Stage Left: Sean F. Schultz of Soñder
On a Sunday afternoon in early August, Foxy’s Harbor Grille is a sociable cacophony: laughter, chatter, drink orders, and televised sports blur into an atmospheric din as thick as Saint Michaels’ baby blue skies are clear. Glance outside, and a postcard-perfect view of the Miles River gazes affably back at you.
Singer, multi-instrumentalist, and Saint Michaels native Sean F. Schultz, 50, is wholly in his element here. This is where he works, where he performs, where he knows or is related to most passersby. Impish and friendly, he’s someone who, after five or ten minutes, you feel that you’ve known for years. Over the summer, he self-released So Far, the latest release from Soñder, the name he’s recorded under since 2014’s The Mind’s Eye. This alias wasn’t chosen arbitrarily.
“I found the word in The Dictionary of Obscured Sorrows. [Sonder] means the realization that other people have lives different than yours — it’s the exact opposite of Narkissos,” he explains, referring to his 1990s post-punk band. “I thought that was bold, because … at the time, back in the day, I was narcissistic. I just had a chip on my shoulder. Over time I realized that if you help others, that karma, the vibration of the universe, comes back and benefits you.”
As befits his life experience — catching Johnny Cash, Black Sabbath, and The Police live in concert as a child, Narkissos’ local success, a brief sojourn to Spain to perform at La Fabrica de la Luz, a stint managing a record store — Schultz is a consummate musical polymath. While So Far showcases a blend of hard rock and industrial flavors reminiscent of Nine Inch Nails, Flying Saucer Attack, and Filter, ambient film soundtrack fare, Christmas carols, space rock, experimental noise, and sonic collages crowd the other corners of the burgeoning, largely self-produced discography available on his Bandcamp page. Filtered, frizzled, or plain, there’s a calm centeredness to Schultz’s vocals, which register as one more instrument amidst or somewhat subsumed by shoegazing waves of guitar on aspirational anthem “One Day,” the jangling, floaty “Rewind,” or “Patience,” a fuzzy, radio-friendly confection that handily synthesizes late 20th century pop-punk, R.E.M.’s “The End of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine),” and Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start The Fire.”
Yet his enthusiasm for his music, the larger music world, and musicians in general — Schultz proposed to his wife by convincing Dinosaur Jr. bassist Lou Barlow, “wonderful, soft-spoken, a little shy,” to write the question on a t-shirt — pales in comparison to his excitement over his daughter’s piano prowess.
“She has to practice an hour a day, seven days a week. I mean, I feel sorry for my daughter. When I first started seeing her play, and the other students, I questioned myself — am I doing the right thing? To torture her like that. She has five or six songs that she’s written at nine, and they’re really good,” he beams, proud. “Just last month, she did a recital at the Peabody, playing on a Grand Steinway. Nine years old. A hundred people in the room, on the Peabody stage, playing a $150,000 Steinway. My daughter. Nine. I was in tears. To see my daughter on stage, at nine? I didn’t touch the drums until I was 10!”