of music. “I started a family, it took a lot of energy... I wanted to be prepared. In the back of our minds we had this album ready to go, building on the back burner for two years, getting it ready to be unleashed.”
Lancaster and Williams were able to stay in contact throughout the pandemic as workmates. And while Williams was busily working on other music projects, Lancaster was able to find time in between work and family life to focus on the creation of Good Buy and his growth as a musician. When I asked him about how the album was recorded and specifically about the drums on the singles for the album he responded “I played the drums on those, since I've built this studio I've become more of a multi-instrumentalist, I've always wanted to be more of that, but it's taken a while to get all the resources to have at my disposal, so now I have a drum kit, a piano, synthesizers, guitars. Whenever inspiration does hit, I can play whatever I want.” This provides avenues for Soulfather's music to maintain organic timbres with the use of more conventional and acoustic instruments. Set against a framework of songwriting often reserved for electronic music, this highlights all the more the uncontrived musicality taking place.
The emphasis on the personal, grounded, relatable side of music is definitely meditated, and I think this is the crux of Soulfather's music. “How you say something and the conviction with the way you say something are as important as what you're saying... The goal of me as an artist is to connect on an emotional level with my audience. You take it in to mind when you're songwriting, but songwriting is a really personal thing... When you're performing for an audience live, you're sharing this emotion with someone and you want it to have an effect, but I think that effect is totally up to the listener. Although how I feel is still portrayed in the music in a variety of ways.”
Soulfather's music is meant to be experienced as an emotional conversation with an array of parties involved. Lancaster's near stream of consciousness lyrics flow through the songs without his interior monologue being edited and muddied by our lower social constructs and fear of faux pas, yet we are invited to interact with the song and draw out our own emotional response. Lancaster could be singing a reflection on his past or his bright, hopeful future plans for his children, and we as the audience get the chance to share in the moments together. Soulfather's driving rhythms, soaring guitar hooks and permeating synth loops masterfully create an atmosphere that invites goodwill and connection when so much of our world and media invite us to polarize; and that atmosphere sounds great right about now.
So please, if you can do so safely, go to a show, meet or at least observe some strangers with an open mind, share an experience, realize that they might not see the world the exact same way you do, and empathize. Remember this doesn't require you to change your opinions on whether pulp has a place in orange juice, or if automation will lead to a utopia, but it will lead to a richer life and hopefully a kinder world.
Soulfather's debut full length album Good Buy will be out on September 1st, 2021. You can listen to two singles off the album now on Spotify and be sure to give them a like and a follow on their social media pages.