Coming off of a whirlwind (if unpredictable) year, powerhouse Canadian duo Crown Lands—Kevin Comeau (guitar, bass, and keys) and Cody Bowles (vocals and drums)—have returned with two songs that bring them back to their prog-rock roots and point the way to a limitless future. “Context: Fearless Pt. 1” and “Right Way Back” also connect the group to their legendary countrymen Rush, the band that served as their initial inspiration, in ways they never could have expected.
Crown Lands’ self-titled debut album, produced by Grammy-nominated Dave Cobb, was released in the summer of 2020, to widespread acclaim. But without the ability to tour during a global pandemic, the pair was frustrated by their inability to bring their blistering, hard-charging music to the people. So, like most of us, they adapted. They released an acoustic EP, Wayward Flyers Volume 1, including a cover of Neil Young’s “Birds.” They also focused on the politically charged song and video “End of the Road,” which pays tribute to the Indigenous womxn, girls, and two-spirits who have gone missing on the Highway of Tears in North British Columbia.
The forced time off led the members of Crown Lands to think more about their direction and their ambition. Just prior to lockdown, they had revisited a song that they had been messing around with for years. They were connected to Terry Brown, who was Rush’s producer for ten years—which, being obsessive Rush fans (they first bonded over Comeau’s Rush tattoo), was already a dream come true. They went into the studio with him just to cut early demos for “Context: Fearless Pt. 1,” but Brown insisted on trying a real recording.
After a bunch of touring, the band’s performance of “Context: Fearless Pt. 1” would naturally get sharper the more they played it live so they looked to re-record it. They scheduled time to travel to Nashville and work with Nick Raskulinecz, who—astonishingly enough—was Rush’s producer in their later years. But they day before the scheduled session, Rush’s legendary drummer Neil Peart died after a fight with brain cancer. They assumed the trip was off, but Raskulinecz texted them with the message, “you guys need to carry the torch—you need to come down here.”
In the studio, the producer brought out a drum kit that Peart had used on the 2007 Snakes & Arrowsalbum for Bowles to play. (“It was the most spiritual experience in my life,” he says.) But when they got the rough mix of the song, the vocals still needed some work. Working remotely, since quarantine had now started, the record label hooked Crown Lands up with David Bottrill—who remixed Vapor Trails, Rush’s 2002 comeback record – to mix the vocals.
The second new song, “Right Way Back,” is a tribute to Peart that came almost effortlessly. They brought it to Nashville as a rough demo, working out the chorus and writing the lyrics on the spot.
Following the release of “Context: Fearless Pt. 1” and “Right Way Back,” Crown Lands plans to begin recording again, and to put out a series of songs in small batches throughout the year, with more flexibility to experiment than they would have focusing on a larger album project. “These are our best songs yet,” says Bowles, “and they’re opening the door for the future. They propel us to a whole new era of music, and hint at what’s to come.”