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Love dawns for Casper Skulls founders at River & Sky

Toronto (by way of Sudbury) post-punkers playing the festival where their romance started

In the summer of 2011, there were fireworks between Melanie St-Pierre and Neil Bednis.


The two friends had known each other for years, but that year at River and Sky it became something more. 

“We hung out all night … it was kind of really adorable,” recalled St-Pierre. “We started chatting around the campfire … we ran around and lit fireworks, we went to the stage and we danced for a while. After we were done dancing, I pushed him on the ground and kissed him.”

That’s when it started, and they haven’t stopped since. Next Saturday, they’re bringing their band Casper Skulls up from Toronto to play the festival where it all began.

The Sudbury-born-and-bred duo moved south for their careers a few years ago, and founded Casper Skulls together in 2015. The name is a reference to a code name from "I Dreamed I Was A Very Clean Tramp" by Richard Hell, which they read aloud to each other before founding the band.

“It’s very dorky, I know,” said St-Pierre. 

That dorkiness is characteristic of both their relationship and their post-punk, garage-pop tunes.

When they started off, St-Pierre was relatively new to creating music, despite her deep appreciation for it. She mostly stuck to playing acoustic guitar in her room. Bednis, on the other hand, had been in bands since he was 12 or 13, including the Almighty Rhombus and Geiser.

Back then, St-Pierre said she was a “fangirl in the crowd.”

They were fortunate to find bandmates in Toronto who shared that dorkiness after putting an ad out on Kijiji.

“We met our best friend on Kijiji,” joked St-Pierre, referencing bandmate Chris Anthony. “His friend Fraser [McClean] became our other best friend.”

Together, the four contribute equally to Casper Skulls for a uniquely collaborative project.

“Casper Skulls is 100-per-cent 25-per-cent split, Neil or I will bring in a skeleton, but we all put it together,” said St-Pierre. “Depending on what register it’s in or whose sentiment it speaks to, it’s a magical thing, we all get along together really well.”

Despite forming in 2015, the band found themselves busy right off the bat. Bednis pushed for them to start recording right away, and by August 2015 they had a seven-inch pressed and ready to go.

In October 2016, they released their first full-length EP, “Lips and Skulls,” and their next EP comes out this November.

While St-Pierre doesn’t see a return to the North in their near future, she’s always thrilled to come back to play.

“I’m nostalgic for home. I love Toronto, but there’s something really special and magical about Sudbury,” said St-Pierre. “You don’t shed that. I feel like I belong in the forest every day and my art reflects it.”

River and Sky is a four-day camping music festival established in 2009 that celebrates emerging and established indie artists, roots, folk, punk and electronic music. It runs July 20 to 23 at Fisher’s Paradise in Field, about an hour and a half east of Sudbury.

Tickets are $155 for a three-day pass, and $200 for a four-day pass.