Crown Lands is an Oshawa, Ontario two-piece rock band. Put any notions of lo-fi recorded bedroom songs immediately to rest; Crown Lands are a heavy rock band, drawing on some of the very best influences of the ‘60s and ‘70s.
One of Crown Lands’ main influences is Rush, and their two new singles bring Crown Lands back to their prog-rock roots in a big way. These new tracks also connect the group to Geddy Lee, Neil Peart, and Alex Lifeson through producers Terry Brown, Nick Raskulinecz, and David Bottrill. These are three producers who’ve all worked with Rush who helped to realize these two new songs. The duo cut early demos with Terry Brown, recorded the final songs with Raskulinecz in Nashville, and Bottrill then produced vocals. “Right Way Back” is described as a tribute to Neil Peart, and the song came to both members of Crown Lands organically in Nashville in an effortless fashion. “Context: Fearless Pt. 1” is a seven-minute explorative prog epic that should have fans of that genre of music nodding in approval. It could be the most ambitious piece of writing Crown Lands has attempted to date.
Our heartfelt thanks to Kevin Comeau (guitar, bass, and keys) for taking some time last week to field a few questions for V13.
I’d start with the boiler-plate question on what you’ve been doing through lock-down? However, with Thursday’s two new songs released, I guess the answer is ‘writing?’ Can you expand on that?
Kevin Comeau: “Yeah! We’ve been working in the B Room of Chalet Studio (in Uxbridge, Ontario) for the last seven months, writing and demoing new songs. ‘Context’ and ‘Right Way Back’ are two songs we recorded last year right before the lockdown. It took a long time to get into the groove of this year, to be honest, but it feels like we’re hitting our stride now.”
Are “Context: Fearless Pt. 1” and “Right Way Back” stand-alone songs? Or are you teasing another album already?
“Yes and no. We’re being a lot more flexible with releasing music now. After dropping our debut LP last August, we’ve seen such big changes in how we are listening to music. Most people don’t listen to seven songs in a row anymore, so we’re approaching music as capsules rather than records. Whether that means we release one song or four songs at a time, it all depends on what the music calls for. We’re writing in a more conceptual, cinematic approach, so I think that if we can group a selection of songs together that tell a story or contain a common theme, we’ll release them together. A limited vinyl run will accompany each release that we’re doing this year. At the end of this cycle, maybe we’ll drop a box set of unusually sized records. I like the idea of the 45rpm 10’ because you can put a louder, more bass-heavy master on them than a 12’ 33rpm record. They really do sound better.”
Can you talk about a calendar year of not being able to perform live and how it’s affecting you both?
“It’s been tough; I won’t lie! Truthfully, it’s been nice to spend time at home and focus on other aspects of my life. For so long, we had tunnel vision of just getting to the next gig alive and hydrated. It’s easy to lose touch with your friends and family on the road. I think we’ve gotten better as musicians because of the downtime available to practice. Before, I’d rehearse 30 to 40 minutes of material on tour and get it really tight for the road. Now, I’ve been able to dive into a lot of music concepts I wouldn’t have been able to otherwise. I’ve reconnected with my instrument in a way I never would have if we continued down the road we were previously on. Having rediscovered the joy of playing, I hope it will continue when we get back on the road!”
Your love and admiration for Rush is well known amongst your fanbase. Can you share how you’ve come to work with Terry Brown and Nick Raskulinecz? Was that a one-time deal, or will there be more material with them involved?
“I hope there is more in the future for sure!”
Can you expand on your getting to play a set of Neil Peart’s drums? Were you messing around on them, or will you get to put out that experience for fans to hear?
“We used that kit for the ‘Context’ and ‘Right Way Back’ sessions! So you’re hearing the same shells that the professor once used. It was a very special moment.”
Would you call “Context: Fearless Pt. 1” one of the more ambitious songs you’ve ever written? Did you both have dialogue around the piece before you wrote it?
“Definitely. We started working on it three years ago. We kept putting it on the back burner because we knew we had to write more radio (and streaming) friendly material. Most of our songs have a lot of discourse around them, but it felt that we spent more time talking about ‘Context’ than we did actually writing it. After finally releasing ‘Context’ to the world, there’s a healthy pressure to match it with something even more ambitious, but that can take time.”
After the Grammys on the weekend, I genuinely wondered what has happened to rock n roll? Then I read about your Juno nominations and smiled. Were you surprised by those nominations?
“Thank you! Yeah, you can never bank on anything like a Juno-nom. We watched the announcements and were blown away. Most new artists don’t get multiple nominations their first time around. We’re just happy to be in that world now. When the ‘Best Rock Album’ (nominee list) was announced, our group chat with our team lit up like never before. These nominations are the culmination of so much hard work on everyone’s part. We’re so lucky to have the people we have!”
In general, it feels like the rock n roll genre has been dwindling into a sub-genre of late like it’s harder to market somehow. That said, there is still excellent rock music being made. So what keeps two young musicians like yourselves inspired to make heady prog-rock?
“Rock is absolutely a niche genre now, so we figured we might as well dive in and go all out! Prog is music that we’ve been passionate about our whole lives, Yes, Genesis, King Crimson, and Rush.”
Do you ever see yourselves doing a concept album down the road?
“(laughs) Yes! Absolutely. We can’t spoil too much, but I promise it’s going to be epic.”
How about opening the doors to collaborations with other artists? Is there a wishlist of possible collaborators?
“Of course, it would be amazing to jam with Ged and Alex one day, but who knows! I’d love to jam with Adam Granduciel from The War on Drugs. They’re the most exciting band in the world, in my opinion, and Adam is the tone lord. He’s such an inspirational player.”
You’ve shared the stage with some fantastic artists. Jack White and Rival Sons are two I’ve seen, and I’m sure there are more. Can you describe what it’s like to open an evening for a musician you admire? Is there additional pressure there to not screw up on stage?
“Honestly, we look at any show the same. If it’s ten people or 10,000, I just go out and do my best. Now that being said, it is special when you’re sharing the stage with your heroes. Touring with Jack White was a highlight because his crew took us in and really showed us such generosity. They let us come to the venue early for lunch and dinner catering. It’s amazing how different touring is when you are eating two good meals a day. It’s so challenging to stay healthy on the road. Jack’s crew really took care of us.”
I love your ‘60s and ‘70s style outfits. Are these outfits custom-made? If so, are you involved with their creation?
“No custom pieces yet! We get most of our stage wear from thrifting along the road. We’ve been lucky enough to work with some GREAT photographers and stylists for our shoots, and a lot of our fashion comes from these collaborations. We’d love to eventually work alongside a stylist or designer for custom pieces for sure. Music and fashion have always been closely intertwined. Just look at Dylan, Bowie, or Freddie! We definitely pull from that world.”
Do you both have other hobbies? It wouldn’t surprise me to hear you are both artistic in other mediums as well.
“I like to collect records and vintage synthesizers. Outside of music, I like to play chess, even though I’m terrible at it. This year I’ve gotten into yoga and meditation, as I’m sure many people have. I’ve finally taken time to focus on my physical and mental health.”
Where do you see yourselves in twenty years? Broad strokes here, I know it’s a pie-in-the-sky question.
“It would be nice to be a homeowner! (laughs). Honestly, though, the dream of buying a house via music is a dream that is not realized by many. I’d love to be touring the world in a bus rather than a van. And be able to provide for my family.”