In May, Ottawa band The Creeps released their sixth full-length album, Beneath the Pines, on It’s Alive Records. While many of the earmarks unique to this Canadian trio are ever-present on …Pines, there also exists a stark tonal shift when laid side by side with their last record, 2014’s Eulogies. This collection of tracks is considerably brighter than what they left off on. “We definitely wanted this record to sound cleaner and clearer than our previous ones,” vocalist and guitarist Skottie Lobotomy says. A lot of that had to do with working with Mike Bond at Wolf Lake Studios, which Lobotomy notes is “located in the middle of the woods in beautiful rural Québec.”
He also mentions that this was the first time The Creeps employed some “plainly obvious ‘technical’ stuff,” which he says they’d never thought about much in the past. Some of those minor yet important choices were things like turning the gain down on the guitar amp and choosing just the right snare drum for the sound they wanted to pull off. “Otherwise, the songwriting was pretty well the same as ever,” Lobotomy shares. “I write some songs, bring them to the guys to fine-tune, and then, when we have enough songs, we record them!” When you’ve had as much practice and experience as these guys, those parts are simply second nature.
A third component that helped flesh out Beneath the Pines was Crusades vocalist and guitarist Dave Williams and working on that band’s latest record, 2017’s This Is a Sickness and Sickness Will End. Crusades share two members with The Creeps, and besides the unusual instrumentation like keyboards and more acoustic guitar, making This Is a Sickness… largely informed their process. “Dave spent a lot of time contemplating production and talking through his ideas with the band before recording, and we definitely benefited from his legwork,” Lobotomy reflects. “Whether it was finding ways to make the instrumentation more dynamic or the use of more vocal harmonies or even just the choice to record the record where we did, I definitely credit the Crusades writing [and] recording process. That said, don’t expect to hear any grandiose orchestral accompaniments on the next Creeps record. We know our limits.”
Musically, the songs come off as guitar-driven, poppy, and melodic rock. But when you spend a bit of time with the lyrics, the qualities that make tracks intrinsically The Creeps begin to emerge. For example, the ending reprieve on “Superstitions” is a repetition of the line, “If there’s something to fear, it’s that I’ll silently fade away / Away.” When asked to sum up these songs, Lobotomy responds, “Generally, I think the thematic thread that runs through the album is one of loss: lost youth, wasted time, and, ultimately, death. So, a typically cheery affair from The Creeps, I guess.”
Even the title of the record, Beneath the Pines, is evocative of moments of self-reflection, isolated in nature and taking time to be retrospective. This idea is woven into the last song on the record, “Fall,” in which Lobotomy sings, “I fear we’re all just fated to these capsules of time / Like memories of pure bliss beneath these sky-tall pines.” He elaborates, “The pines I’m referring to in that lyric are also pictured on the front cover, which is a photo of the lodge my grandparents once owned—a place where a lot of my fondest memories from my childhood were formed.”
This idea of familial legacy and influence is further reflected in the song “Full Shook,” which Lobotomy reveals he wrote a couple of years ago when his grandmother suffered a stroke. “I don’t really treat songwriting as any sort of catharsis,” he explains. “The fact of trying to rhyme the thoughts that swirl in my noggin all day doesn’t stop them from swirling, at any rate.”
Songs like “Even” return to that idea of analyzing the past, particularly within the confines of a long-term relationship. Lobotomy admits that it is “about taking stock of the decisions you’ve made or haven’t made in the face of the fact that the road of life continues to unspool behind you in the rearview mirror.”
Whereas some might have approached The Creeps’ previous work, Eulogies, as a rather sad and dark record with glimmers of hope scattered throughout, on the surface, …Pines sounds quite the opposite. Though, as previously mentioned, once listeners spend more time with it, those Creeps-like qualities slowly reveal themselves. “I certainly don’t think of this as a ‘hopeful’ record, but I think it’s definitely less ‘dark’ than Eulogies,” Lobotomy says. Of his writing process, he explains that he mostly writes whatever is on his mind when a melody strikes. Furthermore, he says, “I think, lately, I’ve come to grips with—or resigned myself to—the sadness that I sometimes see in life.”
Though, he finishes with: “Don’t get me wrong—I laugh a lot too. It’s just less interesting to me to write about a fun day I had at the beach or whatever.”
Besides a few release shows in Ontario and Québec, The Creeps have no real plans to hit the road in support of this record. “We have never been a band who ‘toured,’ and we certainly aren’t about to start now!” Lobotomy muses. That being said, he’s also excited to play the new songs now that the record is out in the world.
Otherwise, they’re hoping that word of mouth will be the best promotion. “We will hopefully let everyone else do the touring for us by playing some of the beloved North American festivals that tend to bring together friends from far-flung lands,” Lobotomy teases.
Might there be a FEST appearance in the works? Yes. Yes, there is! But in the meantime, take solace in spinning Beneath the Pines.
The record is out now on It’s Alive Records and is available here.
Photo by Laura Collins