Copperhead makes 21st century folk music, born not in the bucolic countryside but in downtown alleyways, with punk and acid rock peering around the corners. Lurking around the deliciously dark intersection of lo-fi, post-industrial noise, R&B and minor-key murder ballad, Copperhead immerses audiences in ambient, expansive soundscapes with texture and reverb, anchored by lead singer Liz Stevens goosebump-inducing smoky contralto and gorgeously dark and dreamlike lyrical narratives.
Based out of Calgary, the masterminds behind Copperhead bring histories that could not be more different. Lead guitarist and producer Kirill Telichev grew up playing classical and flamenco guitar from the age of seven, while lead singer, writer and keyboardist Stevens came to Copperhead by way of a stint as screaming frontwoman for an acid rock band.
Copperhead is in it for the long haul, and their hard work has been paying off with opening gigs for Art Bergmann, Elliott Brood, Lindi Ortega, Terra Lightfoot and The Strumbellas. Stevens and Telichev have gone from writing as a duo to filling out the Copperhead sound, with a permanent line-up that includes Kane Bender on drums, Rob Smeltzer on bass, and Jamey Lougheed on barry sax, with added backup vox, horns and strings as the occasion calls for it.
Stevens and Telichev began making music together immediately, and Stevens finally had the space to explore everything her voice could do, with Telichev’s classical background playing a role in strengthening Stevens’ technique. While they’ve moved into a quieter sound, their respective histories peep through their music, and the results are hypnotically good. Copperhead released their eponymous, self-titled debut in 2015, a “gorgeous, haunting thing of crackling beauty” that went on to chart in the independent radio national top 50. Their 2018 release, Touch, continues their evolution, sticking their toes into luscious Weimar Republic-style tinkling dissonance reminiscent of Tom Waits, and deepening the echoing, unsettling beauty of Copperhead’s songwriting.