Creeping Nobodies opening for electrelane and the two koreas at the Horseshoe (370 Queen West), Saturday (September 4). $10 advance. 416-598-4753. Rating: NNNNN
Although the two Koreas might claim otherwise, there's really no future in being a Fall tribute act. Toronto's Creeping Nobodies didn't need Mark E. Smith to give them the lowdown. They figured it out soon after forming to play a Fall salute soirée at the El Mocambo, organized by Creep commander Derek Westerholm.
In the three years since, the Creeping Nobodies have developed a darkly delightful post-punk blast of their own, but their off-kilter rhythms always seemed somehow out-of-sync with the rest of the indie rock world. Until now.
The sense of twitchy paranoia at the core of their forthcoming Stop Movement Stop Loss (Blocks) disc - out September 28 - perfectly captures the mood of the moment. And those angular guitar lines, mais oui! How terribly au courant.
"The funny thing is, incredible as it seems, we actually started working on the songs for this record back in 2002," chuckles Westerholm before heading to rehearsal. "We put out our first album six months after forming the group and then went out on a 30-date tour across Canada and the U.S. It didn't break up the band, but it definitely put some stress on relationships and left us all feeling burnt out.
"We wanted to take our time recording a follow-up. Then we had some lineup changes and, you know, the unexpected fluctuations of life got in the way. Before we knew it, two years had passed."
In retrospect, all the events that conspired against their recording plans appear to have been the best thing that could've happened to the Creeping Nobodies.
While they're clearly a tighter attack unit than ever before, the Nobodies' game breaker is really the four tracks on Stop Movement Stop Loss they recorded with celebrated New York producer Wharton Tiers (Sonic Youth, Glenn Branca, Helmet) at his notorious Fun City Studios in Manhattan.
The former Theoretical Girls drummer was the perfect choice for the Nobodies' recent no-wave turn, even if at the time they didn't know that was the direction in which they'd soon be heading.
"He'd worked with a lot of bands that we liked and made some really interesting music, so we kinda fantasized about what it would be like to do something with him ourselves," Westerholm explains. "We went to New York, met him, and he turned out to be a great guy, very down-to-earth.
"Recording with Wharton really wasn't that different from working with, say, Dale Morningstar. He's just a knowledgeable studio guy who sets up and does his thing. Within an hour of arriving at his studio we were recording, and it sounded amazing."
Surely, it couldn't have been all that quick and easy. What about super-secret special gear and technical gimmickry?
"Probably the most surprising thing about recording at that studio was how basic the set-up was. There were no special sound baffles or isolation booths, nothing like that.
"We went into this long, narrow room with the amps all facing the wall. He had us just plug in and play, and it immediately sounded fantastic. It goes to show you - if you really know your stuff, you don't need to spend a day trying to get a good drum sound."
Evidently, having an old hand like Tiers on board wasn't just helpful in getting suitably nasty guitar noise. His past experience with the Swans was also an asset in capturing the correct rattle of sheet metal.
"He'd listen closely to what we were doing, see where something could be improved and then suggest an idea and help us facilitate it," recalls Westerholm. "We had this idea of making some noise at the end of the song Crossover, but we weren't sure how Wharton might react to our outlandish idea, like 'What, dropping pennies on sheet metal?'
"But he was totally into experimenting. He just smiled and said, 'Yeah, sure, let's try it like this.... '"