Daniel Romano heralds an age of musical ephemera in Canadian music

By in Culture

On Jan. 11, jack-of-many-genres Daniel Romano played to a packed room at Amigos Cantina with his backing band, the Jazz Police. Few fans, new or old, knew what to expect from one of Canada’s most versatile acts.

Few Canadian artists have gone through as many stylistic changes as Daniel Romano.

Romano has worn a lot of musical hats over the years. After parting ways from the folk-punk outfit Attack in Black and from his work with City and Colour, the Welland, Ont., native has pursued a varied solo career — first in the folk tradition, then in old-style country and now moving on to a genre of psychedelic-tinged rock.

If anything, Daniel Romano fans need to roll with these changes — an idea he made clear at this show. Though primarily playing material from his 2017 release, Modern Pressure, the songs were almost unrecognizable — they were louder, more frantic and entirely more fun. However, Romano is generally unconcerned about his sonic progressions, asserting that it isn’t premeditated.

“I don’t really think about it too much, to be honest, nor do I really notice it in anything I’m doing, but I can acknowledge it does exist, of course,” Romano said to the Sheaf, while on the road.

For Romano, changing up songs simply comes down to a momentary feeling.

“I don’t make any plans or choose styles. It’s just the environment suits the song, and the song suits the mood. A song isn’t a permanent thing — it can change. It’s good to keep it interesting for everyone, ourselves included,” Romano said.

Romano may be reticent to acknowledge his breakneck pace, but his latest works reveal just how quick he is to change his sound. On Jan. 4, Romano released Nerveless and Human Touch on Bandcamp — two full-length LPs that couldn’t be more sonically disparate. Nerveless is a full-band effort that is imbued with late-1960s pop influences, whereas Human Touch is a subdued singer-songwriter album, letting the focus fall solely on Romano.

This isn’t the first time that Romano has done a double release — 2016 saw him release Mosey and Ancient Shapes together — but this is the first time that he has given his albums a terminal date.

When his current tour wraps up on Feb. 11, the albums will be removed from Bandcamp, likely never to be released again. For Romano, this choice reflects the ephemeral nature of music in the streaming age.

“I think it’s pretty obvious that I don’t do anything with guidance from the music industry — I just make records and follow the song… As far as Nerveless and Human Touch, I figured that records don’t have more than a three-week lifespan anyways, so I may as well only put it out for three weeks,” Romano said.

If you’re not impressed by his musical versatility yet, Romano is backtracking eastward across the country with his punk band, Ancient Shapes, stopping again at Amigos for a show with local surf-rockers the Sips on Jan. 31. For long-time Romano fans, this sonic switch is less surprising, as Romano’s first foray into the CanCon scene was in a punk group.

As impressive as his musical range is, Romano is cognizant of the fact that constantly altering his sound might be alienating to some listeners. Ultimately though, he doesn’t think that listeners have to like everything that he does.

“I’m okay with someone who likes one of my records but not another one. I wouldn’t expect anyone to like them all. I’m also okay with someone who doesn’t like a previous record but likes the one that is happening now,” Romano said. “I wouldn’t expect everyone to like everything that I’ve done. Maybe they’ll like something, though.”

To keep up with Daniel Romano — it’s hard enough as it is  — follow him on Instagram or check out his website at danielromanomusic.com.

Tanner Bayne / Culture Editor

Photo: Sebastian Buzzalino / Supplied