It’s almost surreal, awe inspiring.
The desert stretches to the horizon, tucking snugly against a jagged brown wall of pointed rock. Behind it, the sun rises, bigger than the earth and filling your eyes.
It’s the album cover for the latest creation of Oshawa’s psych-blues rock band Crown Lands, and a perfect representation of the duo’s first year together, where in a way, they crossed their own desert.
Not a desert riddled with rocks, sand and never-ending sun, but a desert of continuous kilometres in an aging Elantra, sleeping on drum kits, and seeking shelter in strangers’ homes. Oh, and playing in-your-face rock music like Oshawa has never seen.
It’s not the most glamorous of journeys, but those feelings of awe and inspiration are exactly what Kevin Comeau and Cody Bowles got out of their first year on the road, and now they’re giving it back to fans with their latest release, Rise Over Run, set to be released on Sept. 8 at the Moustache Club.
Forged on the Road
“And they walk into the sunset, pulling at invisible threads, searching for something out there, something bigger than them.”
The opening line of Crown Land’s latest album is the doorway into the band’s recent creation, that shows a steady development from their initial EP Mantra, released in August of 2016.
However, it could also be a line straight out of the band’s past.
Comeau grew up in Whitby and studied classical music at Western University in London. After school, he dropped everything, hitchhiked to Los Angeles and promptly joined a reggae band.
Bowles on the other hand, moved to Oshawa when he was in Grade 6, and would go on to study psychology and music at York University.
It was in 2015 that Comeau and Bowles first came together, jamming together in a friend’s barn/studio.
Both guys grew up as outsiders, on the fringes of their respective social groups, and with a common, unabashed love for Rush, a bond formed quickly between the two.
“We never grew up as being cool kids, we’re both fairly nerdy,” Comeau says with a laugh. “Cody and I just connected immediately.”
That connection created a vast outlet for creativity with the majority of their successful EP Mantra being recorded in two days.
“Cody and I got really ambitious really fast and we booked all of these shows out in London and Windsor a couple of weeks after we made the band and we didn’t even have a name yet,” Comeau says.
The band played their first show as Crown Lands at Oshawa’s Wasted Space, now Brew Wizards Cafe.
However, as they travelled, the interest only continued to grow as their hard-rocking style and performance began to turn heads.
“You’re always surprised when somebody likes the stuff that you create,” Bowles says. “You write it from such a personal place and heart, and that in itself is such a vulnerable thing and so to share it with somebody and for people to be stoked about it is really cool. It never gets old.”
And while their popularity started to rise, the band continued to stick to their humble roots, managing their own tours and promotions, and even seeking shelter from show-goers.
During their first 17-day tour, most nights the duo would announce to their fans that they had nowhere to spend the night .
“We were really lucky, out of those 17 days on the road, I think we only had two nights we had to sleep in the van,” Comeau says.
Even then, the two didn’t complain.
“It wasn’t even that bad,” Bowles says. “We’d crawl up on our gear at the end of the night, we’d have maybe a foot of room to just squeeze in.”
It was all part of the dream, fuelled by a passion to create music that speaks to people.
Now, the band is taking that to the next level.
The term “rise over run” is one used in mathematics for calculating slope. For the duo, it symbolizes growth.
“We’re trying to show that we’re growing, this is our growth, hopefully we’re moving upwards,” Comeau says. “It starts out very bright and optimistic and as the album goes on it gets a bit darker and takes a bit more of a turn and we start trying to talk about the things that matter to us.”
Rise Over Run will be the band’s second EP, and builds off the energy and success of Mantra.
“It wouldn’t necessarily call it a concept EP, but there’s a kind of an overarching theme in a lot of the music where it’s recognizing where you come from,” Comeau says.
And for both men, it not only means channeling that inspiration and energy from their initial success, but also taking a deeper look at where they both come from.
With Comeau’s Jewish background and Bowles’ First Nation’s roots, the two share a history of oppression between them.
And now they’re looking to share a message of change with their fans.
In the song Mountain, from the latest EP, Bowles sings, “they tried to wipe us out, but we’re still here.” For him, being on the stage is an opportunity to use the position they’ve gained to share a message.
“It just kind of brings to light a lot of these issues that Native Americans have faced in the past, that are still facing now,” he says. “This is more a song to open people’s eyes who have either turned a blind eye to it or who have just not been educated in that way.”
The band will be at the Moustache Club on Sept. 8 for Rise Over Run’s release party. The show will feature The Kerouacs at 10 p.m. and The Micronite Filters at 11 p.m. before Crown Lands takes the stage at midnight.
For tickets visit https://www.ticketscene.ca/events/18844.