They say good art takes time and doesn’t come easy. This couldn’t have been the truth for St. Catharines’ musician / producer Joe Lapinski’s latest project.
Over four years ago, Lapinski (who also operates WOW! Recording Studio & Creative Music Space) received funding through the St. Catharines Cultural Investment Program (SCCIP) to create a collection of music that lived and breathed with the pulse of St. Catharines.
“The concept was developed about four years ago, and I initially thought I’d be singing songs in a Stompin’ Tom Connors storytelling style about St. Catharines. But, it has totally evolved into something more experimental and conceptual,” explained Lapinski.
Titled A Sum of Its Parts: Music Inspired by St. Catharines communities – past and present, the suite of music he was creating found Lapinski interviewing over a handful of subjects to speak of their communities. Ranging from First Nations topics, both the manufacturing and farming industries, the Arts and Culture / Education community and present day life in downtown St. Catharines, the songs invoke a feeling of self in their city – a sense of community in their city.
“One part of the project is a suite of four songs that can be played individually, but can also be layered on top of each other as well,” said Lapinski.
Those familiar with The Flaming Lips’ Zaireeka would understand the concept, but for those unaware, the idea is that these tracks could be played individually through four separate speaker systems to create a cohesive whole, something that wasn’t easy during the creation process, and has proven to be even harder to replicate live.
“I’m not taking credit for this idea, but it’s really been cool taking these layers and expressing these stories. It’s been really hard too,” he said. “It’s taken me a while to figure out how to do it. I do just have to let it happen and let it be, but then I also like to look inside of it all and screw around with it too.
Lapinski’s goal is to release a recorded version of A Sum of Its Parts by the end of this year or early 2020, but In the Soil will mark the first time these songs will be performed live. The performance will include audio of his interviews to help bind the project together. In addition to the interviews, St. Catharines artist Geoff Farnsworth’s original art will be projected, helping depict the characters within the music.
“I want to see what people think. It’s definitely experimental. I’m taking a risk doing this, because it is just so different. Hopefully people won’t be just sitting there wondering what the heck is going on,” he said.
“It’s more of an experience. I can’t predict what will happen, but I envision the audience kind of closing their eyes for the show and letting the interview clips tell a bit of the story and then the music will kind of create a feeling in all of us in the room.”
Lapinski’s band for the performance consists of Dave Clark (drums), Laurel Minnes (vocals), Dr. Pee (piano), Jordan Phelan (bass) and Phil Davis (water drum), each who add another dimension to the project.
“Everyone is kind of putting their own different kinds of emotions to the music, which is great. Maybe they’re thinking of the collapse of GM or they’re thinking of indigenous people or maybe they’re just going beyond the story and it’s being translated into music and musical style,” explained Lapinski.
“I get it. It’s subjective, it’s experimental, and it’s exciting. I’ve been thinking of this concept for four or five years, so I can’t wait to jump in and try it.”
For those wondering if these songs about St. Catharines will affect those from outer regions, Lapinski added that he did keep the lyrics somewhat ambiguous, as to not alienate people from other locales.
“Hopefully people from other cities, other provinces, and other countries, can listen to the music and find something that they identify and relate with where they live as well too,” he said.
Along with the suite, there are several other songs Lapinski added for the series. One song is called ‘Opera House March’, which was originally written for the Suitcase in Point Theatre Company production A Downtown Stupor.
“That song was also used in Fixed Point’s production of A Tale of A Town which was performed all across Canada and had a choir from every town sing it. There’s another song about the manufacturing collapse in St. Catharines,” Lapinski said.
When the collection is wrapped up, Lapinski expects it to be a couple hours of music, and owes the motivation to finish the project on the city itself.
“It really had to simmer with me. Usually I write a song in a day, or maybe a week, but there were times where I thought I was just going to abandon this project,” said Lapinski.
“But I just watched the city grow and change. I think we found a new voice, or a new eye. Not a new identity, but a new kind of city that we live in.”
The Joe Lapinski Band presents A Sum Of Its Parts on Saturday June 8 at 7pm at the Oddfellows Temple as part of the In The Soil Arts Festival.