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Rock duo's Highway of Tears song paved way to Juno win

A song about the Highway of Tears is part of the reason Crown Lands most recently won a Juno award for Breakthrough Group.

It’s The End of the Road for victims of the Highway of Tears and one Juno-award-winning duo knew it was time to tell that story.

Crown Lands, the band based out of Ontario, includes Cody Bowles (vocals and drums) and Kevin Comeau (guitar, bass, and keys) and lends itself to a Rush like quality of rock. They just won this's year Juno Award for Breakthrough Group of the Year.

Comeau and Bowles knew that when they started making music together that to bring awareness to crimes against humanity would always be part of the plan.

End of the Road is about the Highway of Tears where women have been murdered or are still missing and how that impacts those left behind to grieve.

“We were listening to the Thunder Bay podcasts with Ryan McMahon and just got hooked on those and learned about what was going on and we felt super compelled to write a song about it,” Bowles, of Mi’kmaw First Nation, said. “When we came together and started making some music for this song it sort of spoke to us - yeah, this is what the song is about and it came together really naturally. We just knew the message was in the music.”

The biggest take away for Comeau was that statistically speaking the Highway of Tears is the most dangerous place in the world for an Indigenous person, he said.

“It just kind of hit us and so we started reading about this systemic issue within Canada because we’d already written Mountain on the record before which dealt with the history and then we thought OK, what’s happening now,” Comeau said. “That’s when we started reading about the Highway of Tears and all the women that have gone missing.”

What seemed almost as bad as the crimes to Comeau was the part the authorities reportedly played in the situation.

“It’s not just the disappearances and the murders but just the fact that the RCMP did nothing and they were culpable,” Comeau said. “And then the fact that they started to triple delete their files and it was proven the RCMP edited the Wikipedia files about it and just recognizing the fact that information that should be available to everyone who wants to educate themselves about this was being erased by those who should be investigating it. It just started hitting us - how systemic oppression by the government was being used against the very people who were here first.”

End of the Road was not just created to raise awareness but an acknowledgement to the people, he added.

“This song is basically a tool of ours to make the people that are affected by it feel seen, loved and heard because we have the responsibility as a band to comfort people who are hurt and then make sure that people who don’t know about it do and hopefully they’ll have the tools to make a difference. We’re just musicians - we don’t really have the power to make huge sweeping changes but the power of music is healing and unifying.”

End of the Road is part of a trilogy of songs beginning with Mountain about residential schools and how they destroyed a culture. The second song, End of the Road, is about the current situation and the third recently released song is called White Buffalo about what is going to be.

“The symbology of the White Buffalo is strength and manifestation,” Bowles said. “We wanted to use that symbolism in the song to connect from our dark history and our dark past into the future and make a bridge to the future of what we hope for all Indigenous people, which is rising up and reclaiming our land with pride and unity and celebration and to overcome this dark, encapsulating thing that has been reality for so many people - it’s been our history. The colonizers came and tried to decimate the buffalo to try to starve out the Indigenous people yet they didn’t wipe them out and they’re still here - we’re still here.”

Click through to watch Mountain and White Buffalo and for more information on the band visit http://www.crownlandsmusic.com/.