Exclusive: Interview with Revolution Harmony on New Vegan Anthem, 'A Hymn'
Ray Holroyd and Kate Haddow are Revolution Harmony, an altruistic, animal-loving duo who employ the power of music to inspire positive change.
The long-time vegans didn’t have to look far for the inspiration behind their latest collaboration. Sitting down for a plant-based meal this past summer, the musicians were struck by the lyric, “A Hymn / Ahimsa,” which is the principle of nonviolence towards all living things. Soon thereafter, their powerful vegan anthem, “A Hymn,” was born.
Particularly inspired by the relationship between mother cows and their calves, the couple’s song is a sweeping and somber tribute to the plight of animals everywhere. The tune is so haunting that it attracted the attention of acclaimed director Liz Marshall (“The Ghosts In Our Machine”) who agreed to direct the song’s music video.
Fittingly, both the single and music video will be released on World Vegan Day, November 1. If you can’t wait that long, you can preorder the song here.
Ecorazzi chatted with the couple about their motivation for becoming vegan, their songwriting process and their ultimate hope for “A Hymn.”
What led you to create Revolution Harmony?
Ray: I am obsessed with inspiring people through music! I was born and raised in South Africa during the apartheid years, ten minutes down the road from a township called Khayelitsha, in Cape Town. The guilt of knowing I was living a privileged life because of my skin color was what got me started on this equal-rights journey. At the same time, I was experiencing first-hand how Lucky Dube (a.k.a. South Africa’s Bob Marley) was uniting people of all colors through his music. This one musician provided me with enough inspiration to last many lifetimes. In 2011, my obsessions with music and charity collided and Revolution Harmony was born, first as a non-profit record label, then it transformed into a series of All-Star charity singles featuring multi-platinum artists, then it grew into a music school, and now it’s a duo with the love of my life!
Your newest song, ‘A Hymn’ is described as a “vegan anthem.” What was the inspiration behind the song?
Ray: As vegans, we’re constantly battling between feeling deeply hopeful and deeply hopeless; this song is the musical mirror of that. It is a lament to all the animals for their suffering, and a plea to all the humans to stop this daily holocaust. ‘A Hymn’ was specifically inspired by the millions of sacred mother-baby bonds being destroyed every day in the dairy industry. There is nothing more traumatic for a mother than having all her babies kidnapped. This is literally unbearable, and we cannot allow it to continue.
How was the songwriting process with this song? Did the words and music come naturally? What was the most important element in the lyric writing?
Kate: Ray and I write all our music and lyrics together. We inspire one another and with Ray’s 30 years of music education and experience, ideas swiftly blossom into their full potential. With ‘A Hymn’ we wanted to evoke a mournful and somber tone to reflect the suffering of animals. Through the use of unusual scales, baroque-style vocal counterpoint, and odd time signatures, the song expresses sorrow as well as hope. Lyrically we were inspired by a biblical passage used by our musical hero J.S. Bach, in his St. Matthew Passion. Even though we aren’t religious, we used that old-fashioned biblical style to add weight to our message.
How did Liz Marshall (The Ghosts In Our Machine) become involved?
Ray: I had the huge honor of meeting the genius Liz Marshall at the premiere of “The Ghosts in Our Machine” in Vancouver, B.C. The following day I was lucky enough to chat with her about the film over a yummy vegan lunch at the Naam. I was beyond inspired by Liz’s artistic approach to animal rights, and I’d hoped “A Hymn” would be the musical equivalent of her beautiful film. So, when it came time to make the music video, Kate and I dreamt of getting someone as talented as Liz to direct it, and with one phone call, we got Liz herself!
What is your ultimate hope for the song?
Kate: This song is a call to action. As the lyrics say, “May twelve save them” (twelve being the 12 notes in music), we hope that this song may save some animals from being raped, tortured and killed for our sake. We want the song to touch people’s hearts, and upon listening we hope they will take a moment to reflect upon how their actions impact the “voiceless.” At the very least, we hope it will start some conversations about our treatment of other sentient beings.
What charities/organizations will benefit from the song’s proceeds?
Ray: The music video for ‘A Hymn’ tells the moving story of Sonny and Fanny, our cover stars, and their inspiring journey into the arms of all the heroes at Farm Sanctuary. With all the streaming and file-sharing these days, it’s almost impossible to recoup your costs from selling music, let alone make a profit. As ‘A Hymn’ is merely a humble song by two unknown vegans, we’re focusing our philanthropic efforts on our next All-Star charity single, which we’re already halfway through recording. It features an exclusive line-up of vegan artists, and will see all the proceeds going to Farm Sanctuary. Yay! And no, I can’t reveal who’s involved yet, sorry, haha! Actually, on that note, we’re still looking for a couple more high-profile vegan artists to feature on the single, so please spread the word.
Both of you are longtime vegans. What motivated you to become vegan?
Ray: Nine years ago this month, I watched a PETA video of a mum cow being separated from her baby; their cries turned me vegan! I’d already been vegetarian for six years before that, but I had no idea the dairy industry was actually worse than the meat industry. Thank you PETA for opening my eyes and empowering me to augment my circle of compassion.
Kate: I went vegetarian eight years ago for the animals and have been eating a mostly vegan diet for the last six. I fully committed to veganism in February when Ray shared with me the horrific conditions of cows and their babies ‘living’ in the dairy industry. I have since done much reading about all the ways humans use and abuse animals. It is heartbreaking to watch the many excellent documentaries on the subject and to know that simple diet and lifestyle choices can literally save lives.
You both lead active lifestyles. How does a plant-based diet help with stamina and energy?
Ray: I’m a sub-19 5K runner, and I’m on Day 360 today of my 5K-a-Day run streak. On October 13th I’ll have been running 5K every single day for a whole year! My diet is about 80% raw, supplemented by a daily selection of tasty Vega treats. I don’t really eat any processed foods any more, though I used to live on those delicious fake meat products; shout-out to local legends Daiya and Gardein. The more I ran, though, the more I craved raw vegetables and fruits. These days I recover almost instantly after my runs, which allowed me to run a big 5K race in Victoria BC over the summer, without tapering. And, I came in 3rd with a sub-20. Yay vegan power! Also, as a full-time musician, I work 12-hour days, six days a week, which I know I couldn’t do if I wasn’t vegan.
What’s your advice for someone who is interested in making the switch to a vegan or vegetarian diet?
Kate: Explore the countless vegan alternatives to meat and dairy products. Get inspired by delicious vegan recipes and replace your favorite meat dishes with vegan ones. Introduce more fruits, veggies and whole foods. Get informed by reading books and blogs about where your food, clothing, accessories and beauty products come from and how they’re made. Watch documentaries like “Forks over Knives”, “Cowspiracy” and “The Ghosts in Our Machine”. Connect with likeminded people who support your choices. Most importantly, keep at the forefront of your mind the animals.
What’s next for Revolution Harmony?
Kate: We will continue making music from the heart, in the hope that it will touch people and make a positive difference in the world. We’re currently rehearsing our next single before heading into the studio to record. It’ll be out on Valentine’s Day, and yes, it’s our love song, haha! Our third single is out in the spring, and we’re aiming to have our debut album out next fall, supported by a West Coast tour. Stay tuned at our website RH12.org.
Watch the trailer for “A Hymn,” here:
Photos: Billie Woods, Jo-Anne McArthur