The Creeping Nobodies are more like a collective than a band. Based in Toronto, the band is about to celebrate its fifth anniversary. After two tumultuous first years, the five current members finally came together and have been creating disharmonious noise in harmony ever since. Not bad for a group whose first gig was a Fall tribute show. "I'd been playing in bands for a while but found myself without one and wanted to start something new," says head Creep Derek Westerholm. "I guess the tribute show was ostensibly the first Creeping Nobodies show, although at the time we all thought it was a one-off. But we enjoyed playing together and eventually started to make our own music.
"If I had to pick one band that really informs our sound, I'd say it was The Ex," continues Westerholm. "Each band member brings their own set of influences, and I've always been in to a whole wide range of things. My main goal is for things not to stay static, and keeping changing our sound a little with every record and tour. We all contribute and collaborate when it comes to writing new songs, and even the stuff we've been doing in our recent practices sounds slightly different than the record."
The record Westerholm is referring to is Sound of Joy, the latest effort from the band, which was released in May on Toronto's Blocks Recording Club label. Wharton Tiers, who has also controlled the consoles for Sonic Youth and Theoretical Girls, among other post-punk notables, produced the record. His influence is clear right from the first track, which starts off with the sound of Westerholm gasping before letting loose with a rapid-fire repetition of the word "intent." The song then turns angular and frenetic, with Westerholm chanting incantations over and over, all while propelled along by a strong drumbeat. It feels almost tribal and would have been right at home on SY's classic Sister.
After getting off to that rousing start, the band just keeps chugging along without any signs of flagging energy. Westerholm is willing to take any lyrical challenge, and his quick delivery is almost flawless. You try spitting out the famous phrase "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog," at lightning speed, as he does on the track "Pangrammatic Window," and see if you can make it sound as evocative and harsh as he does. Westerholm isn't the only voice on the album; he is aided by Valerie Uher and Sarah Richardson, both of whom deliver their backup lines in monotone voices that evoke the bratty, tossed-off rants of Kathleen Hanna's early days. They up the dance ante on the Rapture-like "Concrete," and then calm down with the more melodic, laid-back "Hollow Stems, A Hunter's Will."
Though Sound of Joy took three years to make, it wasn't because the band was resting on its laurels. Westerholm was busy helping found the Wavelength Music and Zine series, a showcase intended to help bring Toronto bands together and strengthen the local music community. "We really wanted to pool our resources and create something that was accessible and good for artists," says Westerholm. "We also wanted to help touring bands and make sure they had a good place to play, and that they weren't just going into a black hole and dealing with some random booker who might not pay them."
Westerholm is hoping that all his good work will be paid back karmically on the band's upcoming U.S. tour. If the live show I caught a few months ago is any indication, they should develop a substantial fan base rather quickly. The record may be hyper-energetic, but their performance manages to take it up a few more notches, as Westerholm and his band mates flail around the stage and occasionally into the crowd. This is probably where they come closest to matching the spirit of their post-punk forefathers; while Franz and the Editors keep a cool distance from the audience, the Creeping Nobodies jump right in and turn the evening into a shared experience.
"We're not a political band per se," says Westerholm, "but we do try to take up the mantle from the bands we've been influenced by and make more interesting, experimental music." With any luck, he might just be leading a new generation of bands who are willing to rip it all up and start again.
The Creeping Nobodies with Old Time Relijun and Seaweed Jack at Caterina Winery on Thursday, Sept. 14, at 8 pm. Tickets: $4. Call 328-5069.