There is an inevitable amount of self-reflection that comes with a silver anniversary. But after 25 years of performing with Skydiggers, Andy Maize has come to a different kind of realization. A quarter of a century after beginning to perform as a duo with good friend Josh Finlayson, Maize now understands that, with Skydiggers, he’s become part of something much larger in scope.
“We try not to look back too much, but the one thing we did realize was how fortunate we were to be part of a larger community,” says Maize, reached on the phone from his Toronto home.
“People like Andrew Cash, The Tragically Hip, Blue Rodeo, Spirit of the West, 54-40, the Barenaked Ladies. We ultimately realized that though we’ve also had people stop playing with the band, once you were a Skydigger, you were always a Skydigger,” he says, alluding to the five current members of Skydiggers and the eight past members of the band.
“You were always welcome back. On our last record, Northern Shore, we sing a few songs with Andrew Cash. We were always aware of it, but through looking back, it became crystal clear.”
Maize speaks with a casual affability, as if no part of Skydiggers’ emergence as one of the most influential bands in Canada’s roots rock scene in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s surprises him. Perhaps what has kept Maize grounded throughout Skydiggers’ career has been the friendship he shares with Finalyson.
After performing together as a duo in the infancy stages of the band, they took out an ad for other members in Toronto’s venerable weekly NOW Magazine and, eventually, Skydiggers were created. At its very core, Skydiggers has always been the friendship Maize and Finlayson have shared and of which they continue to feed. It comes as no surprise then to Maize that Skydiggers has survived, using this friendship as the driving momentum.
“Friendship comes first and the music, or the chemistry that it was born out of, comes afterwards,” he admits. “We spend our lives looking for chemistry, in all of our relationship. And when we found the other guys and put the band together, we knew we had something special.
“When you ask if I’m surprised, even though members have come and gone and come back again, the answer is no,” Maize continues, giving insight into how age has affected Skydiggers. “The chemistry was just so strong. What we do comes from a strong tradition of folk and country and rock ‘n’ roll that we don’t find performing this music has anything to do with age. If anything, maturity makes this music even richer.”
Having aged better than many acts celebrating 25 years, Skydiggers has managed to remain true to their original aesthetic and vision, continuing to tour throughout intriguing venues and ply their craft with unabated honesty. There’s no run of casino shows on the horizon for Maize and Skydiggers. Playing live, attests Maize, is vital to the continuation of Skydiggers.
“It’s been our lifeblood,” he says of touring. “It’s how we’ve connected as a band with our fans. We’ve always considered playing live to be our job. The recording aspect was just the bonus.”
To have a recording career as Skydiggers simply being a “bonus” says a lot about how Andy Maize views the past 25 years of the band. It’s not easy for him to look back, but when he does, he’s happy with what he sees.
“Sometimes you’re so busy looking ahead you forget that to know where you’re going, you have to know what you’ve done.”
Catch the Skydiggers at the Ironwood (Calgary) on May 2 and 4 and at the West End Cultural Centre (Winnipeg) on May 11.
By Joshua KlokeAB, Alberta