By Nabeeha Baig
Ryerson student Sam Mishos and Queen’s University alumni Chris Hemer use music as a way to express their anxieties with the Canadian government’s lack of action on climate change.
The band’s name, Funeral Lakes, is a “eulogy to nature,” showing the contrast between its beauty and its “inevitable destruction,” according to Mishos, who is currently taking courses through the Chang School of Continuing Education.
Starting out as an act of protest and reflection, the pair turned their love of music into a call for awareness. “I think with music, it’s always been a really cathartic experience for both of us—it’s something that helps us heal personally,” said Hemer.
While working for Joyce Murray, an MP for the Liberal Party of Canada, Hemer faced dissonance with his own personal views and those of his colleagues. After the Liberals moved forward with the Trans Mountain Pipeline—a pipeline that transports crude oil from Alberta to British Columbia—Hemer felt it was time to leave.
“It was hard to see it and then have my own boss and people I respected not challenge it or stick up for what we felt they should have,” Hemer said.
The duo went for a long walk, bought a microphone, learned how to use Ableton, a digital audio workstation, and set out to make music about things that mattered to them with a DIY mindset.
Most of their songs are based on real-life experiences, like their single, “Forest Burns,” which was inspired by an asthma attack that Mishos had when vacationing in Kelowna, British Columbia. According to Health Link BC, forest fires in British Columbia have been escalating for the last several years and are proving to be a dangerous health risk.
Mishos and Hemer also emphasize the importance of Indigenous sovereignty through Funeral Lakes’ platform.
“Just recently there’s been a lot of protests going on against climate change, and we think it’s important to recognize that Indigenous peoples have been on the front lines of climate action for a long time now,” Mishos said. “Often their communities are most affected by pipelines and the effects of climate change, so it’s important for us to make that statement.”
The pair often rely on Indigenous resources such as the Yellowhead Institute, a First Nation-led research centre based in the Faculty of Arts at Ryerson, to learn about what they can do as settlers. “We are definitely not experts on these topics, but there are lots of great resources that we learn and gather information from,” Mishos said.
During his time working in politics, Hemer recalls the neglect these communities faced after all the empty promises made by the Liberal party. “It was really unfortunate to see a party get elected on a lot of networks that were built through grassroots movements, get those votes, and then just not do anything they said they would,” he explained.
Now that the duo have moved their operations to Toronto, they hope to get involved in the city’s music scene, book some gigs and get into a formal studio space in hopes of achieving a new sound. They plan on releasing their first-ever album on Dec. 1, with an EP expecting to release in the new year as well.
Proceeds from their first few singles have gone directly to grassroots organizations like Idle No More, a network of Indigenous communities engaging in civil disobedience, and Coast Protectors, an organization protesting the Trans Mountain pipeline.
“Originally, this was just a project without an idea of what we were going to do with it— kind of like writing an angry letter and not sending it to someone,” Hemer said. “At the same time we do hope that eventually we can try to build a community and bring people together who see the utility of music as a form of protest,” Mishos said.
Although the two aren’t entirely sure where they see Funeral Lakes heading in the future, they hope to continue to spread awareness about environmental issues that often go neglected and donate money to charities they support—all while making music that they love.