When Vance Shaw decided he was going to start playing music live, one of the biggest challenges he faced was learning enough songs to carry a night at a bar.
“That was why I never thought it would be possible, because I’ve played the same 10 songs for the past 10 years,” said the guitarist and singer from local band F-Stop Collective. “It was that commitment – I have to learn some songs and maybe this could happen.”
As he put it, he’d been playing for years, but either by himself at home or with friends at a campfire, so playing in a band in front of a crowd was a learning experience.
Shaw started playing gigs last fall. While playing with friends, he met bassist Paul Maz and recruited him to join his band. Along with Mark Skerry on lead guitar and drummers Trevor Wallach and Frank Desrosiers (whoever can make it), they formed the F-Stop Collective and have been playing bars in Revelstoke regularly since late last year.
The band plays a mix of Shaw’s originals and covers of songs by the likes of Ben Harper, Paul Simon, the Allman Brothers and Jack Johnson. Shaw estimates the split at about 40-60.
Shaw described his songs as “simple, straight-ahead, folky-type songs.”
“I’m definitely attracted to emotional songs,” he said. “I wish I wasn’t because I think I’d be a better band guy if I wasn’t so attracted to emotional songs. You could do more entertaining songs than I end up choosing.”
Maz brings the core rhythm to the songs. He has been playing bass for 12 years and, while he has no formal education on the instrument, he said he spends lots of times talking about and exploring the instrument.
The band’s originals are written by Shaw and Maz’s role is to add to the songs through his bass.
“It’s a collective experience,” he said. “How can I make this better than it is instead of taking a selfish approach?”
I met with Shaw and Maz at the Frontier Restaurant. During our conversation we talked about the challenges of playing in a bar band, where you’re expected to play three sets of music a night. We also talked about learning covers and how you can make them your own and how they influence your own songwriting.
Shaw said playing covers helps broaden his own “shtick.”
“All of a sudden you have to put a chord change someone else came up with you might have never thought of,” he said. “Even though you’re not writing it you get to learn what it takes to write a well-crafted song like that.”
For Maz, its about acquiring the chops to be able to play a whole variety of songs and keep people entertained for a night.
“Once you get there, the only way is up,” he said. “To be a reputable musician who’s running the show, you have to play all night, have so much in the bag, which is big challenge.”
As for the band’s name, that comes from the similarities Shaw sees between photography and music. “You have to have the right combination of rhythm and time and harmonies to make a song,” he said. “You have to have the same combination of F-stop and shutter speeds to make a photo. To me they seem tied.
“I also like the term F-stop.”
The band has no immediate plans for recording or touring; right now the goal is to have fun and see where that takes them. “I sure enjoy playing and wherever that takes us, I’m stoked,” said Shaw.
F-Stop Collective is playing the Summer Street Fest in Grizzly Plaza on Friday, July 13, from 6:30-9:30 p.m.