By Chris Illich
Joe Lapinski has to be one of the hardest working musicians in Niagara. The born and raised St. Catharines’ musician, songwriter and producer has been releasing music since 2003. His most recent album, Beauty Beyond was released in 2014. He has played countless shows with more than a handful of bands. He started Wow Recording Studios, plays a monthly improvised music series called Sound Sound at Mahtay Café, and plays guitar in both the Woodshed Orchestra and Bronx Cheerleader. He is also the music programmer for In The Soil Arts Festival in St. Catharines.
I had a chance to catch up with him and talk about a few of the things he has going on at the moment.
Wow Recording Studio
“I’m actually wrapping up some recordings right now. I’m currently wrapping up a record for Whitney Pea. She’s going to release an EP from the recording that we did, so that’s exciting. It sounds fantastic. Right now the recording studio is totally mobile and I do all the post-production at my house. So, we recorded it at a farmhouse in Jordan and most of it is just live off the floor and it has a really live feel to it. I’m also co-producing a record with Dave Clark right now for a guy named Brodie Lodge. He’s kind of a dirty rock ‘n’ roll guy but with fantastic lyrics and he’s just a great storyteller, so that’s really fun as well.
What I’m doing with Wow Recording Studios encompasses what I love to do with music –aside from the business side of things. It’s creating music, collaborating on creating music, and working towards a goal of a final song or album that’s completely built from the ground up. Me as a producer that’s what I do, with Whitney Pea I said ‘What do you want to do? What do you want it to sound like? What kind of vibes do we want? Who’s going to play on it? How do you want those instruments to sound?’ I like to work from the ground up and then we decided how we wanted it to sound. I just like being creative, creating and collaborating.”
“We haven’t really played much, we’re working on a new record and we’re going to go hard with a bunch of shows. I’m producing the record and I’ve never produced a Bronx Cheerleader record. I’ve mixed one and I participate in playing on them but this is the first one where it’s all in my hands. It sounds great. Scott Warren writes the songs for that and he wrote a great pile of tunes for it. I’m excited to see where that goes. For the last record we had a really good run of playing shows. One of the songs was used on the TV show Shameless. We ended up getting a bunch of sales from that and that was a pretty cool moment.”
“Jeff Luciani and I met at the first year of In the Soil. Both of us had been involved separately in different Toronto improvised music gigs. Through Dave Clark I would play with him and we thought, ‘no one is really doing much improvised music that we know of in St. Catharines, lets just jam’. We started jamming and decided to do a series and just invite people. It’s all improvisation, it’s not like a band, we don’t plan anything as to what we’re going to play musically. We get young people and seasoned musicians involved and we just try to have some fun with it. We’re looking to expand it into Toronto and hook up with more improvised musicians there. So, that’s turning into something cool.
Jeff and I love playing together so it’s a lot of fun. It’s lead to some interesting gigs. We kind of cater to who’s in the room. If it’s a bunch of people drinking wine we’re not going to play Thurston Moore/Sonic Youth noise stuff, but if we’re playing in a room full of people who want to hear that kind of experimental music then that’s what we do. Every time it’s different.”
What Lies Beyond the Beauty
“Beauty Beyond has been out for two years and I love it. I’m still supporting it. It’s a fun album to play because I can play by myself, play with just Whitney Pea and Laurel Minnes as my singers, or with Dave Clark with just drums and guitar. It’s all very flexible and lots of fun.
Right now I’m working on a concept album about St. Catharines and the communities that have built St. Catharines. It’s kind of a historical thing that brings us to present day and forward. I’m really excited about it because it has me writing in a new way. I’ve never written music in this way and artistically I’m being really challenged. I’ll be producing that record with Dave Clark and I’m hoping to hit record in the spring.
I’ve always wrote music inspired by Niagara and St. Catharines from day one. But this is more of an art project than a recording. I’ve always loved the city and the region and I think I like everything about it. I like the dirt underneath the nail. I like the imperfections and how the city is resilient and keeps on moving after economic downturns and people jumping ship and leaving the city. I just love that with all the hard work and perseverance you can see what’s happening now. These are some rewards from the hard work. It’s neat to see the ebb and flow of culture in a city – that’s inspiring. Simply put, I love this city.”
Joe Lapinski performs at the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre as part of the Hear! Here! Niagara Music Series on March 13.