With climate change at critical levels and a lack of action by world leaders, you might ask yourself how best to get the message heard. Amidst the cacophony of protesters waving banners on the streets, Funeral Lakes approach the subject through the wonder of music, their songs an ambient journey through hypnotic folk rock. Showing that a protest song doesn’t need to be shouted from the rooftops, the Canadian duo have plenty to say and make it a pleasure to listen. We chatted to them about their latest EP, Golden Season, and what’s happening in the world right now, for them musically, and for all of us on a wider scale…
Introduce us to Funeral Lakes, who’s involved and how did it all begin?
Funeral Lakes is Chris Hemer (he/him) and Sam Mishos (she/her). We started the project in the spring of 2018, self-producing music in our apartment in Vancouver, B.C., and then in Toronto, Ontario. The project started as a creative medium to express our fears and frustrations about the world we’re living in.
The world is in a bit of a mess right now, how are you both and how are things in Toronto?
Thank you for asking! We are both doing as well as can be right now. We’ve been reflecting a lot on the collective traumas we are all experiencing, oscillating between feelings of hope and hopelessness. We have just recently relocated from Toronto to Kingston, Ontario to start graduate school, which has made our personal lives pretty busy. It’s a much smaller city compared to Toronto, and we’ve come to appreciate the change of pace. It’s a real privilege to be able to get outside every day and access green spaces around where we live.
Your songs seem very much to be reflections of what’s happening around you, is it hard to stay creative at the moment?
Music has always been a way for both of us to cope and process the experiences in our lives. Our creativity is often tied to the realities happening around us, so our creative output hasn’t changed all that much. That being said, there are days where we don’t feel like singing about much at all. Ultimately, we try to relay whatever emotions we’re feeling – whether it be anxiety, sadness, frustration, hope – through our music.
Tell us about your new EP Golden Season, what was your inspiration for this record and who’s helped you bring it to completion?
Following our first album, which was a pretty somber collection of songs, we wanted to make something much more energetic and charged this time around. These tracks represent where we’re at, and right now it’s a place of transition, of restlessness and urgency, as well as a time of reflection. Many of the themes we address aren’t exactly new (i.e. environmental destruction, heteropatriarchy, petro-nationalism), but these things have presented themselves over the past year in extremely loud ways that have been impossible to ignore. We put some other material on hold as we had the opportunity to realize these tracks in the studio with our friends – Charlie Van on drums and Colin Spratt who engineered, mixed, and mastered the songs.
Do you have a favourite track that you could tell us the story behind?
Eternal Return is a track that is really meaningful for us. It has existed in various iterations for some years now, but took a long time to feel complete. It’s a song about boom-and-bust cycles, false promises, and rampant toxic masculinity – all those factors culminate into what some call petro-nationalism. We tried to paint a picture of this reality playing out here in Canada, but also around the world. The bulk of the lyrics aim to take the listener through a rationale, so that they are feeling the same anger as us when the song takes off at the end. It was exciting to realize this in the studio where we could make it sound as big as we had envisioned. Some of the vocals are done through an actual megaphone, and we had our friends join in with us to achieve a sort of rallying cry with the group vocals.
Who else have you been listening to lately?
There is so much incredible and inspiring talent at the more local level. We’ve definitely been enjoying the works of Zoon, Sunnsetter, Eve Parker Finley, and Tyler Jafelice, to name a few.
Favourite 3 albums ever?
It’s always hard to answer this sort of question, but 3 albums that we always come back to are The Velvet Underground – Self-titled, Typhoon – White Lighter and The Clash – London Calling.
If your music was going to be used for a remake of any film, which one would you choose?
There’s this really hilarious late-90s post-apocalyptic movie called The Postman with Kevin Costner. Tom Petty has a pretty bizarre cameo in it too. Not sure if you could quite call it a cult classic, but it’s become strangely relevant this year… If anyone’s planning to remake this movie, please give us a call!
If you had the power to change anything, what would you love to see happen to make the world a better place?
It would be great for our so-called leaders to stop politicking and address the climate crisis in a meaningful way. There is a terrifying lack of leadership on the issue. Canada has been a resource-based economy and an oil-rich country for a long time. Now that the world is changing in the face of a climate emergency, we’re having an identity crisis. Politicians are abusing this moment we are in for personal/political gains on both sides. On one hand, there is a promise of a clean/green future that never comes to fruition, as we’ve seen with Trudeau federally, or with Horgan in B.C. On the other hand, there is a promise of a future that no longer exists, as we’re currently seeing with Kenney in Alberta. There are too many promises and not enough action, and that needs to change.
And what are your plans and hopes for Funeral Lakes, what happens next?
This project has always been about voicing our thoughts and feelings, so that’s not going to change, but the realities of how we can share our music and play live shows has been put on hold for the time being. We’re always writing and recording in our home space, so you can probably expect another EP from us in the spring. We have another big project in the works that’s a way’s off, but we’re really excited about. Ultimately, making connections and feeling less alone in all this is our hope with this music – that’s why we started this project.
Interview by Siobhan
5th October 2020