The existence of a musical genre based solely on an as-accurate-as-possible reproduction of one of the many pioneers of the punk community, be it “Ramones core,” “horror punk,” what-have-you, is a somewhat peculiar notion. It’s undoubtedly a rarity in the arts that an artist or group is lauded for their ability to near-perfectly duplicate the output of an earlier influence, but that ability has certainly found a cozy home in punk rock. Hordes of bands hone their buzzsaw downstrokes, spooky croons, or dissonant leads and set out to forgo any real originality or creativity in hopes of being deemed the next Johnny, Danzig, or Ginn.
There are plenty of bands that spend their entire careers in the shadows of their predecessors, but luckily, in many cases, these copycat genres serve merely as a springboard for young bands to find their footing, to develop an aesthetic of their own, and to replace initial full-fledged adulation with a respectful tip of the hat. Nine years after their inception, Ottawa, Ontario’s The Creeps continue to reside happily in the latter category. With five (official) releases under their belts, including two in 2008 (Lakeside Cabin and the brand new These Walls EP, both on Ontario-based Black Pint Records), The Creeps have hit their most creative stride to date, evolving far beyond their early sound and coming fully into their own.
Guitar/vocals: Skottie Lobotomy
Bass: Ian Bevans
Drums: Jordy B
Interview by Dave Williams
Photos by Andrew Carver
Dave: How about we just start with the present and kinda work our way back? Tell me about Lakeside Cabin and where it fits in with The Creeps’ earlier stuff.
Jordy: Lakeside Cabin, for me, is a very progressive step in our evolution as a band. I think for us it’s the most personal album, not in the lyrical sense, but it was the album in which we were all the most conscious of every aspect of production. We were very meticulous with the way we wanted it to sound, from guitar tones to the final mixes, and because we recorded and produced it ourselves, we weren’t ever “on the clock,” which allowed us to experiment with new sounds and directions without feeling pressured to get it done.
Ian: It represents exactly where we’ve been headed since we recorded Back to the ‘Bin (2005). I think we were feeling particularly “creepy” during the writing and recording of Lakeside. We all got right into the idea of it. I hope that, above all else, that mentality and feeling is what can be attributed to this album’s progression from our past efforts.
Skottie: Shortly after Back to the ‘Bin was recorded, Jordy moved to Toronto for a year to learn how to be an audio engineer. We wrote the basics to a lot of these songs, and others that didn’t make the record, in the time he was gone. Once he returned, the three of us spent some time refining the songs, narrowing down our choices, and getting them to the point where we were ready to record them. While it probably prolonged the process and made us kinda crazy for a period of time, recording the album ourselves was amazing.
Dave: Do you guys feel that “doing-it-yourselves” allowed you to come into your own sound-wise a bit more, as opposed to being pigeonholed as a “Ramones core” band, or whatever the not-so-clever titling might be? Is that a stigma that’s followed you around, for better or worse?
Skottie: I’ll never begrudge a Ramones reference since they’re the greatest band of all time in my books. That said, there was a time in our long and sordid history that the comparison—whether to the Ramones proper or to their multi-generational bastard offspring—might have been a little more apropos than it is today.
Ian: The stigma may yet trail us, but it’s a positive. Thinking about past and present Creeps tunes, they fit in with what we wanted to listen to and play at those given moments. That’s reflected in each album. If we write something that has a Ramones flare to it, great, count me in, but at some point things will change. They have to. You begin looking inwards, not outwards. That’s what really counts.
Jordy: When it comes to Lakeside Cabin, we really did just have more time to think about what we wanted each song to be. I think this allowed us to think beyond rhythm guitars and the odd guitar solo to really focusing on those subtle nuances we all love to hear in records.
Dave: And you’ve already started recording a follow-up toLakeside Cabin?
Skottie: We’re putting the finishing touches on an EP that we plan on releasing as a 7”. It’s called These Walls, and is a bit of a departure for us. We recorded it in two days and spent one night mixing it. After the long and drawn-out recording process that was Lakeside, during which I wanted to scrap the whole thing at least a couple of times, we definitely wanted to take the opposite approach for this record and the results are, obviously, less polished and more raw sounding, which we wanted.
Dave: Having put more time into your full-length and developing a more distinctive sound, do you plan on taking any steps to push this record more than the previous two? What I mean is, you’ve been a band for nine years and are definitely something of a local punk institution, but you’ve refrained from doing any touring. Do you at all aspire to get out on the road and reach a wider audience?
Skottie: Yeah, we’ll have been a band for nine years in September, 2008. I dunno about a “local punk institution,” but we’ve certainly seen a great number of bands come and go in our time together, and have no intention of hanging it up any time soon. In fact, this is probably one of the most creative periods we’ve ever had together in the sense of writing new songs and pushing one another to come up with cool ideas.
Ian: Some bands are concerned with pushing things. We’ve collectively enjoyed being found over the years. I’m still amazed that a small band like ours can penetrate other local scenes internationally, even though they’re no bigger than our own backyard, so to speak. Having said that, though, we’re doing a little more to increase the reach of Lakeside compared to our last two releases.
Jordy: Between countless mail-outs to zines, papers, and blogs, we definitely strive to have all our albums available in as many places as possible. If it’s not available, then no one will buy it, simple as that. We do get a lot of emails from a lot of different places asking about us doing shows in new cities, and we’d love to check some of those off the list in the future.
Dave: Is there any particular reason that you’ve avoided the typical “write, record, tour” punk band agenda?
Skottie: I don’t think we’ve ever aspired to the level of “success” where the financial realities of the band would dictate such a rigorous agenda. Obviously, if your goal is to do the touring band thing, where you spend months on the road, getting by largely on merch sales, it’s in your interest to keep churning out new albums. We all have day jobs. We play in the band because it’s what we love to do. If we’d hoped to make money at this endeavor, we’d have thrown in the towel years ago. From a more logistical standpoint, our lack of extensive touring also owes, at least in part, to the fact that the biggest vehicle we have at our disposal is a Volkswagen Golf. Also, I don’t know how to drive.
Ian: I wouldn’t use the word “avoid.” “Neglected” suits us well. It has yet to be a goal for us, to tour, even though we love playing shows. We’ve tackled many things as a group in order to just keep doing what we’re doing. I figure by the time we decide to hit the road—when and how we want to—we will. We really should. Hopefully Skottie gets his license before then!
Jordy: We’d love to play music for a living. Who wouldn’t?
Dave: I know that you guys are all from different cities or towns outside of Ottawa. How’d three out-of-town pop punk nerds manage to find each other?
Skottie: The three of us actually met at university. Ian, bizarrely, in hindsight, was a facilitator for my “frosh” group and ran into me in my residence room, in an embarrassing-to-talk-about-now homesick moment, listening to the band I’d been in before moving to Ottawa for school. We talked about music and starting a band. He knew a guy who, turned out to be Jordy, and we agreed to meet at his place the following week. I brought a copy of The Mopes’ Accident Waiting to Happen album for reference. We probably ate McDonald’s afterwards.
Ian: Before meeting the guys, I had been playing in a shitty band in my hometown. I had met Jordan by chance through mutual friends, and also through jamming with his old band, which I have to mention was called VCH, short for Vomitus Chicken Heads. After that, we decided to continue playing together even though we both played guitar. I bought a bass, Jordan borrowed drums. We figured it would be easy to find a guitar player and, at least, had our rhythm bases covered. We met Skottie the following Fall and invited him over to play some tunes ASAP.
Jordy: In high school, I tried a few times to get some guys together to start a band. Living in the country with minimal access to a car made this tough. The band Ian mentioned was more of a beer-fueled party-joke, in that I was the only one who actually could play an instrument.
Dave: Are you guys stoked that there’s been an obvious resurgence in the pop punk genre in the last couple of years with Insubordination Fest and the like? It certainly seemed like there weren’t a ton of quality bands for a while like there were in the early-to-mid ‘90s.
Skottie: As a fan of that genre, I’m happy that there is a broader light being shone upon it. I think, though, that with any genre resurgence, the broader light also highlights a lot of crappy, derivative bands that probably don’t deserve the attention. From a band perspective, we’ve never really put much stock into what genre is currently being championed by the underground music scene. After having spent the better part of a decade doing this, though, we’ve definitely seen our share of people come full circle on the pop punk thing.
Ian: Eight years ago, our little locale was into Screeching Weasel, Methadones, Lillingtons, Queers, Guts…hell, Ramones, The Vapids. Those I consider to be a few of the bands we grew up relating to musically one way or another. After the ‘90s it was, for us, all about the Montreal bands. We played with French and English Québecois bands more often than Ontario bands: Sexhead, Mata Harris, Le Volume, Dirty Tricks, Ripcordz. Those were good times and good bands that rocked fucking hard.
Jordy: Music scenes and styles are cyclical. For us it’s great. There’s a focus back onto pop punk and a ton of labels putting out records like it’s the mid-’90s all over again. I guess what didn’t change was that during that “lull” period we continued making records and playing shows.
Dave: Which bands then, if any, would you consider your current contemporaries? Is there a particular “scene” that you feel you most belong in?
Jordy: We actually have a really vibrant music scene in Ottawa right now. It’s to the point that we are starting to gain the attention of other bigger music-oriented cities in Canada and the world. This is not to say that they are going to be moving NXNE up here anytime soon, but it’s not surprising to see a dozen or more Ottawa bands filling slots in festivals like that. Our scene is small, diverse, and with a pretty big emphasis on quality over quantity of bands. In the past year, the Ottawa punk scene has really grown, and the community of bands, friends, and people who play and come out to shows is extremely tight knit and supportive of one another.
Ian: We belong here. The people in this city have produced some damn good bands that have gone on to make their mark in locales outside of our nation’s capital. The Million Dollar Marxists, Clock Strikes, Riptides, and the only local punk band I can currently recall making the front cover of our local music rag, Buried Inside. As long as the scene is filled with good songs, and the bands are inspiring each other, it’s a good thing. The Creeps have worked to remain a part of this for the long run.