Hope in Armour

Rae Spoon’s album dances through trauma, appropriation and optimism

Rae Spoon shares  "Stolen Song" from upcoming album 'Amour', perfomrs in Winnipeg on Feb. 20.

Photo by Foxx Foto

Lucky Winnipeggers will get a chance to grab some of the first copies of the Rae Spoon’s latest record.

After releasing a handful of singles and videos online, the latest offering from electronic singer-songwriter Rae Spoon will soon be available in full. Armour, their first release since 2013’s album and short documentary My Prairie Home, will be released on Feb. 19. They’ll celebrate the release at The Good Will Social Club on Feb. 20.

“I have a lot of friends in Winnipeg ’cause I’ve been through there so much,” Spoon says. “I’m excited I’m going to the Good Will, ’cause I think it’s a newer venue. So I’m actually really excited to see that, which is good, because I’m playing there.”

Spoon released the title track and second single, “Armour” along with a lyric video on YouTube.

The song explores how, over time, people can become intertwined with all the ways they’ve habitually protected themselves, Spoon says.

“(The song) was a little bit about trauma, and how you can’t actually shed your trauma or your reservations about entering situations again or trusting people, and also maybe a bit about being trans, and navigating pronouns constantly, or navigating the gender binary, and having like an assigned sex and all that.”

Despite the heavy emotional lifting conveyed in “Armour,” Spoon hopes that it also projects a hopeful message for their audience.

“It’s supposed to be optimistic, but it’s like this moment of looking at, at just how that works. I’m hoping it resonates with other people in similar situations.”

While the accompanying lyric video may help listeners keep up with the full message of the song, Spoon has found that they can get the message of their music out even when the words don’t make it through.

“If you admit that you make mistakes and you’d like to change, that opens up the dialogue a bit more instead of shutting it down.”

“I’ve definitely played whole shows in Italy where people are like clapping and dancing, and a lot of them, when I met them after, we could communicate but they were saying that they didn’t really understand the lyrics,” Spoon says.

“So I think it’s nice if people understand them, but that’s the nice thing about music is it’s actually not necessary.”

Their third single, “Stolen Song,” is a call to consider cultural appropriation in music, which is another area where communication is key.

“It’s a song that’s just like, hey. If someone comes up to you and says, ‘you’re hurting my feelings,’ or ‘you’re stealing my identity’, you can just be like, ‘oh, sorry. I’ll stop now.’ You know? I mean I think that’s kind of idealistic, but songs are simple and idealistic sometimes and they do sometimes make a difference.”

When they first released the track and an accompanying interview in BeatRoute on their Facebook page, they purposefully included themselves in the call to stop appropriating.

“One major reason to include myself is that I’m white,” Spoon says. And although they’ve seen parts of their own identity appropriated – and those experiences started them on the songwriting process – they saw that as part of a larger trend.

“There’s a lot of things going around in the music scene in Canada, (and) arts scene; there’s some definite appropriation going on,” Spoon says.

They don’t consider themselves an expert in cultural appropriation, and are quick to point out their own missteps that, in retrospect, could have also been harmful to others.

“I don’t like to write songs that are like a one-way question. I have to ask myself if I’ve done it too.”

“So I think that that’s the best way. Even when I talk about being trans, I always say (that) I’ve gotten people’s pronouns wrong. I didn’t know what trans people were when I first met trans people,” Spoon says.

“If you admit that you make mistakes and you’d like to change, that opens up the dialogue a bit more instead of shutting it down.”

Throughout the new album, Spoon reiterates messages of hope and optimism, which for them, means continuing to play music and building community.

For the Winnipeg show, Spoon will be playing with labelmates Lal, who will be releasing their own record in April on Coax Records, Spoon’s own label. They formed the label in 2014 to release their own records, and are now branching out into promoting other bands as well.

“I’ve been pretty DIY my whole career so I’m pretty used to doing… all my own management and stuff like that myself,” Spoon says.

“It’s been a little bit of a learning curve since I just started last fall with other acts, but it’s been really rewarding.”

Spoon met the members of Lal about nine years ago, and discovered the other opening act, Joanne Pollock, through The Good Will Social Club.

“There’s other bands in Canada that maybe are from Toronto, and people in Winnipeg haven’t heard, and so it’s cool to be able to bring music from people I meet to other places and try and help them out.”

Listen to the full audio of the interview with Rae Spoon on Soundcloud

Published in Volume 70, Number 20 of The Uniter (February 18, 2016)

Related Reads