Godspeed You! Black Emperor won the 2013 Polaris Prize back in September for their latest album Allelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend!, responded the morning after the gala with some constructive criticism, and pledged to donate their $30,000 prize “...to set up a program so that prisoners in quebec [sic] have musical instruments if they need them.” Canadian music fans promptly flipped out, because this country loves award shows and obsequiousness in service of being polite, two things Godspeed could not care less about.
And if you thought the dust had settled just because it's 2014, the normally Canadian media-averse Montreal post-rock group's
bassist guitarist Efrim Menuck further elaborated to Exclaim! on the lead-up to the fiasco, as well as what the band are doing with the money now (sitting on it).
Read the whole thing, but Menuck notably attempted to explain why the band didn't withdraw their nomination:
"The deal was, to anyone who puts out a new record in a year, Polaris approaches the record label and says, 'Would you like to put these records up for nomination?' Then the label can say yes or no. So Constellation said yes to this and didn't ask Godspeed what they thought about it because they were like, 'Oh, this will be a nice thing.'
"And so it was really late in the game when we realized, 'Oh shit, we could've just pulled out.' But we were convinced that we were not going to make it onto the short list. When we did make it onto the short list, the band was convinced we weren't going to win this thing. It was really towards the end when were like, 'Oh shit, we might and I guess we need to prepare ourselves for that possibility.' It was a really strange process."
Label non-communication plus endearing self-doubt leads to healthy and inevitably contentious discussion on the role of awards in the Canadian industry. But this morning, Polaris Prize's official Twitter countered Menuck's version of their selection process, pulling the veil back for an “Epic nine part tweet” on what goes into the (mostly online) selection process before filling that gala room with great music and passable snacks:
So everyone was just confused? Or someone lied? Either way, prisoners are getting instruments. And in September, 2014 another band will get a bunch of money. It's all good when you think about it.
Considering how much the Polaris Prize strives towards openness and transparency about its jury's selection process, it's ironic how much conspiracy theorizing accompanies each year's award. For a full outline of Polaris' inner workings, read our 2013 roundtable, featuring founder Steve Jordan, nominees Emily Haines, Colin Stetson, and more: Is the Polaris Prize Doing Its Job?