Outspoken Arkells aren’t shy about holding politicians accountable
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.