Montreal-based ambient rock band Godspeed You! Black Emperor was awarded the $30,000 Polaris Music Prize for its latest album “Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!” on Monday night, but the band declined to appear at the awards ceremony and vowed to donate the money to music education programs in Quebec prisons.
The Polaris Music Prize is awarded every year to Canadian artists based solely on the quality of an album, regardless of sales, popularity or genre restrictions. Godspeed’s 2012 record, composed of four songs up to 20 minutes in length, was the band’s first album in a decade and earned the group significant praise from fans and music writers. But the enigmatic and politically minded band seems unwilling to accept financial awards for “Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!”
According to CTV News, indie singer Feist announced Godspeed’s victory at the awards ceremony gala in Toronto Monday night, but none of the band’s members were in attendance. Instead, Constellation Records co-founder Ian Ilavsky appeared onstage and accepted the award on their behalf.
"I really did not expect to be up here tonight -- it's all a little abstract," Ilavsky said onstage. "I have known the band for almost 20 years. They've been at it for almost 20 years. And I do know they want to strongly and unequivocally thank everyone involved in the (Polaris)."
The next morning, the band posted a response to the Polaris Music Prize on the Constellation Records website, stating that members felt the awards ceremony was hypocritical and unnecessary. Instead of using the $30,000 award money for themselves, members of Godspeed You! Black Emperor say they will donate the money to set up a program providing instruments and music education to prisoners in Quebec.
Read Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s complete response to the Polaris Music Prize below.
hello kanadian music-writers.
thanks for the nomination thanks for the prize- it feels nice to be acknowledged by the Troubled Motherland when we so often feel orphaned here. and much respect for all y’all who write about local bands, who blow that horn loudly- because that trumpeting is crucial and necessary and important.
and much respect to the freelancers especially, because freelancing is a hard f**king gig, and almost all of us are freelancers now, right? falling and scrambling and hustling through these difficult times?
so yes, we are grateful, and yes we are humble and we are shy to complain when we’ve been acknowledged thusly- BUT HOLY S**T AND HOLY COW- we’ve been plowing our field on the margins of weird culture for almost 20 years now, and “this scene is pretty cool but what it really f**king needs is an awards show” is not a thought that’s ever crossed our minds.
3 quick bullet-points that almost anybody could agree on maybe=
-holding a gala during a time of austerity and normalized decline is a weird thing to do.
-organizing a gala just so musicians can compete against each other for a novelty-sized cheque doesn’t serve the cause of righteous music at all.
-asking the toyota motor company to help cover the tab for that gala, during a summer where the melting northern ice caps are live-streaming on the internet, IS F**KING INSANE, and comes across as tone-deaf to the current horrifying malaise.
these are hard times for everybody. and musicians’ blues are pretty low on the list of things in need of urgent correction BUT AND BUT if the point of this prize and party is acknowledging music-labor performed in the name of something other than quick money, well then maybe the next celebration should happen in a cruddier hall, without the corporate banners and culture overlords. and maybe a party thusly is long overdue- it would be truly nice to enjoy that hang, somewhere sometime where the point wasn’t just lazy money patting itself on the back.
give the money to the kids let ‘em put on their own goddamn parties, give the money to the olds and let them try to write opuses in spite of, but let the muchmusic videostars fight it out in the inconsequential middle, without gov’t. culture-money in their pockets.
us we’re gonna use the money to try to set up a program so that prisoners in quebec have musical instruments if they need them…
amen and amen.
apologies for being such bores,
we love you so much / our country is f**ked,
godspeed you! black emperor