Music in the Time of COVID: Celebration Guns Are Supporting Social Justice

Music in the Time of COVID: Celebration Guns Are Supporting Social Justice
Brittanny Bickman

Between the COVID-19 pandemic, a harrowing presidential election, and peak levels of social unrest, 2020 has been a year of strife and chaos. But we forget that amid all this negativity, local artists are still creating great works. So,
Phoenix New Times touched base with several musicians from across the musical spectrum to gauge how they're faring personally, the ways in which their work has been influenced, and what all this madness really means. Through these conversations, we might just find the spark to make it through 2020 after all.

After years of plugging away, Celebration Guns had recently hit something of a career high — just as the pandemic hit. But they've proven resilient as ever, and the foursome have continued on writing their endearing brand of indie rock. While they're up for celebrating recent good news, the band remain far more dedicated to giving back however they can (in song or with their platform). It seems you just can't keep a good band down.

Phoenix New Times
: Have you pulled back at all during all this? What's creative output like?

Justin Weir: As a band, we've kind of turned to focusing on writing. We all want to keep getting together, because this is a safe place for all of us.

I'd contacted [Chillwavve Records] a year earlier and said, "Hey, I like what you guys do." And they said, "Send me your new stuff." So one weekend, I was just frustrated and bored, I just sent it. So during all this, we managed to sign up with a small indie.

Have any of these social or political happenings made their way into the new music?
The song that we're working on now, with the lyrics, I tried to be as honest as possible on how I feel about it. And the gist of what came out of the lyrics was, this is really keeping me up at night. And I need to stop brooding on it and try to find a way to get outside of myself and take action.  I'm not going to write about coronavirus; that seems silly.

And I don't want to do a BLM protest because there's also the complication of being white dudes and getting super-involved in constantly lecturing about all that. I just want to reflect on the time now. And just make sure I can look back and say, just like with that Parkland song, this is what was really heavy on my mind then.

Was there any hesitation to do something to try and get involved in other ways?
The only issue then was really the pandemic, and there wasn't all the other social and political issues. About five days before the release, I was like, "This is a horrible idea." But TuneCore, who I set up everything to release through, said, "No, if you want to take the music down, you can, but it might not work, though. And you'll just have to pay to resubmit everything." So we actually waited about a week and a half after the songs were online to really promote it. If I stop completely, and don't promote myself, what can I actually do? 

Yeah, what do you actually do then?
I could retweet or share people of colors' voices and opinions and make sure their causes are being heard. But then our label had a plan: "Hey, let's put out your cassettes and just do all the proceeds to the homeless Black trans women fund." So the tapes are being sold, with 100 percent going to that charity.

I don't think everyone has to have a leadership role in these issues and conversations. So how can you still be involved and not at the forefront?
I was trying to make some sort of visual component to a bonus track on this EP. It's a very sort of somber-sounding, wistful-sounding instrumental track. And I was thinking, "What do I put behind this? What could possibly make any sense if I want to release this just to say, 'Hey, this is our bonus track on that tape or something for charity." I realized I had spent so many hours on TikTok, which seemed to me to be the best place to see ground footage of all the rioting and the protests.

So I just started saving the videos. It really impacted me and I was like, "I'm just gonna put this footage underneath the song and the message being thanks to everybody who's out there taking action because that's not me."
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Chris Coplan has been a professional writer since the 2010s, having started his professional career at Consequence of Sound. Since then, he's also been published with TIME, Complex, and other outlets. He lives in Central Phoenix with his fiancee, a dumb but lovable dog, and two bossy cats.
Contact: Chris Coplan