Brightest lights in the northern musical sky
Winnipeg metal band, former Selkirk singer-songwriter make long list for Polaris Music Prize
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 16/06/2021 (720 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
A heavy metal group from Winnipeg and a shoegaze singer-songwriter who grew up in Selkirk and Brokenhead Ojibway Nation earned spots on the Polaris Music Prize long list Tuesday.
Vagina Witchcraft, a four-piece metal group fronted by vocalist Kayla Fernandes, earned a spot on the 50-artist list with the group’s self-titled debut album, as did Zoon, the musical moniker for Daniel Monkman, with his album Bleached Wavves.
It’s the second honour in a month for Vagina Witchcraft, which came together in 2018. The group, which also includes Dylan Sellar on guitar and drums, Seppel Saünlust on bass and Julien Riel on drums and bass, scooped up a Western Canadian Music Award nomination for metal or hard rock artist of the year in May.
The album begins with Intro, a recording of Fernandes speaking at the Justice 4 Black Lives Matter rally held last June at the Manitoba legislature grounds, and is followed by songs where their fiery vocals soar above the band’s intense guitars and bass groove.
“I am unfinished. I am not your f—– sassy black friend!” Fernandes shouts during Intro amid cheers of approval from the audience. “The kinks in my hair and the power of those who paved the way before me are my reason to succeed.”
Fernandes says the Polaris Prize asked Vagina Witchcraft to submit the album last November, but the band didn’t want to get its hopes up.
“I woke up this morning to my phone exploding on me and then I found out that way and I just screamed,” Fernandes said Tuesday. “I freaked out because I didn’t think it would get this point.”
Vagina Witchcraft is also Fernandes’s Instagram handle, but it was Sellar’s suggestion to use it as the band’s name, and it stuck.
“That’s ridiculous. No one will ever take us seriously. Let’s do that,” Fernandes recalls. “I’m pretty proud of the name. I think it is important that we destigmatize words that were often meant to be seen as offensive or vulgar.”
Names play a role in Manitoba’s other connection to this year’s Polaris Prize.
Zoon is short for the Ojibwa word Zoongide’ewin, which means “bravery, courage, the Bear Spirit. On Zoon’s website, Monkman describes Bleached Wavves as “moccasin-gaze” music, a combination of shoegaze-style alt-rock and First Nations music.
He grew up in Selkirk and now lives in Hamilton, and writes on his website that he abused drugs and alcohol to cope with being victimized for his Indigenous background.
Monkman gained sobriety through 12-step therapy, and an introduction to alt-rock artists such as Beck and My Bloody Valentine inspired him to make music his career.
The Polaris Music Prize’s 199-member jury whittled down 204 albums to the 50 that were chosen for the long list, which are chosen for artistic merit rather than record sales, and come from a wide variety of musical genres.
A 10-album shortlist will be released July 15. The winner receives $50,000 and each artist who has a record on the shortlist receive $3,000.
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Alan Small has been a journalist at the Free Press for more than 22 years in a variety of roles, the latest being a reporter in the Arts and Life section.
Updated on Wednesday, June 16, 2021 9:40 AM CDT: Corrects pronouns.