Rush-mad pair wow the iconic Canadian band’s production team.
PROG ARE CATCHING Canadian duo Crown Lands on the cusp of something genuinely exciting. Seven years ago, bassist/keyboardist/guitarist Kevin Comeau moved back to his hometown of Oshawa. He’d studied classical music theory and composition at university, and had been living out in California. Now home, he was auditioning to be in a band whose drummer was Cody Bowles. Bowles had hit the skins since the age of one, adored Neil Peart and played like
Bill Bruford, and had taken college courses in
West African percussion and Afro-Cuban drumming. Comeau recalls that Bowles also had the best voice he’d ever heard: “At the audition I said, ‘Hey Cody, I hear you’re a big Rush fan?’ Then I pulled down my pants and mooned Cody, because I have the Starman tattooed on my butt!”
The pair realised that making music together was their path, and Crown Lands were born in 2016. Reflecting their social conscience, the name refers to the property taken from the native Canadian people by the early settlers, and their call-to-arms debut song, Mountain, also dealt with indigenous rights. Before signing to Universal/Spinefarm the EPs Mantra and Rise Over Run showcased their spiritually charged modern retro rock – their roots lay in Zeppelin and Rush, but they brought a fresh, 21st century energy.
Coheed And Cambria took them out as support on their 2018 tour. “We didn’t belong on that bill,” says Comeau with a laugh.“We’d just started embracing the prog we’d grown up loving, but were still doing blues rock, lots of slide and fuzz guitar. The audience and bands were nice, but we knew we had to step up.”
You can hear them doing so over the second half of their self-titled 2020 debut album. Crown Lands was nominated for Best Rock Album at this year’s Juno Awards, where the pair were crowned Best Breakthrough Group. But their new future is foreshadowed by none-more-prog piece Context: Fearless Pt.1. And here the Rush connections explode.
Rush producer Terry Brown worked on the song’s original demos, but as the band toured the song evolved – much to their chagrin – it demanded a new approach. Enter Rush’s latter-day man Nick Raskulinecz, who worked up a new version with them in January 2020. The day before the recording session Neil Peart died, but Bowles recalls that, “Nick texted to say,‘You’ve got to carry the torch – come down, let’s record this thing.’ We drove to Nashville, crying all the way, then at his studio Nick had the kit Neil used to record Snakes & Arrows, and that’s what I played on the track. It was the most spiritual experience of my life.”
Producer/engineer David Bottrill was drafted in for the vocal re-records, and Bottrill’s been working with Crown Lands on their latest single too. White Buffalo is set within a whole fictional universe that Bowles is writing, and Comeau promises it will feature their most complex music to date: “We’re really pushing what it is to be a duo playing live,” he says,“and we’re really excited about that.”
“AT THE AUDITION I MOONED CODY BECAUSE I HAVE THE STARMAN TATTOOED ON MY BUTT!”