Feature

Piper and Carson: music with a manifesto

Piper Hayes photo

Piper and Carson are storytellers and conversation starters. They are not afraid to speak up and use their voices to support the issues they believe in. Their music has always come with the intention to forward social change and promote mental health awareness. Their latest album, entitled Edgewalker’s Remedy, seeks to open people up to discussions on healing trauma, shifting narratives, reconciliation and seeking wonder.

The Hamilton-based duo are partners not only in music, but also in life. They first met on Carson’s father’s organic vegetable farm and have since spent the last four years touring across Canada and abroad. Edgewalker’s Remedy is the follow-up to their 2017 release aptly titled Piper & Carson.

Earlier this year, like everyone, they had to re-examine things and decide how to move forward in these times. They chose to focus on community and collaboration.

I recently chatted with the duo about the new album and the intentions and inspirations behind this project.

Steve: You have said that the album is a reflection of your “experience in the world and the transformative decolonization process we are all being called to participate in.” How was this music influenced by your reflection on these issues?

Piper and Carson: Over the past several years, we have spent the bulk of our time travelling, sharing stories with people we meet and listening to the powerful voices of those who this system has worked hard to suppress. Nothing we create exists outside the influence of others, and we strive to practice radical acknowledgement. This project was born of our own experiences and from the knowledge that has been so generously passed onto us by others. As settlers on stolen land and artists with a platform, we strongly feel it is our duty to educate ourselves and help raise awareness of systemic racism and the fight for Indigenous sovereignty. We have all been indoctrinated into a capitalist system that has been built by colonization, genocide and slave labour. Those of us with privilege, affluence and white skin continue to benefit from these oppressive systems, and we have to collectively acknowledge this in order to begin dismantling it. These songs seek to keep these vital conversations going, amplify the voices of those most affected by systems of violence and discuss how we can move forward.

Steve:  You have said that “This album is about divesting from predatory practices and making choices that lie outside what is immediately presented by the capitalist/colonial structure.” What were some of the choices you made in order to divest from these practices?

 Piper and Carson: One of the things we desire to move away from entirely is the concept of hierarchy. Like many others in this system, the music industry is plagued by hierarchal models that largely exploit workers and creators while funneling vastly disproportional amounts of money to the hands of the few. Likely the biggest single choice we made was not to put this album on Spotify, Amazon, Apple Music etc. Streaming platforms like Spotify are inherently corrupt and predatory in their function and operate by hoarding income generated through the site while paying creators next to nothing. By not supporting models such as these, we start to take back our collective power and reshape how industries function. While many artists are hesitant to do this because of a perceived loss in potential exposure, we feel that it is this fear that enables these systems to continue operating. We decided to concentrate our efforts into our mailing list and community, directing listeners to our website and Bandcamp. We wish to continue questioning everything and what we have been told is necessary industry standard. We hope the decisions we make might allow others to remember their value as artists and make choices appropriate for their own vision.

Steve: Obviously releasing an album right now is much different than even just a year ago. How did the lack of touring affect things for you – and what have you learned while adapting to the current situation?

Piper and Carson: When we initially imagined putting out an album during this pandemic, it was an overwhelming concept. Traditional release shows and tour scheduling just weren’t an option, so we really had to reframe our expectations and goals around how and what a release might look like. Most of our 2020 season was booked with extensive U.S touring, and while these cancellations were difficult to reconcile with, we were privileged to be able to adjust. This same privilege allowed us some much-needed recharging time after several consecutive years of touring and life without a fixed location. We really learned that taking the time to process and recharge is necessary in our fast-paced world of high expectations. This project also allowed us to re-examine our relationship to creating, sharing music and the land that we live on. It is easy to fall into a pattern of hustle that ultimately takes the life out of creation itself. It took everything grinding to a halt to come to this realization and begin our necessary reset. For our album release show we had an outdoor distanced porch concert where we raised funds for 1492 Landback Lane and Sipekne’katik fishers. It is gatherings such as these that we wish to continue dreaming up as they refocus our values around connection, healing and the redistribution of resources through music.

Steve: You created an adult children’s book as a companion to the album – where did the idea for that come from? And what can people expect when they open up this book?

Piper and Carson: When we set our goals and intentions for this project, a book wasn’t something that was originally in our plans. We met our good friend Riley Bee during a water ceremony in 2019 and shortly after asked if they would be interested in collaborating on this project. Over the next six months, we were gifted a series of beautiful drawings that truly took our breath away. As we took in all that we had been gifted, we realized we had to honour the amazing artwork, and the idea of an adult children’s book came into our minds. Piper began to unfold a design that centred the illustrations. When you open the book, you can expect to see song lyrics, stories, quotes and photos (by Cassandra Rudolph) beautifully brought to life through Riley’s skillful illustrations. The book allowed us to give context to the songs and provides an immersive experience for the listener.

Steve: After listening to your album and exploring the adult children’s book – what do you hope listeners come away with? 

Piper and Carson: Our greatest hope is that this project offers some acknowledgement for the tireless work of countless Land Defenders and Water Protectors. We want this album to offer listeners a chance to reflect, heal and re-connect with themselves and all the beings of this world. These songs are designed to bring laughter, imagining and remembering back into focus for audiences. We hope this album functions as a glimpse into a world of infinite interconnection and beauty, nudging listeners further into their journeys of healing, possibility and action.

You can visit piperandcarson.com to find the album and to keep in touch with the duo.

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