Last night, the enigmatic Montreal post-rock collective Godspeed You! Black Emperor won the Polaris Music Prize, a prestigious annual award for Canada’s best album, as chosen by a panel of music critics. This was a pretty weird thing to have happen! Since reuniting after a long hiatus a couple of years ago, GY!BE have done some relatively conventional things, like playing a few bigger music festivals, but they’re still a shadowy band of anarchists who make suffocatingly gorgeous 20-minute drone-rock instrumental pieces, and yet they found themselves competing against, like, Metric and Tegan And Sara. And winning. The band opted not to attend the ceremony, with Ian Ilavsky of Constellation Records accepting the award in their stead and claiming that they’d be putting the $30,000 in prize money toward developing music education programs in Quebec prisons. And now, in a surprisingly conversational and reasonable statement, the often-cryptic band has offered its thanks for the award, called into question the necessity of the award in general and the corporate-sponsored gala in particular, and affirmed their plans for that prize money. Read the statement below.
A FEW WORDS REGARDING THIS POLARIS PRIZE THING
hello kanadian music-writers.
thanks for the nomination thanks for the prize- it feels nice to be acknowledged by the Troubled Motherland when we so often feel orphaned here. and much respect for all y’all who write about local bands, who blow that horn loudly- because that trumpeting is crucial and necessary and important.
and much respect to the freelancers especially, because freelancing is a hard fucking gig, and almost all of us are freelancers now, right? falling and scrambling and hustling through these difficult times?
so yes, we are grateful, and yes we are humble and we are shy to complain when we’ve been acknowledged thusly- BUT HOLY SHIT AND HOLY COW- we’ve been plowing our field on the margins of weird culture for almost 20 years now, and “this scene is pretty cool but what it really fucking needs is an awards show” is not a thought that’s ever crossed our minds.
3 quick bullet-points that almost anybody could agree on maybe=
-holding a gala during a time of austerity and normalized decline is a weird thing to do.
-organizing a gala just so musicians can compete against each other for a novelty-sized cheque doesn’t serve the cause of righteous music at all.
-asking the toyota motor company to help cover the tab for that gala, during a summer where the melting northern ice caps are live-streaming on the internet, IS FUCKING INSANE, and comes across as tone-deaf to the current horrifying malaise.
these are hard times for everybody. and musicians’ blues are pretty low on the list of things in need of urgent correction BUT AND BUT if the point of this prize and party is acknowledging music-labor performed in the name of something other than quick money, well then maybe the next celebration should happen in a cruddier hall, without the corporate banners and culture overlords. and maybe a party thusly is long overdue- it would be truly nice to enjoy that hang, somewhere sometime where the point wasn’t just lazy money patting itself on the back.
give the money to the kids let ’em put on their own goddamn parties, give the money to the olds and let them try to write opuses in spite of, but let the muchmusic videostars fight it out in the inconsequential middle, without gov’t. culture-money in their pockets.
us we’re gonna use the money to try to set up a program so that prisoners in quebec have musical instruments if they need them…
amen and amen.
apologies for being such bores,
we love you so much / our country is fucked,
godspeed you! black emperor
(via Constellation Records)
The album that won the award, the 2012 double album Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!, is a truly great piece of work, and it’s out now on Constellation.