On July 3rd, 2019, Stonechild Chiefstick, a Chippewa Cree man who was part of the Suquamish tribal community in Poulsbo, Washington, was shot and killed by police during a confrontation at a park. Accounts surrounding the circumstances of the confrontation vary, but he wasn’t carrying a gun, and the officer who shot him was eventually cleared of any charges.
Chiefstick’s death is a tragedy that — like so many others of the last few years — has left a lot of questions and anger in the space where a living person should be. The Nashville metal duo Friendship Commanders do their part to spread the word about Chiefstick and show their solidarity for indigenous communities in their new song “Stonechild,” one of two singles they released earlier this week on Indigenous Peoples’ Day.
Consisting of singer-guitarist Buick Audra and drummer-bassist Jerry Roe (who’s also an in-demand session player with credits on a ton of country projects), Friendship Commanders nod to the sludgy, stoner-metal sensibilities of Kyuss and Sleep in their thundering anthem about injustice. Singer Audra’s ethereal delivery is more otherworldly and haunted than lacerating — an approach she favors on Friendship Commanders’ other releases — with a winding melody that lends the song an air of dream-pop beauty in spite of the horrors being described. “In a park by water, children everywhere/A son and father is no longer there,” she sings, floating through the maelstrom.
Friendship Commanders take an extra step in this gesture of solidarity, giving space for Suquamish tribal member Cassy Fowler to have a spoken-word passage in the Lushootseed language on behalf of Chiefstick’s family, and donating proceeds to the community. Fowler’s section indicts the ones who allow the system to persist, asking why these violent events are allowed to happen over and over. There are no easy answers here, only sorrow.
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