By Tim Stacey
After being mostly out of the spotlight for the past two years, local folk project Creature Speak will bring a new album to fans this month with Shadow Songs, a full-length release by the band’s core member, Brittany Brooks.
“Shadow Songs is different than any other material that Creature Speak has released because it’s a full exploration of what happens when someone you love passes,” said Brooks. “Shadow Songs seemed appropriate for the name as I felt like I was chasing a shadow for the past two years, something that you can see but not touch and moves away from you when you want to get closer.”
The new sound and line up for Creature Speak is only the latest change for the band. While originally branded Howler, Brittany and then-regular-member Nick Arseneau began playing as Creature Speak in 2013, releasing their third EP in the summer of that year. Brittany provided her charming vocals, guitar and piano alongside Arseneau on the upright bass and trombone. With the help of local musician and producer Joe Lapinski, their four-track EP featured a more fleshed out sound, with tracks like “Young Lungs” opening in a light waltz and ending in a heavier, dynamic back and forth between guitar and the full band.
“Creature Speak is a nod to “Howler” but seems like a more mature and suitable name, separating the current music from the songs that I wrote when I was in high school,” said Brooks.
The new album Shadow Songs, to be released at the end of this month, will bring a more focused and emotionally substantial offering to fans in Niagara. Brooks has found that any project she works on needs to be done right before she can show the public, and the new album is no exception. This is the first effort by Creature Speak that is this much a product of just one person, and as such it took over two years to come together; and that’s not to mention the source of Shadow Songs’ inspiration.
“Most of the songs relate to the passing of my father in 2013,” said Brooks. “After his passing many members of my family began to believe they were having ghostly interactions with his spirit and could sense his presence lingering. However, I did not experience any of these spiritual apparitions and instead spent two years trying to somehow reconnect.”
Now a solo project, Creature Speak will feature Brooks and her new songs with a rotating line up that includes Sean Benton, Lapinski, Arseneau and other musicians that she feels fit the right vibe and collaborate well. The album was recorded at WOW Recording Studio & Creative Music Space, run by Lapinski in Midtown St. Catharines.
“Many new instruments and arrangements have been added to the new album, yet it’s still simple and intimate,” said Brooks. “I was lucky to have Dave Clark (of The Woodshed Orchestra) do all the drumming, Joe Lapinski (The Joe Lapinski Band) add harmonies, bass, pedal steel and Sean Benton on guitar.”
Shadow Songs will be released on October 30 at The Oddfellows Temple on 36 James St. in St. Catharines, with a TBA opener. Since the show is so close to Halloween, audience members are encouraged to wear costumes.
Outside of Creature Speak, Brooks is a fourth-year honours Visual Arts student at Brock University, and an avid member of the local arts community, working with Suitcase in Point Theatre Company among other projects. As a part of the music scene, Brooks has enjoyed creating art for the region, and hopes that more of the authentic spaces in the area can be put to use.
“Playing music in St. Catharines has been a pleasure,” said Brooks. “Things have been changing, with venues like Detour Music Hall opening up in the past two years, however, I think we need start thinking more about alternative venues. What about all of the other beautiful historical spaces hiding around downtown? In the next five years, I hope the crop of musicians currently practicing in Niagara will branch out and start to share their work with other listeners.”
Despite the effort that went into this album, and the prospect of presenting a new version of Creature Speak to audiences this month, Brooks couldn’t be happier with performing for music lovers in Niagara.
“It is completely worth it,” said Brooks. “Even though it is a lot of work when you look at touring, promoting, recording, practicing, it all comes down to the simple moment of me with a guitar making sounds for the people around me and the places I am in.”
You can see Creature Speak at the launch party for the upcoming album Shadow Songs on Friday, October 30 at The Oddfellows Temple on 36 James Street in St. Catharines. All ages, doors at 8:00 pm, tickets for $10.