compassion instead of smarm

Once upon a time there was an awful Saskatoon band that played music that pandered to corporate pop radio with a strange, Walk Off the Earth-meets Ed Sheeran tuna casserole sound and an equally nauseating smarmy image. Their main claim to fame was that someone in Taylor Swift’s circle added one of their songs to her Spotify playlist once.

The Awful Band seemed harmless. Even though they played awful music, it was completely their right to play awful music, and there wasn’t anything wrong with folks who took a liking to their shallow sounds. To each their own!

Then, one day in March 2021, a young woman came forward saying she and two other women were the victims of demeaning and predatory behaviour by two of the band’s members during a video shoot in 2016. The news shook the Saskatoon music scene, and many artists and venues pledged sincerely to do better in the future.

Not the band in question, though. Instead of listening to the young woman, instead of promising to learn from their transgressions, instead of firing the band members for their loathsome behaviour, they issued a petulant statement accusing the accuser of “spreading misinformation”. Weeks later, the statement was deleted from their website. Then, that summer, the band sued the woman for defamation, demanding $800,000 in damages. Playing the victim after being outed by a legitimately traumatized victim is one of the most disgustingly perfect examples of white male privilege you will ever see. Optically, it looks pathetic, and instead of doing the right thing, these men – all from well-off families – are now pariahs.

It’s a thoroughly depressing story, but one Saskatoon dude decided to show how cool the Saskatoon music scene really can be. Chris Laramee is a member of Shooting Guns, a band I have written a lot about over the last decade, as well as drone project Wasted Cathedral and psychedelic rockers Radiation Flowers. This past summer he took it upon himself to curate a Bandcamp compilation called Underground Sounds featuring a couple dozen Saskatchewan-raised artists – including heavy hitters The Garrys and Slow Down Molasses – with 100 percent of proceeds going to the Saskatoon Sexual Assault Information Centre. In one quiet, classy move, he and these amazing bands stuck it to that Awful Band, helped out a worthy charity, and offered some moral to support to not only that band’s victims, but any victim of sexual assault.

The music is friggin’ great, too, ranging from krautrock, to folk, to noise, to drone, to punk, to R&B, to surf rock. We have a fertile music scene here, but there’s always room to improve, both onstage and off. Laramee created a some good in the wake of a truly horrible situation, and while he’s probably the first to say this is not about him, he deserves praise for setting up this hugely enjoyable collection.

Underground Sounds can be streamed below via Bandcamp, but is also available for purchase. It’s well worth the 12 bucks, believe me.

You can also contribute to Tiara Jackle’s defense fund here. Women victims deserve to be heard and believed.