Punk band driven by social justice concerns

Matt Gardner
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For some rock bands, music is primarily a source of entertainment or escape.

But for Medicine Hat-based punk group The Social Threat, it carries a much deeper significance.

“We kind of wanted to tackle social justice issues and be a band that has a message,” drummer and primary lyricist Kyle Hodgman said.

“There’s nothing wrong with just having fun,” he added. “But we’ve got an opportunity. We’ve got a stage and we’ve got a chance to say something, so we wanted to take it.

“We … always wanted to have a message about not putting up with the crap that we see in the world, not putting up with the status quo, trying to equip and … encourage and mobilize people to actually do something.”

Local audiences will be able to hear the band’s message for themselves again this Saturday, as The Social Threat headlines an all-ages punk rock show at the New Life Indian Alliance Fellowship.

For two members of the band -- which also includes frontman Wade Hodgman on lead vocals and guitar and Kaleb Motz on bass -- their first Prince Albert show in almost a year represents a homecoming of sorts.

Both Wade and Kyle attended Carlton Comprehensive Public High School in their teen years, during which they channeled their love of punk rock into an early band.

“Growing up, for me and Wade, MxPx was like the first punk band that we heard,” Kyle recalled. “As soon as we heard that, it was like nothing that we’d ever heard before. We were hooked and we loved it.

“Me and Wade were in a punk band when we were in high school at Carlton. I think Wade was actually in Grade 8 or 9 -- he wasn’t even going to Carlton and we played a handful of shows at Carlton, and that was what we were trying to play.

“From early on, it was just punk rock,” he added. “The genre kind of chose us.”

It was after the two moved to Medicine Hat that Kyle Hodgman found himself in the same program as Motz studying graphic design.

After about a month, they decided to jam and see what would happen.

“Kaleb … listened to some of the same stuff that we did growing up, but he was listening to more of like the metal and the hardcore stuff,” Hodgman said.

“Then we started jamming and he was just like, ‘Yeah, I don’t know, I guess this is fun’ -- and the more and more we did it, the more and more he came to love it.”

Months after their formation, The Social Threat released their first, self-titled EP in 2010, which was followed a year later by their independently-released full length debut album Protest Songs.

We … always wanted to have a message about not putting up with the crap that we see in the world, not putting up with the status quo, trying to equip and … encourage and mobilize people to actually do something. Kyle Hodgman

The band’s upcoming Prince Albert concert is one of several concerts leading up to the release of their second EP, Even Honest Talk Is Cheap -- set for release on March 14.

“This is a little bit of a pre-release show,” Hodgman said. “So it’ll be available to the people at the show before pretty much anyone else.”

While The Social Threat have earned a reputation, in the words of Calgary promoter Michael Gray, as “one of the hardest-working bands in Alberta” through their relentless touring, the band took considerable time off to write and record its new material.

More than eight months in the making, their latest recording promises both musical growth and a slight shift in lyrical focus.

“On the last record, we were more like, ‘Here’s an anti-war song, here’s an anti-starvation song, here’s an anti-political corruption song,’” Hodgman said. “We were kind of tackling the topics and I think with this record, we’re trying to tackle the attitudes and be a little bit more personal … because sometimes we don’t see the crap that’s going on.

“Sometimes it’s as small as bullying or just those kinds of things in people’s everyday lives -- and it’s still the same message, it’s just applied to different situations. So we were trying to make it a little bit more personal … something that people can connect to a little bit more immediately.”

Despite his more personal lyrics this time around, the drummer made it clear that the band’s commitment to social justice has not waned one iota.

For its current tour, The Social Threat has partnered with the non-profit organization International Justice Mission, which works to end slavery and sex trafficking around the world and reunites exploited children with their families.

“They’re an amazing organization, and it kind of ties in with a lot of what we sing about and what we care about,” Hodgman said.

“They have a campaign coming up right away, so we’ll have petitions at the shows for all the shows that we’re doing for our EP release, just trying to get some action moving.

“It’s a quick and easy way to get people involved in something bigger than themselves.”

Tickets for Saturday’s show -- which also features Royce Viklund, Promise in Polaroids and Calin Benjamin’s Problems -- cost $10. Doors are set to open at 7 p.m.

Organizations: Prince Albert, New Life Indian Alliance Fellowship, Carlton Comprehensive Public High School

Geographic location: Medicine Hat, Calgary, Alberta Polaroids

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