Four Questions: Casper Skulls

Casper Skull's album cover for Knows No Kindness.

Casper Skulls:

Knows No Kindness

Genre: Electric Folk

Sound: An eclectic mix of keys (piano, organ and synth!), moody guitars and dreamy harmonies.
If you like: Land of Talk, boygenius, Chastity
Why you should listen: This Toronto indie group makes their long-awaited return with a grown-up sound that fully embraces their softer side. It’s a deeply personal collection of life experiences that’s haunting and ethereal.
Best track: Thesis

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Casper Skulls have been a beloved unit in the Toronto music scene for years, and their new album is about to push them to new heights. Knows No Kindness is a hauntingly beautiful self-produced record that pulls from singer Melanie St-Pierre’s contrasting experiences in rural Ontario and Toronto.

Founded in 2015, the band has turned many heads with SOCAN Songwriting award nominations and concert lineups with Thurston Moore and Speedy Ortiz. Casper Skulls first road-tested these new songs in early 2020 while on tour with PUP, long before recording was complete. A year later than originally planned, the band is ready to share these tracks with live audiences once more.

We chat with St-Pierre and new drummer Aurora Bangarth about their musical and lyrical inspirations and what it means to be a “chameleon band.”

1. Your lyrics share stories from small-town life in Northern Ontario and city living in Toronto. How have these two settings influenced you?

St-Pierre: Pretty heavily. There are definitely two sides to my coin. There’s a person who lives in a small town and has these family legacies. And then I go away to school and no one knows who I am. You become a different person.

I initially went to Toronto for art school, and every project I did was about the forest because that’s what I was exposed to. It doesn’t surprise me that these songs are coming out of me now. And my grandma did the exact same thing — she went to art school in Toronto, left Massey, then came back to Massey.

2. This album is clearly very personal. Was it ever a challenge to be emotionally vulnerable?

St-Pierre: For a lot of these songs, I had to prepare myself to sing them live. There were times when I would break down while practising them. I didn’t intend to write all these personal things, it’s just what ended up coming out. But we’ve toured some of these songs beforehand, so now I’m more desensitized. It’s encapsulated therapy!

Aurora Bangarth: Once Mel got through that first threshold and she was ready to share, we moved onto the arranging process for the album, and that part was really fun.

3. On a self-produced album, I imagine you drew from a lot of different musical tastes. Who are some of your influences?

St-Pierre: Neko Case was a really big influence — she’s wonderful. And GillianWelch. Land of Talk has always been a big one for me. In high school, I listened to her constantly and we got to tour together years later.

Bangarth: Both overarching and specific to this album is Radiohead. When I was coming up with drum parts, I implemented a “What would Phil Selway do?” strategy.

Each one of us has very disparate tastes. You get Neil [Bednis, guitar] and I talking about Kendrick Lamar and you’ll be there for half an hour, but when Mel and I worked on vocal harmonies we made it very Fleetwood Mac. So there’s a lot going on at any given time!

4. You’ve had a lot of unique live experiences. Is there anyone you dream of touring with?

Bangarth: We’ve been told that we should tour with Phoebe Bridgers and, of course, we’d love to! We’re almost a chameleon band because we could open for Neko Case but we’ve also toured with PUP. We opened for Charly Bliss who are pop and that worked really well too. It’s nice to not know where you fit, so you can fit everywhere.

Watch the Thesis music video

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