The Spiritual Warriors have a staggering number of concerts ahead of them this summer.
“Things have been going crazy,” says Leroy Joe, vocalist and guitarist with the group. “We’ve done a bunch of shows already and we have 25 more coming up, all in B.C., starting [in Whistler].”
The impetus for their tour: a new album, called Indigenize, the group’s first since 2019.
While the songs are a combination of new and old, they build on the band’s foundation of mixing world music, reggae, and rock with the Lil’wat Nation’s Ucwalmicwts language.
“We make this music, but also use our language and culture,” Joe says. “It’s contemporary world-reggae-Indigenous.”
The first single, “Oh Ama Sq’it,” available for streaming and download now, is an upbeat track buoyed by harmonious, blended vocals, winding from pop to reggae and back. It’s a tailor-made singalong, even without any working knowledge of Ucwalmicwts.
“That’s the most upbeat one,” Joe says with a laugh. “It’s a real positive, happy song.”
The gist of the lyrics: “How are you today? Let’s dance, let’s sing.”
Four of the album’s tracks are entirely in Ucwalmicwts, at least one tells a traditional story, and two feature guest rappers.
Joe’s daughter, Daisy, a singer in the band, had to learn to rap in order to replicate the latter two live.
“We have one song called ‘St’at’imc,’” Joe adds. “That’s our nation from the north in Pavilion to near west Harrison, where I am right now. That song, I talk about every community—11 communities—our nations within a nation.”
Another track, “Mekisiso,” the Cree word for “golden eagle woman,” is a personal song about Joe’s wife, while Russell Wallace makes a guest appearance (as he has on all their albums) on “Woman’s Honour,” which he wrote with his mother.
Only the single is currently streaming, but the band is gearing up for its official album release with a party at the Maury Young Arts Centre on June 3 at 7 p.m.
The full lineup you can expect to see, alongside Leroy and Daisy, includes Rich Doucet on drums, Cuyler Biller on guitar, Mike Rowe on bass, and Q De Lorenzis on keys.
“I think we’ll play most of the new songs—definitely five or six,” Joe says of the upcoming show. “We’ll play some old stuff, too.”
While they’re combatting a few nerves about their impending travel schedule, which kicks off after the local gig, Joe says it’s also a dream come true.
“It’s our dream. It’s my dream,” he says. “I’ve been doing this a long time and I’ve never had the opportunity to really go on tour and be on the road. I’m looking five years ahead. We’re going to keep going, tour Europe, tour the world.”
He has reason to be optimistic. The last time they put out a record—2019’s Ancestors—the Warriors took home four awards from the Native American Music Awards in New York, including Song of the Year (“This is Our Song”) and Best World Recording.
Since then, Joe has spent time growing the band’s online presence.
“I dug in and it’s really starting to grow,” he says. “What I’m learning is I’m putting in this work and it’s going to pay off. Not that I want to make money at this, but if we can make a bit of a living, or do a bit more with music, go on the road, I think we have a good team here to do that.”
Ultimately, he adds, part of their goal is to continue educating people.
“Especially with Indigenous reconciliation—with Canada, B.C., North America wanting to learn and be educated—a lot of our music is education and history,” he says. “But it’s also for my people to keep the language and some of these songs alive.”
Tickets for the June 3 show are on sale now: $15 for adults or $7.50 for kids at showpass.com/spiritual-warriors.
For more on the band, head to thespiritualwarriors.net.