‘No Hot Cargo’ gives a nod to Saint John’s political demonstrators, past and present.
It’s been over two years since Saint John rock quintet The Backstays have released new music. Following the release of their debut self-titled EP in August 2018, the band focused much of their time performing throughout the Maritimes. Starting 2021 on a productive note, the group have today released their new single No Hot Cargo, recorded and co-produced with Hey Rosetta!’s Romesh Thavanathan.
“The song was inspired by the small-but-mighty protests in Saint John, against Canada’s arms trade and the sale of Light Armoured Vehicles (LAVs) to Saudi Arabia while it inflicted war upon Yemen,” said the band’s Pete Johnston. “These combat vehicles are made in Ontario, and have been quietly shipped out of the Port of Saint John for the past few years.”
Similar hot cargo protests led to a labour strike at the Saint John docks in the late 1970s, when workers refused to load a $120 million shipment destined for a nuclear reactor in Argentina, where a military coup overthrew the country’s government.
“The line ‘If we’re ever gonna wake the dead’ is a nod to activists everywhere trying to resurrect worker solidarity and organize broad worker coalitions,” said Johnston. “No Hot Cargo mourns the decline of labour unions in recent decades; the roll-back of democratic bargaining rights and the rise of neoliberal capitalism in Canada. I think a lot more people are realizing we have some very serious fundamental problems, and one of the foremost is how do we take power away from these unaccountable billionaires.”
The single is the first song to surface from the band’s forthcoming album Tributaries, expected to be released later this year.
Band photo by Graeme Stewart-Robertson.