Out­spo­ken Arkells aren’t shy about hold­ing politi­cians ac­count­able

The Peterborough Examiner - - OPINION - GABRIELLE DROLET Gabrielle Drolet is a free­lance writer and a stu­dent at West­ern Univer­sity.

Ev­ery Arkells con­cert has three rules. As front­man Max Ker­man makes his way to the front of the stage, he in­structs the au­di­ence to dance, to live in the mo­ment and — most im­por­tantly — to look af­ter one another, em­pha­siz­ing the im­por­tance of re­spect. But there’s usu­ally a fourth, un­spo­ken rule: when you at­tend one of their shows or lis­ten to their mu­sic, you’re agree­ing to get po­lit­i­cal to a cer­tain ex­tent.

On Thurs­day night, the Hamil­ton­based band kicked off the On­tario leg of its Rally Cry tour in Lon­don, Ont. The high-en­ergy show fea­tured po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated songs like “Peo­ple’s Champ” and “Whistle­blower” — songs that are as­so­ci­ated with the abuse of author­ity from politi­cians like Premier Doug Ford and Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, and the im­por­tance of hold­ing truth to power, re­spec­tively.

While th­ese songs and per­for­mances are im­plic­itly po­lit­i­cal, the band has been ex­plicit about its po­lit­i­cal opin­ions. At a time when the On­tario gov­ern­ment chal­lenges fund­ing to the arts, with Ford’s Con­ser­va­tives cut­ting the On­tario Mu­sic Fund by more than half, it feels more im­por­tant than ever that artists with plat­forms be out­spo­ken.

Last week, Ford crit­i­cized Hamil­ton’s NDP rep­re­sen­ta­tion, stat­ing that “the so­cial­ists have de­stroyed Hamil­ton.” Arkells fired back on Twit­ter: “Some might say the for­tune of rust belt cities has some­thing to do with glob­al­iza­tion, and pri­vate busi­nesses aban­don­ing their work­ers for cheaper labour. But sure, let’s blame it on the so­cial­ists.”

This isn’t the first time Arkells have openly crit­i­cized those in power or talked about pol­i­tics. In Fe­bru­ary, the band’s “Re­lent­less” be­came a bat­tle cry for fam­i­lies that were im­pacted by Ford’s cuts to the On­tario Autism Pro­gram.

One of their hit songs, “Knock­ing at the Door,” was orig­i­nally writ­ten in re­sponse to the 2017 women’s marches. The band has sup­ported or­ga­ni­za­tions like Rain­bow Rail­road and the Cana­dian Coun­cil for Refugees. It has been open about the im­por­tance of us­ing its plat­form to high­light po­lit­i­cal sit­u­a­tions it finds im­por­tant.

The mem­bers of Arkells are far from be­ing the only peo­ple work­ing to hold elected of­fi­cials like Doug Ford ac­count­able, or to openly dis­cuss po­lit­i­cal is­sues. Those im­pacted closely by po­lit­i­cal in­jus­tice and the abuse of gov­ern­ment tend to be those to speak out first. But self-ad­vo­cacy can get ex­haust­ing, es­pe­cially when it feels like change isn’t com­ing or no one is lis­ten­ing.

Arkells could eas­ily stay quiet and turn a blind eye to in­jus­tices. In­stead, the band mem­bers use their priv­i­lege and their plat­form to do what should be the bare min­i­mum: to open up di­a­logue and to rally Cana­di­ans be­hind is­sues that mat­ter.


Arkells don’t hes­ti­tate to crit­i­cize po­lit­i­cal lead­ers, in song, Twit­ter and be­yond.

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