Usually ‘rock star’ and ‘human rights lawyer’ aren’t two vocations you’d think would go together. The former involves lots of tireless practice, touring, performances, and maybe the odd trashed hotel room. The latter involves representing people in cases of poverty, racial and sexual discrimination and domestic abuse, and, if your name is Gloria Guns, going to court in your longjohns.
Guns, the frontwoman of Ottawa band Scary Bear Soundtrack, will be leaving at the end of the month to spend two years in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, practicing human rights law in the tiny Inuit community of just over 1,500 people. This means that her band will be going on hiatus. But not before one last show at Babylon Nightclub, where they will launch the music video for their single ‘Beaver Pond Forest’. The band has been performing together since 2010, with another brief hiatus when Guns’ legal career took her to Namibia for 7 months. “I know very few people who are successful lawyers and musicians at the same time, because they’re both so demanding,” says Guns, who has been performing music for about 10 years. She continued performing as Scary Bear Soundtrack while in Africa, and also had the chance to record on an R&B album as a guitarist.
Scary Bear Soundtrack is made up of Gloria Guns, her sister, Esther, on keyboards, Dannik Leduc on guitar and vocals, and Ainslie Lahey and sometimes Kevin Ledlow on drums. It isn’t only Guns whose life is taking off in new directions; Esther and Kevin are about to get married, and Ainslie is currently studying fashion design in Toronto. Vocalist Dannik is classically trained, and also performs with the Ottawa Regional Youth Choir.
The band has always had a political bent, singing about issues that hit home for them. Their single ‘Asian Fetishist’ was penned by Guns after enduring the endlessly misguided pickup lines of men who seemed just a little too interested in her Korean heritage, and ‘Pyongyang’ is about the social injustices committed under the North Korean political regime. “I went through a phase where I stopped writing love songs,” says Guns. “I just feel that there’s so much more to the human experience than just being in love.” Human rights law also has a strong influence on Guns’ writing. As a lawyer she works with refugee cases, abusive relationships, and instances of racism and sexism. “I think that’s part of why I don’t write love songs anymore. I want to write about things that should be made public.”
‘Beaver Pond Forest’ continues that theme; the song, which was written in the summer of 2010, is based on an area in the South March Highlands that Guns, her sister, and her friends frequented as kids. Apart from being a great spot to play in, the woods there are also tremendously important ecologically and are considered a sacred site by local Aboriginal peoples. The land is now in the process of being developed into housing.
The music video for the song, which will be launched this Wednesday as part of Scary Bear Soundtrack’s performance at Babylon, was shot and edited by South African filmmaker Toni van Eeden. The filming was done in an area of the South March Highlands that hasn’t yet been developed, and features the band having a huge food fight in the woods. “I like all of these foods separately,” says Guns of the apple pie and grape soda that she wound up wearing, “but not all on me.” She also hadn’t banked on having to drive home still covered in it all, the woods being somewhat lacking in the shower department.
The look of the video is ’90s themed, a throwback to the time Guns spent in the woods with her friends as a teenager, dressing like a raver and listening to Sonic Youth. van Eeden, who is also the videographer for The Fulcrum, shot and directed the video, and also did all of the editing herself.
Although she’ll be away from Ottawa and her bandmates for the next two years Guns plans to stay busy musically, although with only one restaurant in Cambridge Bay performing in bars and local venues is out. “My intention is still to keep on writing music,” she says, adding that she expects that her time working with poverty and human rights for an entirely Inuit population, and the experience of living in Cambridge Bay, will keep her inspired. “I’ve lived in small towns, but always close to the big city, whereas Cambridge Bay is the big city, and there’s 1,500 people there.”
Guns is also a newlywed, and her husband will be accompanying her on this latest adventure to Canada’s Arctic. “I have started writing love songs again,” she admits, “but I think that’s because I got married.” With any luck, we can expect some love songs from the Arctic when she gets back.
Scary Bear Soundtrack plays at the Babylon Nightclub Wednesday, January 16th. Doors open at 7:00 p.m. Also playing are Highs, Alex Harea, and Elizabeth Hodgson. Tickets are $5.00 in advance, or $8.00 at the door. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to purchase.
To learn more about Toni van Eeden’s work, visit http://thepaleafrikaan.com/
To learn more about Scary Bear Soundtrack, visit http://www.scarybearsoundtrack.com/