There is a delicate musicality to The Habit’s songs, an intuitive blending of earthy vocals, thoughtful bass lines and a plethora of instruments laced with stunning violin sections. And if that isn’t enough for Ottawa, in 2006 the local band made their music truly count, sending “Fighter” — a song about human rights — as a message to Stephen Harper when he reopened the equal marriage debate.
It wasn’t a planned political move. “Fighter” was originally written about oppression, in any form. The song developed out of The Habit’s unique songwriting process, a process that Darren Rogers, bassist and lyricist for The Habit, considers “otherworldly.”
When The Habit creates new material, Dan Valin, who founded the band with Rogers, writes the music, leading the way for the other seven supporting musicians. It’s through improvising vowels to Valin’s melodies that Rogers comes up with the lyrics. The same-sex marriage debate was not on Roger’s mind when he created the lyrics for “Fighter.” But the song seemed a natural fit for the fight in 2006, when the newly elected Prime Minister reopened up the issue to Parliament.
Rogers doesn’t understand why there ever was a debate. “I see marriage — as long as both people agree to it — as a right. Why should that right only be allowed to those who are attracted to the opposite sex? Any argument that is used against same-sex marriage to me seems so flimsy. That marriage is for the purposes of procreation? What, so infertile women and sterile men shouldn’t be allowed to marry either?”
With the support of Ottawa’s queer community, The Habit performed “Fighter” at the 2006 Don’t Turn Back the Clock protest and sent out press releases, proclaiming the song a message to Stephen Harper. It was just one aspect of public pressure but it made a mark. And while Canadians were reassured when the issue was laid to rest, the song continues the fight globally, having already been translated into German, Spanish, Japanese and Flemish.
Rogers plays with a silver ring while he speaks, slipping it onto each finger and sliding it off. Finally, it rests where it belongs, on his ring finger.
“When I first came out I told my mom. She was devastated. She thought that it meant that I’d always be alone, that I’d never have a long-term partner. At the time, I thought it meant that too. But now that’s ridiculous. It’s a huge comfort for gays to have the option to marry. More importantly, it changes society’s perception of what’s gay and what’s possible.”
To the delight of his mom, Rogers was married to his long-term partner a couple of weeks after the Don’t Turn Back the Clock protest. Still he doesn’t feel “Fighter” is his personal anthem.
“Part of the strength of the message is that it’s coming from a group of gay and straight musicians. And rather than personalize the issue, we wanted to highlight marriage as a human-rights issue that should apply to everyone.”
“Fighter” is one of 12 tracks on The Habit’s soon to be released record, The Sacred And The Profane. This is the band’s first full-length album and they’re celebrating with two CD release shows: Jun 24 at the Black Sheep Inn and Jul 5 at Zaphods. Grateful for the attention “Fighter” has received, Rogers looks forward to sharing the rest of the album.
“It is really lush, with lots of vocal harmonies and instrumental textures. And quite catchy. We’ve become so attached to the songs after playing them for the last year, they are like children to us. The album revolves around the themes of power, tricky love, and rising above.”
Looking back at the journey of writing the record Rogers smiles at the thought that it’s all represented in the name. “It’s such a deeply personal thing to make music with someone. It’s soul baring. Making music out of nothing is sacred. But,” he laughs, “we do sometimes get there by slightly profane means.”