Just so we're clear -- His name is actually Justin Vernon. Bon Iver means "good winter" in French.
This has nothing to do with Bon Iver though, but rather another Twin Cities band the mainstream may not discover until they also win a Grammy. Poliça (pronounced poh-lisa), is an autotuned-female-fronted, dark, hazy, guitar-less four-piece that put out one of those rare albums that can be enjoyed from start to finish (remember those?).
Seriously, this band is incredible. And truthfully, I chose to interview them because I could. I'm not exactly Piers Morgan, and soon I probably won't be able to lock them down. Not to mention that in a paradoxically selfish way, I wanted to get their take on my favorite topic -- music's role in social change.
I met up with one of their two drummers, Drew Christopherson, at the Echoplex in the hipster district of Los Angeles known as Echo Park.
Christopherson, an "anarchist at heart who supports the Democratic Party," and I discussed the shifting society, why it's challenging to play benefit shows, the need for a simple solution that enables artists to support causes, and why commercial space flight is awesome.
Drew Christopherson: I think that there's more of a platform now for artists and individuals to express their solidarities or their opinions on causes, whereas before maybe they would have to go so far as to write it into the lyrics or album artwork or something.
Now they have this voice on the internet through things like Twitter where you can learn about an artist's views on the world -- what they support, what they don't support -- more easily than I think you used to be able to.
In that respect, it's more prevalent these days and it happens much faster. It's pretty immediate, which I think has yet to prove whether it's a good or bad thing as far as the longevity of people paying attention to certain causes. But yeah, I think it would be safe to say that there's more of a way for people to engage artists in that area of conversation.
Brandon Deroche: So ultimately, what is this level of access to information leading to?
Christopherson: I guess the jury's still out on whether or not we're becoming a more or less educated populace in these modern times. I think there's strong arguments either way.
A lot of people could point out that we are inundated with more information and exposed to new perspectives in a much easier, in-your-face sort of way. At the same time, there is this realization that there's a dumbing down of the world because of these technologies.
So, like I said, I think the jury's still out on which direction we're headed. Maybe it's that there are higher peaks and deeper valleys. It kind of reminds me of the Spiderman quote "with great power comes great responsibility" in that we need to know how to use these tools we have today properly.
Deroche: As you're talking I'm reminded of the movie Idiocracy. Have you seen it?
Christopherson: I have seen that. It's been a long time, but it's an incredible movie in what it reflects.
Again, the peaks and valleys go in both directions -- there are a lot of really brilliant things happening in the world and there's a lot of really scary things happening. That's just my perspective, which is obviously filtered through my own personal ethics and views on the way things should be.
Deroche: Is there more impacting this shift than just information overload?
Christopherson: Definitely. I think that there's been a lot of positive change as far as people taking consideration of the environment and even just reducing, reusing, and recycling. We do it in my community and we try to support good food. The food movement in the last 10 years has had a huge change.
I definitely think that we're going to start wizening up as a society, whether we're able to completely shift to clean energy... it'll be a hard task, but getting the people to support it I think is definitely on the rise and has been continuously.
Photo by Michael Palmer
Deroche: As a band on its way up, I'm sure you get asked to play a lot of benefit shows which is challenging as you're probably working on financial stability in your own lives. How do you handle these kind of requests?
Christopherson: It becomes a tricky thing as we can't really play in the same places too often. We really get one or two chances a year to play somewhere, so for us to sacrifice one of our shows to do a benefit show, at least right now, the enterprise takes a little blow and we can't get the money on tour or something like that.
We all definitely look forward to a time where we can be smart about doing that, and it is something that we definitely want to do. We've talked about some organizations in the twin cities that we would like to support soon with some local shows there, so it's definitely on our mind to be able to do that.
Deroche: What we're trying to create with The Urgency Network is a platform that enables a band of any size to support causes that they're passionate about in a way that's not going to break their back.
Christopherson: And it sounds like you're being more creative than just providing a way for the band to give some money. If you can spread information and help get the word out about certain things, that's just as important as giving money, I think.
Deroche: We're looking to give downright stupid incentives to learn about various issues, and one way we plan to do that is by giving people the opportunity to go to space -- what your thoughts are on space travel?
Christopherson: I love it -- I wish NASA was incredibly well funded, I wish the public sector would get involved, I love the idea of space travel, and I'm thrilled by outer space.
It may sound dorky, but I think about it a lot -- when you try to grasp the fact that we're moving at somewhere near 100,000 miles an hour through the cosmos right now. I fully support people getting out there.
The biggest opportunity that an earthling could have would be to leave earth.
Deroche: Are there any causes in particular that you're passionate about?
Christopherson: I don't want to sound cliché, but there's a number of things.
I grew up in the punk rock scene where we learned to try to tackle them all. I definitely support much of the environmentalist movement. I definitely am thrilled about the food movement, like I mentioned before.
Deroche: What's your reason for getting into the food movement?
Christopherson: Well, obviously there are major health impacts that our food industry has caused on the population, devastating health effects, cancers, horrible things that literally could kill us. But even more than that, the supporting of local economy, local farmers. I grew up in Wisconsin, and I like the idea of getting people back to their sense of community through all of it. It's also just good quality food, which is a thrill.
Also, we were talking how in the Twin Cities in the winter, it's kind of hard to see homelessness and a lot of poverty taking place. When you have harsh winters like that, it really makes you want to see what you can do to help some of those people out.
It's just something that we can do to help our own community on a local level, so I think about that quite a bit.
Deroche: Let's end with this -- What would be the greatest action you could do for the benefit of other people?
Christopherson: I guess if there's some way where I could encourage people to focus on their communities a little bit more and care for each other a little bit more, that would be pretty inspiring.