Former Queen's students capture climate anxiety with band Funeral Lakes

Funeral Lakes' apocalyptic folk rock reflects the "generational malaise" about climate emergency

Chris Hemer and Sam Mishoes of Funeral Lakes.
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Photo by Katerina Zoumboulakis

Queen’s alumni Chris  Hemer (ArtSci ’17) and Sam Mishos (ArtSci ’17) reveal the spirit behind their music, which is equal parts hope and sorrow, as they use songs to protest the Canadian government’s lack of action on climate change. 

Based out of Toronto, the band’s nameis a perfect descriptor for the unique tone of their songs.

Mishos explained the term Funeral Lake means “this conflicted feeling between the overwhelming beauty of nature clashing with the undertone of eventual loss should we continue on our current path of environmental destruction.”

The pair has recorded their first album and plan for its release in the coming months. First and foremost on their minds, however, is a commitment to protecting the environment.

They currently have three songs on Spotify and Bandcamp, and a fourth on YouTube. The duo’s work blends different emotions—it’s partly mournful but also a call to rebellion, capturing their climate fears and frustrations.

Their songs were described by Mishos as “good music for being sad at the beach.”

“We call ourselves apocalypse folk rock, and there’s a lot of politics in the music. We try to highlight that there’s really tender moments too. A lot of it is personal reflections on these macro global events, and there’s this generational malaise or sadness that’s out there,” Hemer said.

This blend of happiness and sadness, and of nature and destruction, was born out of the band’s origin story.

The pair met at Queen’s and began collaborating together on other musical projects. Before forming Funeral Lakes and relocating to TorontoMishos and Hemer lived together in Vancouver, as Hemer worked for his local MP, Liberal Joyce Murray.

Chris says climate activism is what inspired him to get into politics—and eventually, to quit.

His struggles with the Liberal Party’s commitment to climate policy eventually led him to leave his job.

After leaving, he collaborated on environmentally-focused projects, including working against the controversial Trans Mountain Pipeline .

“The final straw was when they wanted to stick a pipeline down our community and I wasn’t really down for that,” he said.  “So, I left and felt pretty lost for a few months and then Sam and I started working on this project as an outlet for those feelings.”

On ultimately deciding to team up for Funeral Lakesthey say it was a natural progression.

Hemer said, “I was playing in other groups at the time and Sam was writing some of her own music, but we were pretty frustrated with other people in our lives, and we’ve been partners for four years, and it’s been pretty awesome so far, so we thought, why not make some music together?”

This week, they’re giving all their proceeds away to Idle No More, a grassroots organization of Indigenous women and scholars who originally formed to protest Bill C-45’s amendments to the Navigable Waters Protection Act. This act revoked federal protection from many of the country’s lakes and streams. 

Funeral Lakes clearly doesn’t just capture our feelings of eco-anxiety and add a voice to the climate movement—they’re also working to forge tangible policy change.

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