The Toronto-based band, Casper Skulls are releasing their second album, Knows No Kindness on November 12, via Next Door Records. The new album follows previous support from Stereogum, MTV, Brooklyn Vegan, Billboard, KEXP etc as well as dates opening for the likes of PUP, Thurston Moore, Speedy Ortiz and Death From Above 1979.

On their latest album, the emotionally charged quartet have refocused their approach and refined their sound, with singer/guitarist Melanie Gail St-Pierre now taking the lead on all vocals. The group has also welcomed drummer Aurora Bangarth, a veteran player, to finesse their complex yet deeply melodic arrangements.

This evolution finds them drifting away from buzzing ’90s-inspired indie-rock and shoegaze into expansive, dreamlike territories while honing their chops and learning how to write folk. Guitarist Neil Bednis and bassist Fraser McClean’s strings glisten where they would have once squealed, while Bangarth’s drums shuffle where they previously pounded.

With St-Pierre’s voice pushed to the forefront, Knows No Kindness emphasizes the intimate moments. Drawing inspiration from the painfully direct approach of country/folk heroes such as Neko Case and Gillian Welch, she graces each pause and breath with crystal clarity. This heightens the impact of St-Pierre’s lyrics, drawn from a deep well of personal stories and experiences that have laid the foundation for her artistic life.

St-Pierre began writing Knows No Kindness with the song “Tommy,” a partially fictional portrait of a man who lives on her street. After witnessing him leaving gifts for strangers in a local bus shelter – helmets for kids, books, jams, a Mamma Mia! CD, or bags on wheels to help carry groceries – she imagined his backstory as a lonely widower. This led her to examine the memories that have followed her from Sudbury, the northern Ontario mining town of her childhood. “Thesis” is a thank you letter to an inspirational high school teacher who encouraged St-Pierre’s creative writing strengths. “Witness” returns to the same domestic backdrop with an even more traumatic tale of witnessing her friend’s father being murdered.

“The Mouth” and “Ouija” are a diptych of songs based on St-Pierre’s grandmother. After she passed away, St-Pierre began to explore her matriarch’s history and realized their trajectories were strikingly similar. Moving from her hometown of Massey, Ontario, to Toronto with the intention of making it as an artist, St-Pierre’s grandmother waved goodbye to these fantasies while joining the air force, returning home, and raising her family instead. In the decades that have followed, St-Pierre now hopes to immortalize her own stories while doing her grandma’s creative dreams justice.

“I find with art you often pull from things and make it into something else, but these songs are about exactly what happened in my life,” says St-Pierre. “I couldn’t sing a lot of them when I first wrote them because they made me cry. My grandmother wanted to do everything that I’m interested in, so I’m doing it for her, in a sense.”

“You can only do an album like this once,” she concludes. “It doesn’t have to be about your life, but just something that’s heavily important to you. This is that record for me.”

The album title, Knows No Kindness, was inspired by a Georgia O’Keeffe exhibition Melanie and Neil attended. O’Keeffe would focus on things that the world would pass by or take for granted, like a single flower or an abandoned barn, and make you confront its depth and beauty. By using O’Keeffe’s paradigm and applying it as inspiration for this album, Melanie decided to write about her upbringing, and the nostalgic and traumatic elements that are a part of her.

Each song tells a different story about a certain event or experience that has affected or changed the course of her life. Some experiences date back over 20 years when she had to testify in court because she’d witnessed the murder of her best friend’s father who was shot by a neighbour in their backyard (“Witness”). These sorts of stories are contrasted with her own personal and emotional struggles of coming to terms with her own identity in her twenties and what defines her womanhood (“Thesis”). Having a fear of death due to the experiences she encountered as a child and trying to combat the fear of what it is to die (“Knows No Kindness”). Wanting to speak to relatives who’ve passed away who shared a similar life path (“Ouija”). Figuring out how to love, and what marriage and eternity mean in a world that is becoming more ephemeral (“Rose of Jericho”).

Knows No Kindness follows on from the band’s 2016 EP, Lips and Skull and their 2017 debut full-length, Mercy Works.  In 2018, Casper Skulls earned a SOCAN Songwriting Prize nomination for “Lingua Franca” before they independently released a new single/video, “O My Enemy,” a fitting transition between Mercy Works and this forthcoming release.

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