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Crown Lands: Welcome To The Future

Flesh and circuitry combine for a sci-fi odyssey of epic prog rock proportions. 

by Sebastian Buzzalino

Photos by Andy Ford

Futurist philosophies often have a strong sense of optimism at their core. The unwritten promises of a future epoch, with a more advanced, egalitarian society in often post-scarcity, post-capitalist, post-colonial contexts, are ripe to imagine better outcomes for contemporary issues. Indigenous futurists, in particular, examine ideas around identity, resistance, and the intersection of advanced technology with notions of the self, community, and society as a whole. 

It’s no accident that Indigenous futurists often find themselves drawn to notions of expanding the self through technology: singularity, uploading consciousnesses into matrices and machines, learning from non-human bodies — these all fit within more traditional structures of knowledge in Indigenous communities, in contrast to the supremacy of the individual in Western thought.

It’s perhaps no surprise then that, when Crown Lands sat down to write the sequel to their blustering 2022 psych rock odyssey, White Buffalo, where they first introduce their hero, the inspiration would come from a deep, empathetic response to a robot’s distant, final words.

“It started when the Mars rover sent out the last transmission where it said, ‘My batteries are low and it is getting dark.’ And I think it was just really touching where we all sympathized with this machine that was doomed to die on this distant planet alone and cold,” says Kevin Comeau, one half of the ambitious, hard sci-fi-loving, prog rock duo. 

From this emotional intersection of human and machine, Crown Lands launch themselves into the unforgiving cold frontier with Fearless. The titular character to their upcoming sophomore album of the same name awakens from a cryogenic slumber hundreds of years after we last saw him to find that it’s up to him to defeat the Starlifter, a capitalist, colonialist reaper of a distant star’s resources — and, in turn, a metaphor for the reckless exploitation and decimation of Indigenous peoples and lands here on our own planet via insatiable techno-capitalist greed. 

“It’s about what happened after the events of White Buffalo,” says drummer Cody Bowles, a reconnecting Mi’kmaq Two Spirit. “[Fearless] wakes up in the future and the world is totally messed up, and he has to somehow fix it.

“Or, you know, the Indigenous person has to wake up every day and realize, ’Oh yeah, this is the world I live in. This is the land my people came from and it is forever changed and I have to live within it,” they quip.

Fearless ends up merging his body with the body of the Starlifter in a futurist twist of irony, as the battle for freedom from totalitarian oblivion rages on high in the heavens above. 

“This Starlifter represents the tool of the oppressor that awakens and realizes it is oppressed as well,” continues Comeau. “That kind of represents the proletariat who is just following orders or just doing what they can to keep their own life together… [Starlifter and Fearless merge to] create the singularity and they read each other’s consciousness. Basically the apex is like, ‘Oh shit, you know, it’s I’m no longer going to be a tool of the oppressor. I’m going to rise up against.’ The two of them together become what we call the machine Messiah — which is very much a nod to the song by Yes on their [1980] Drama record.”

This post-humanist merging of flesh and circuitry is the driving force behind the philosophy and world Crown Lands build on Fearless. Consciousness is expanded, the possibilities of the body become interstellar, and the Indigenous hero multiplies and replicates across both human and non-human bodies in a crucial effort to rebel against the colonial idea that the individual is the singular master of his environment — and that stolen lands are subservient to almighty, profit that exist to violate and hoard, a foolhardy attempt at immortality via the absolute decimation of the very hand that feeds. 

Our Zoom interview chases down disparate threads of the development of Artificial Intelligence, Ship of Theseus ideas of where identity lies within the body, and what their rich sci-fi storytelling can tell us about the real issues faced by Indigenous peoples across Turtle Island today. Like the album, it’s a sprawling, ambitious conversation between three people intersecting in the moment via technology and sharing ideas, an idea that Bowles and Comeau are eager to latch onto.

“The climax ends with all of their fighting in space which generates enough energy to create a black hole that threatens now to destroy the very planet that Fearless was fighting to save,” says Comeau. “And it’s just kind of like that moment where fighting is not the answer and violence only begets violence.”

“Evil is in our society,” continues Bowles. “Maybe we can make a difference. The wholesome notion of wanting people to come together and understand everything together — that’s the dream, right? Like, obviously, people aren’t gonna do that, but you can hope and you can dream.”

For now, we don’t know what lies beyond the event horizon of the black hole Fearless flies into. But dreams are lighter than air, faster than light, and Crown Lands remain steadfast in their optimism that it will ultimately be possible to vanquish evil from the world once and for all.

Fearless is out now via Universal Music Canada