By Zach Schepis
Photo courtesy of Animal Spirit.
When Andrew Stroheker decided to hop a flight from his home in California and move out to Fort Worth, Texas, he didn’t know anybody else who lived there. The spontaneous leap of faith followed on the heels of his high school band’s untimely breakup. After playing together for nearly three years and then fizzling away, Stroheker felt it was high time for a change of scenery.
Although drums were his musical calling for close to a decade, he settled on bringing along his acoustic guitar instead for the journey.
“I wanted a different viewpoint,” Stroheker tells BTR. “It’s just completely different to be able to put your feelings and thoughts out there for people.”
It’s exactly what the budding songwriter began to do in earnest. Alone in a quiet suburb, Stroheker felt an insurmountable loneliness tugging at him. The only available outlet to channel these feelings of alienation was his acoustic–which he practiced both day and night in an attempt to better understand both the foreign instrument and himself.
“Planet’s A Lie” is a product of these solo writing sessions. It’s a song that once began stripped down and vulnerable, but over the years has taken on new life. When you hear the vocal harmonies sailing like lost ships over an ocean, the bass and drums churning with electric echoes, it’s hard to believe that it all came from such a small place.
Every band’s origin story has a spark that ends up setting the musical powder keg ablaze. For Stroheker, the spark just so happened to be Craigslist.
“All I had at the time were my guitar and the internet,” recalls Stroheker. “So I started surfing around on Craigslist for people that I could jam with.”
The efforts proved to be fruitful. Before long the guitar player met with local drummer Parker Anderson, and the two took to playing open mic nights together around Fort Worth. Shortly thereafter Zach Tucker joined on bass guitar. But the trio agreed that there was still an ingredient missing.
At the time, when he wasn’t writing or performing, Stroheker was working at a quaint little coffee shop. As fate would have it, one day a pretty girl attending a college down the street walked in and caught his attention. Her name was Sam Wuehrumann, and she just so happened to be a talented vocalist in search of people to play with.
Thus, the four-piece indie rock collective Animal Spirit took form.
The band wasn’t the only blessing to emerge from such a dynamic chapter in Stroheker’s new life. Soon after meeting Wuehrumann and writing songs together, the two songwriters began dating.
Now? They’re engaged and set to marry later this year.
“The chemistry is so natural,” Stroheker describes. “We’re always together so it’s really easy to play off of one another. I’m always playing guitar around the house, and she’s always listening and writing. So we end up bringing a lot of material with us to practice.”
This kind of intimacy isn’t just limited to the two songwriters. Animal Spirit fosters an inseparable set of close-knit friendships that most groups strive for yet fall short of achieving. For instance, the bass player Anderson is an ordained minister who will actually be marrying his fellow band mates.
You really can’t get much closer than that.
Or maybe you can. The four musicians share what Stroheker describes as a “communal consciousness” which allows the members to inhabit the same planes of spirit and thought as though they were seemingly interconnected. Strange or not, from a creative standpoint the union is crucial to the band’s dynamic.
Take the band’s name: its spontaneous conception sprang from an understanding between the friend’s regarding what each of their “essences” could be personified by.
“I’m a wolf,” says Stroheker. “Sam is a little doe and Zach is a lion. Parker… I’m pretty sure he’s a ram.”
The band’s debut and self-titled album was released nearly two years ago, and in many ways sonically it reflects a turn towards new beginnings. The songs oscillate between gentle folk plucking and more abrasive textures. You can hear the acoustic roots of the material Stroheker wrote alone, combining with the songwriter’s first time playing on an electric instrument.
Animal Spirit’s long awaited follow-up album is in the final stages of post-production, and should be available for listening by summer of this year.
Expect a more methodical progression of ideas, and a flow that is constant throughout.
Expect a band that has finally discovered itself, forged friendships, and honed a sound that’s ready to take Texas by storm.
To hear the rest of our interview with Animal Spirit, tune into this week’s Discovery Corner.
Or find your own way to interpret Animal Spirit by checking out their bandcamp.