MEAWW's Basement Tapes: Crown Lands pay tribute to missing and murdered Indigenous Womxn, girls and Two-Spirits
In a track titled 'End Of The Road', the track is helmed by queer and Indigenous folk and is accompanied by a video featuring an all-Indigenous cast
Canadian rock duo Crown Lands is all set to release their debut self-titled album on August 13. But in the leadup to their big debut and their first major label release, the duo chose to share a powerful message that really seals the deal on what they represent: the single 'End of The Road' pays tribute to the Indigenous womxn, girls and two-spirits who have gone missing or have been murdered on Yellowhead Highway 16 in British Columbia, which is also referred to as the 'Highway of Tears'.
Many acts pay tribute to their fallen brethren. But very few debut with that statement. For Crown Lands, music is more than just sound. It's a tool that establishes them as allies for an extremely important and worthy cause. The mission-driven are, essentially, introducing themselves via a single that is a reflective address of the disproportionate violence and ongoing injustices experienced by Indigenous communities. And their hope with the release is clear-cut: they want to encourage education, discussion, and action surrounding what they describe as a national crisis. And if that seems like a stretch to some, let Statistics Canada dispel any doubts: from 2001 to 2015, the homicide rate for Indigenous Womxn in Canada was almost six times as high as the rate for non-Indigenous women.
But while Crown Lands are dedicated to raising awareness, they do not position themselves as voices of a generation, nor do they claim to be messiahs with the ultimate solution. Guitarist Kevin Comeau (he/him) remarks, "We don’t claim to have any answers, but we want to use our voice to bring awareness and help make a difference." Lead vocalist and drummer, Cody Bowles (they/them) expresses the personal experience that influenced the creation of 'End of The Road', explaining: "'End of the Road' is an outcry for awareness and action surrounding the colonial horrors of the missing and murdered Indigenous Womxn, Girls, and Two-Spirits that still haunt Indigenous communities today. Violence against Indigenous people is something I have witnessed firsthand throughout my life. I am half Mi’kmaw and grew up spending a lot of my childhood in and around Alderville First Nation. I identify as Two-Spirit and dream of a better world for the brilliant Indigenous womxn, girls, and 2SLGBTQ+ people who face adversity every day for their very existence. It’s up to all of us to make this world a better place for future generations, and this song is a small message of hope adding to the rising wave of Indigenous resistance throughout this land."
The journey Crown Lands has had from their inception to this point is one that is so beautifully organic, it makes it easy to see how they shaped themselves into an act with a solid message. After meeting six years ago and bonding over their shared love of music, Bowles and Comeau became "instant best friends" and started jamming together in a local barn, switching up instruments, but never straying from a two-piece set-up. They soon released two EPs, 2016's 'Mantra' and 2017's Rise Over Run'. Making music that brings together a range of influences from folk and blues to psychedelic to prog rock and drawing on their own intense personal chemistry, Crown Lands is a startlingly fresh jolt of energy. The group’s name, however, is what truly indicates their musical ambitions: 'Crown Land' is a territorial area belonging to the monarch. Or, as Bowles puts it, "Crown Land is stolen land and we are reclaiming it." The duo is this on a mission to represent a sense of empowerment for marginalized communities through their music and the weighty subject matter of their lyrics. "People are going to listen to you, so you may as well say something that matters," says Comeau.
The accompanying video for 'End of the Road' is therefore an equally powerful and moving body of work, one that truly represents an Indigenous act reclaiming their space and telling their own story. Opening with narration from Canadian Inuk singer Tanya Tagaq, the video contextualizes the devastating facts of this ongoing issue. The video was co-produced by Sage Nokomis Wright, co-directed by Tim Myles, alongside Alex P Smith and features a cast of Indigenous dancers with drone footage from The Highway of Tears in B.C. The dancers, as the video conveys, represent the souls of the missing and murdered womxn and the red dresses are inspired by the work of The RED Dress Project, a collection of 600 red dresses by community donation that is installed across Canada as a visual reminder of the staggering number of womxn missing and to draw attention to the gendered and racialized nature of violent crimes against Indigenous womxn, girls, and 2SLGBTQ+ people.
'End Of The Road' was choreographed by Teineisha Richards, a Mi'kmaq artist from Bear River First Nations, Nova Scotia, raised in Toronto. Teineisha explains her process, "To create the choreography I had to go to a pretty deep and dark place and put myself in the shoes of both the women who went missing and the families of those women who suffered loss…I wanted to express the desperate feeling of someone fighting to escape, but with no redemption. Additionally, I aimed to generate a sense of self-empowerment and unity within a shared struggle, by my use of staccato, aggressive, and synchronized movement during the group sections of choreography. Most of the choreography is derived from that dark, yet powerful place, and the overall message and feeling I received from the song."
If 'End of The Road' is any indication of what is to come from Crown Lands, we're all in for quite the emotional ride. The duo's self-titled debut follows the release of their acoustic EP 'Wayward Flyers Volume 1' and will additionally feature the band’s previously released tracks 'Spit it Out' and 'Howlin’ Back'. In collaboration with six-time Grammy-winning producer Dave Cobb, the duo refined their writing and as they put it, 'followed their gut'. "Dave pushed us to listen to ourselves and really trust our initial instinct with a song," says Bowles of the experience.
This approach is beautifully evident across the album. From the high-octane opener 'Spit It Out', that addresses the anxiety around saying what you mean and finding the courage to speak your truth, to the gorgeously stripped-back closing track, 'Sun Dance', Crown Lands have crafted an album that is masterful in both its delivery of some gut-wrenching messages as well as its musicality and lyricism. It's a powerful release, one that is sure to put the duo on every rock lover's radar.
Crown Lands' self-titled debut EP is scheduled to release on August 13. Pre-order the album HERE.
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