While the Killers and Florence + the Machine might grab headlines, tucked away in the packed lineup of the SKOOKUM festival is a Vancouver gem.
Little Crow wasn’t originally slated to be on the bill at the Stanley Park event. The atmospheric, folky duo—composed of singer Emily Seal and guitarist Kas Baker—is a relative newcomer on the circuit. Beginning the group in 2015, after being introduced by mutual friends, the pair quickly grew a musical chemistry that blossomed into a romantic relationship. Together, they began volunteering at events and galas for the music-therapy charity Music Heals—where, by chance, they discovered the opportunity to play at SKOOKUM through Music Heals’ Covers for the Cause initiative.
The program gives fans the chance to connect with artists by asking them to video themselves covering a requested song. In return, the individual pledges to donate as much as they wish to Music Heals. This year, the organization offered a special prize for the artist who inspired the biggest contribution.
“Kas and I both feel that music is such a powerful thing, and we wanted to support music therapy because it connected so well with us,” Seal tells the Straight, on the line from her Deep Cove home. “We saw that they were doing this Covers for the Cause thing, and we had been doing it a couple of times before. Then we saw that they were giving the artist who raises the most the opportunity to play SKOOKUM, so it was really blending our passions, and raising money for a charity that we really believe in. We definitely pushed as hard as we could, and we have a lot of covers to pump out now.”
For Baker, gathering donations for Music Heals was personal. After suffering a brain injury at 18, he was helped by Vancouver Coastal Health’s G.F. Strong complex, the largest rehabilitation centre in B.C. The desire to contribute to the hospital and its music-therapy program prompted Little Crow to pledge its entire fund to the organization.
“Kas just felt such a connection with that place, and they did so much good for him,” Seal says. “It was crazy, because before his brain injury, he actually didn’t play music at all. And then it was after his brain injury, and healing at G.F. Strong, that he picked up an instrument and was able to move forward with his life. They really just gave him so much. We just wanted to give back to them for that.”
Currently working on its first full-length album—the follow-up to a self-titled EP released in 2016—Little Crow has a number of never-been-aired songs to fill its SKOOKUM slot. Building on the sound of its initial offering—a raw, smoky folk debut with layered acoustic-guitar riffs and lyrics that discuss taboo topics with a welcome honesty—the pair will maintain a similar dark, ambient feel, but will push further toward the territory of indie rock. It’s a sound, they hope, that will win over the 20,000-strong crowd set to descend on Stanley Park.
“It’s such a great thing to be a part of such a strong bill,” Seal says. “Some of our favourite artists that have influenced our music so much are playing there, so I think really just taking in the atmosphere and getting the opportunity to play a festival that those artists are at is amazing.”
Little Crow plays SKOOKUM in Stanley Park on September 7.
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