Just about every Copperhead article to be found online can’t help but delve deep into poetic musings about the band’s vocalist and a “vox that smokes and smoulders as if a barely contained forest fire,” or alternatively, a “powerful soulful croon.” And while it might initially read a bit hyperbolic, it’s hard to argue once lead Liz Stevens opens up on the band’s self-titled debut EP.
The Calgary band came about as a bit of happenstance when Stevens was in recording with her rock outlet Acidjac, while her soon-to-be bandmate Kiril Telichev was working as a producer. Telichev came across a couple of songs by Stevens that didn’t have her trademark “warrior queen” vocals and asked if he could play around with them. The end result was the unlikely combination of folk-soul and Copperhead.
From her very first notes on the band’s long-anticipated release, Stevens provides a no less regal presence as a soulful, sultry crooner. Across the EP’s six tracks, she’s gentle, fierce and achingly powerful. Opener “Waiting” is almost whimsically romantic, with the bold “Take me now” lyrics tempered by the softness of the delivery and the cabaret feel of the instrumentation.
There’s more rock in “The Fall,” as Telichev’s jerky chords sharply accent a rougher sounding Stevens and drummer Kane Bender lets loose throughout the building chorus. “Sleep” is yet another transformation as Stevens drops to a near-whisper and the aptly named song eases you into a short-lived dreamworld before a captivatingly harsh layer of distortion mars the fantasy, reminding us that we’re “better off asleep.”
But that interlude just might be the quickest way to sum up Copperhead—beautiful, dark and irresistible. Stevens’ voice is the perfect lure as she beckons you into a vast land where the genres of folk and rock and blues and soul meet. But it’s the warrior queen that never quite left that ultimately makes the draw. She’s not asking you to like it, she’s telling you, and it’s damn near impossible to say no.
Top Tracks: “Sleep”; “Lines”
Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good)