Photo by Gabriela Osio Vanden
10 Things… is a recurring new music feature in which an artist goes H.A.M. on a particular topic.
Casper Skulls have toured cities across North America and shared the stage with prominent names like Thurston Moore and Cloud Nothings, but they’re very much still committed to their hometown of Toronto and its local music scene. For example, on their latest track, “Primeval”, the up-and-coming indie rockers reflect on the city’s rising cost of living and how musicians and other creatives may one day be priced out.
“The song is about the rising cost of living in major cities,” guitarist/vocalist Neil Bednis tells Consequence of Sound. “When I was writing I was thinking about what will happen to Toronto when it becomes too expensive for artists and young people to live there. If you look at Manhattan, where there was once this vibrant scene that’s virtually non-existent when it comes to underground music culture. The community who drew people to move to these places are the ones that the city pushes out.”
“Primeval”, which incorporates the lo-fi fuzz of ’90s alt-rock bands like Pavement and Sonic Youth, was the first Casper Skulls ever wrote together, according to Bednis. “After our first couple shows we abandoned the song until about a year later when we brought it back and reworked it,” he says. “It was one we grew into as a band, but it took a while to develop it the way we wanted to.”
Continuing on with the Toronto theme, the track’s corresponding visual also uses the city as a focal point. “The video was shot by Shawn Kosmerly at River and Sky Festival outside of Sudbury and here in Toronto,” Bednis explains. “We wanted to shoot at two locations that were kind of the opposite of one another – nature vs. infrastructure kind of thing. Me and Mel are from Sudbury and now we live in Toronto, so I was also really glad we got to shoot in two of our hometowns.”
Check it out below.
“Primeval” is taken from Casper Skulls’ debut album, Mercy Works, due out November 3rd via Buzz Records. Pre-order it here.
For this edition of 10 Things… Casper Skulls discuss the 10 sources of inspiration for Mercy Works, which includes The Cure and various dystopian novels.
The album art from The Microphones’ Mount Eerie
We love this record but it wasn’t so much the music as it was the artwork that inspired our record. There’s multiple versions of the cover on this record but the one we’re referring to is the one with the lady holding the skull. We love how when you hold this record you can almost feel the ink, like it was just drawn special for you. We tried to create that same vibe with our artwork and Mel did an amazing job.
Andrew Wyeth — The Helga Pictures
Mel picked up “The Helga Pictures” at a used book store while we were recording. A lot of Wyeth’s drawings and paintings in that book are really raw. They’re sort of unfinished sketches and aren’t completely drawn-in. It inspired Mel to make individual drawings for each of our songs in the gatefold.
Ducks Unlimited — “Age of Entertainment”
Our friend Tom sent us an early demo of his song “Age of Entertainment” from his band Ducks Unlimited. We fell in love with that song and in particular the string arrangement. Paul Erlichman from Ducks arranged the strings on that song and after hearing what he did we decided we wanted him to do the strings on our record.
The string section on Echo and the Bunnymen’s Ocean Rain
After hearing the Ducks Unlimited song we started hearing string arrangements in our heads for the songs on Mercy Works. In a sense we looked to Ocean Rain for guidance. This is one record where the strings added so much to the emotional feel of the songs. We obviously couldn’t afford to have a 35-piece orchestra but we still tried to evoke the same kind of emotion and colour that Ocean Rain gives off. The strings on “Primeval” bring an airiness to the track and offer levity from the rigidness of the verses.
Sonic Youth really inspired us to try exploring alternate tunings. I think on Mercy Works we’re moving away from that kind of sound but they inspired us to find our own way. Both guitars in “Primeval” are tuned in a particularly interesting way but play off each other and sound really cool with one another. For us there isn’t a right way to play guitar and it’s rewarding to challenge ourselves to write catchier songs with an odd musical slant to them.
Deerhunter — “Desire Lines”
Deerhunter have tons of songs that have what our band calls instrumental “sweet spots”. They usually ride one groove with one repetitive melody sometimes pulling in instruments in and out. You can really feel the power of the band on songs like “Desire Lines”, “Sleepwalking”, and “The Missing”. “Desire Lines” in particular was a big influence on the instrumental bridge in “Primeval” and we tried to achieve a similar kind of melancholy that those Deerhunter parts have.
After the election we kind of felt like we were entering some sort of dystopia. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, Brave New World, Nineteen Eighty-Four all inspired our songs to have this sort of apprehension to them with a trickle of hope. We wrote a song on the record called “Colour of the Outside” and it paints a picture of a dystopian world. When we finished the song we realized we were kind of already living in that world.
Technically speaking we were pretty inspired by the Cure recording this record, particularly on [bassist] Fraser [McLean]’s parts. We have chimes on the song “Chicane, OH” which was inspired by “Plainsong” as well as a baritone on a bunch of songs, like “Primeval”, “I Stared At Moses and the Burning Bush” and “You Can Call Me Allocator”. Fraser also used a Bass 6 and Flanger pedal running through a Roland Jazz Chorus for “Faded Sound” just to get a bit of that “The Holy Hour” kind of sound.
Going to America for the first time after the election
Our first American tour was literally a week after the results from the American election. People at the shows we played were still kind of in shock. It didn’t really feel real at first. We drove through Maine and saw Trump flags everywhere and off the highway in Pennsylvania we saw someone had made a huge Trump sign on a hill that looked like the Hollywood sign. We didn’t really know what kind of world we had entered.
The Smiths we’re a really big influence on the writing of this record. Mel had a copy of this Smiths compilation called “Best…I” that she bought in high school. It just had a bunch of their singles on it and we would drive around and play it constantly. The instrumental interlude on “Stop Me If You Think You’ve Heard This One Before” really inspired parts on songs like “Lingua Franca” and “Chicane, OH”. “I Stared At Moses and the Burning Bush” was musically really inspired by “How Soon Is Now”. The Smiths also got us playing around on a 12-string and acoustic guitar which can be heard on a couple songs.
Casper Skulls 2017 Tour Dates:
10/20 – Halifax, NS @ Halifax POP
10/21 – Fredericton, NB @ Capital
11/02 – St. Catherine’s, ON @ Warehouse
11/10 – Cincinnati, OH @ MOTR
11/11 – Chicago, IL @ Subterranean %
11/12 – Pittsburgh, PA @ Spirit
11/13 – Washington, DC @ Comet Ping Pong
11/14 – Philadelphia, PA @ Kung Fu Necktie
11/16 – Brooklyn, NY @ Alphaville ~
11/23 – Montreal, QC @ Phi Center ^
11/24 – Ottawa, ON @ Bronson Theater ^
11/25 – Toronto, ON @ Great Hall ^
% = w/ And The Kids
~ = w/ Baked, Bueno
^ = w/ Land of Talk