Scouring the weekly neighborhood flea market for castaway keyboards with her dog Tou Tou in tow, You Schaffner—the Tijuana songstress behind her wistful toy-pop alter ego Dani Shivers—opted, on this day, for an ice cream cone instead of an instrument. Prior visits to Tijuana’s sobre reudas—as the city’s roving secondhand markets are known—have proven much more fruitful. Walking its aisles, Schaffner bragged slightly about how little her Clapton-of-cheap-keyboards like collection had set her back.
It all started when Schaffner, the singer and one of the principal song writers of indie band Ibi Ego, set out to record a headful of fleeting melodies that often escaped her. Describing herself as, ‘very forgetful,’ Schaffner used a simple formula to remember potential songs by: a cheap Radio Shack microphone, toy keyboards, and her mother’s virus-ridden PC. She started recording in the DIY studio that doubled as her bedroom. But the disconnect between the song constructions that Schaffner imagined and the constraints of shoddy instrumentation produced unexpected results. She started exploring the possibilities within its limitations. ‘The songs are built with layers. It allows me to play a lot with the sounds, the forms,’ Schaffner said. And while her intentions were more polished, the low-fi, serendipitous ends she captured in her sonic note taking became the inspiration for her solo project, Dani Shivers.
‘The sound in my head is very different,’ Schaffner admitted. ‘The songs of Dani Shivers are more of an 8-bit version of what is really in my head.’ But the simple, imperfect versions of the scores in her imagination are a thing of beauty. Dripping with the nostalgia that only the toy Casio keyboards ubiquitous to childhood can evoke, Schaffner’s melancholic numbers capture perfectly those uncomfortable spaces between life’s transition where innocence fades and the heartbreaking truths of this world become apparent.