When Rich Aucoin embarked on a cycling tour across the United States, he saw more than he could handle. Trekking by bike through America for Mental Health America, the Canadian singer-songwriter started composing a song for each of the 12 states he cycled through. In the end, Aucoin had a vivid look at the social-political climate in America and what “Make American Great” really entailed.
All documented on upcoming album United States (Haven Sounds) and new single “Reset,” Aucoin set out to reveal what was really happening in America, capturing a raw glimpse of the social-political climate in America through its dilapidation, violence, racism, mental illness and its implications, and a misconception that America is becoming “great again.”
“I wanted to really see the states alone as an observer with lots of time to process the experience,” says Aucoin. “I’ve loved touring there and was interested in how such a progressive country could elect their current president.”
United States, out Sept. 18, reveals Aucoin’s first-hand observations of America through unapologetically raw lyrics. “After cycling through town after town with decaying downtowns where photos were displayed in the local cafes showing the town in full bloom after the second world war, I could see how his propaganda of ‘Make America Great Again’ really conned people,” says Aucoin. “I spent a lot of time on social media and alone over those months and could see how the states had re-entered a period that felt like the late ’60s again with both a resurgence in student protest movements and a renewed interest in psychedelics. I was also meditating a lot and thinking about these things while riding.”
Orchestrated in dance-hall pop beats, on the surface “Reset” is unassuming at first, but lucid in it’s anthemic and protest refrain of Lying on the floor now / Breaking down the door now / It’s civil war now.
Due to COVID-19 restraints, Auction was tasked with compiling more than 100 news reports for the video, including mass shootings, which totaled 36 in the U.S., alone, from the time Aucoin started his cycling journey. Aucoin says the bigger message of “Reset,” is about young people, students, taking back their power and ultimately ensuring their safety. “Like ‘How It Breaks,’ it’s a call to action and demonstrates the efforts being made by the thousands of students across America who will one day change gun legislation in their country, if those in power do not help them at this moment,” says Aucoin.
Going through the hundreds of videos was jarring for Aucoin as he was reminded of how often these shootings occur in the U.S.
“There’s such a large number that many shootings now need to have a year next to the city’s name to differentiate between them and the mass shootings which have occurred in the same city the year or two before,” says Aucoin. “The shootings have occurred in all types of places and events from a Waffle House and Walmart to a YouTube headquarters and an EA Sports Competition.”
For the video, Aucoin wanted to remove the visual of guns, victims and shooters and focus on protest in response to these tragic events.
“Guns sales go up during times of fear like after a mass shooting or now during the pandemic and so this is an important time to refocus the attention to dealing with the epidemic of America’s gun violence as they continue to rise,” says Aucoin. “Suicide also accounts for the highest number of deaths by guns and I wanted to shed light on that problem as well as the mass shootings occurring frequently.”
Aucoin says the “messiness” in the discussion of gun violence and its link to mental health is evident, as well as both sides seemingly using different dictionaries for their terminology. “One thing I wish there was more footage of to include in the video, but was impossible to find, was discussion around toxic masculinity and violence against women as many of the shootings include domestic violence at their onset,” says Aucoin. “The NRA is a lobby group masquerading as a civil rights organization, but just as the Tobacco Institute was dissolved in 1998, hopefully the NRA will be deemed unconstitutional as well.”
Working on this was especially difficult for Aucoin in the weeks following the deadliest mass shooting in Canadian history. He also wanted to block out the guns in video like he blocked out the president in the previous video but needed an object which would demonstrate the desensitized way we see weapons, so he chose a sex toy.
“I picked the dildo because it seems out of place for someone to be showing it off in public and yet the dildo is an object of pleasure not a weapon of death.,” says Aucoin. “We should have a bigger reaction to seeing weapons of death being allowed to be touted around in the name of freedom.”
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