Since their debut EP in 2010, Philly’s Creepoid have been eagerly labeled by critics as “grunge revivalists.” Despite the blogosphere’s persistent attempts to pigeonhole their sound, Creepoid continue to prove that their discography defies the confines of any one genre. Currently “on tour forever,” the dedicated four-piece released their third studio album via Geoff Rickly’s Collect Records this past June. Applauded widely as a well-crafted collision between psych and shoegaze, Cemetery Highrise Slum is equal parts melody and melancholy, filled with memorable cuts like “American Smile” and the satisfyingly riff-driven and lyrically gripping “Dried Out.”
“The writing of the album was from the ground up,” explains drummer Pat Troxell. “We were out on tour for most of the year and the chance came along from a label, so we started writing new material. We were only home for maybe a month and Nicky [Kulp] went over to Europe with Far Out Fangtooth and he was there for a couple weeks.” For the Philly natives, Savannah became a site of creative inception, the provenance of the earliest recordings and demos of the tracks that would become Cemetery Highrise Slum. “Sean [Miller] was writing and demoing and Anna [Troxell] was writing and demoing and it was just one of those things that when we came together with chunks and pieces of songs, we realized that we had an album that was totally a representation of Savannah and the dark, eerie place that we were living in.”
A monumental milestone for the band, Cemetery Highrise Slum comes at a unique time in Creepoid’s career. “In the last year and a half, we’ve gone full-time,” Troxell explains. “We left our jobs. Nicky joined the band a little over a year ago and he’s already played over 150 shows with us, so it’s just growing and everything is just getting better for Creepoid, and I think that really shines on the new album. At the same time, people shouldn’t think that we aren’t able to go back to the stuff that we laid down on the first two records, the intimate and personal songs that people really liked. We just felt like we had to lay down this album before we could get back to that.”
Although Creepoid’s latest is arguably their most polished release to date, their lyricism remains just as “intimate and personal” as it was on Horse Heaven and Wet (which, fun fact, was recorded on the West Philly property of the band’s former landlord, and former Village Voice music editor, Brian McManus). Vividly illustrated by the recent video debut for “Dried Out,” Creepoid’s penchant for dark imagery and earnest lines seamlessly meshes with well-executed vocals and fuzzed-out riffs. Befittingly set in a sun-drenched desert, the video for “Dried Out” enhances the track’s already haunting narrative. “We had talked about the idea of a cult-type situation, but not in a specific era or place, just the idea of people going towards a space where they totally believe in something,” says Troxell.
“We were on tour with A Place to Bury Strangers, and we ended it in L.A. We had 48 hours to get to Austin for South by Southwest, and instead of being smart and splitting that drive up, we went out straight to the desert. We spent 24 hours shooting the ‘Dried Out’ video and then got in the van and drove 21 hours straight to Austin, where we got right out of the van and immediately onstage for the Thrasher magazine/Converse showcase. It was insane, but we had fun.” Including Kurt Heasley of Lilys as the shamanist leader in Creepoid’s fictive rituals, “Dried Out” was a dream come true for the band, who are avid fans of Heasley’s work.
A prime example of Creepoid’s conceptual versatility, “Dried Out,” much like the rest of Cemetery Highrise Slum, is undeniably innovative and far from mere nostalgia fostered by grunge. “They always have to bring something back,” Troxell states. “I don’t get that. I think that if anything, especially with how heavy our album is now, and how weird it can get, I identify way more with the noise-rock scene in America or bands like Shellac or the Pixies. I identify more with a weird style of music that didn’t last that long and only put out a few records that I actually liked.”
Although miscategorized and often misunderstood by reviewers, it is certain that Creepoid’s sound is constantly evolving. Far from stagnant or predictable, the band’s efforts are tireless, their dedication unwavering. Going from openers to headliners at the Music Hall of Williamsburg within a year, Troxell and his bandmates are thrilled at the opportunity to return to their current label’s native city. “Coming back and headlining after our record is finally out is going to be awesome,” says Troxell. “New York has always been good to us.”
Creepoid perform at Music Hall of Williamsburg with Marriages and Geoff Rickly July 24. For ticket information, click here.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on July 24, 2015