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First Play: Casper Skulls, Mercy Works

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Andrea Gin

Toronto’s Casper Skulls are ready to release a debut LP called Mercy Works, and on it the quartet wears its ‘90s indie-rock influences on its sleeve.

The band is led by dual lead vocalists and real-life couple Melanie St. Pierre and Neil Bednis, who take turns on lead vocals to great effect. From the off-kilter “What’s That Good For” to the noisy, epic “Colour of the Outside” to the jangly rocker “Chicane, OH,” St. Pierre’s light, clear vocals are offset by Bednis’ spoken-word approach, adding dimension to the songs and elevating the band’s sound beyond its guitar-rock roots.

“It’s so exciting to make music when you can explore what you want to explore," says Bednis via press release. "Where we can go in terms of sound is endless. We’re big, ambient music nuts so it’d be great to make an ambient record after this one, or an acoustic album. The goal is to be as freely creative as we can be as four people.”

Mercy Works is a followup to the band’s well-received Lips & Skull EP, released late last fall. The album was recorded with co-producer/engineer Josh Korody (F--ked Up, Dilly Dally) and mixed by Alex Newport (At the Drive-In, Death Cab For Cutie). While one can’t help but hear shades of Pavement and Sonic Youth while listening, the influences are not a constraint. Casper Skulls feels like a band paying homage to classic indie rock while also experimenting with the boundaries of its sound.

“We’re really only at the start of being a band,” St. Pierre explains. “Our records don’t have to move mountains as long as we’re being true to our own ideas. We want to be a slow-burning candle.”

Mercy Works will be released on Nov. 3 via Buzz Records. Pre-order it here. The band has upcoming tour dates with Land of Talk, Weaves and Charly Bliss — check dates here.