Imagine the early Arctic Monkeys turning their amps up to 11 in the House of Commons and blowing out the windows. That should give you some idea of the extraordinary sonic power and raw frustration of ‘Broken Ship’, the fourth and final single from AKIVA’s Angelic Studio sessions. Produced by Jake Gordon (Skepta, J Hus, Everything Everything), this intense lamentation of the battered and bewildered nature of Brexit Britain pulses with anger from its bittersweet guitar intro and urgent offbeats to its explosive, indie-rock mass, all spiky guitar stabs, frantic beat, punchy bass and gutsy lead guitar. It’s a brutal musical base for Dave’s high-velocity vocal as he barely pauses for breath while laying into those who’ve acted with impunity as the UK has fractured in recent years. “‘Broken Ship’ is about the importance of consequences for actions,” says Dave, “and how quickly things start to fall apart when these get lost.“
‘Broken Ship’ is a cry of frustration captured in a characteristically striking video by Berlin-based animator Wayne McCauslin. Two years into his creative relationship with the band, he and AKIVA have crafted their third music video. This time McCauslin has switched to a lyric-video format, depicting lines from the song – “When it’s heads you seem to win, But when it’s tails you never lose” – in twisted, luminous typography displayed over scenes of sinking urban decay. As an audio-visual package it’s both a formidable piece of art and a rousing call to arms.
“We’ve always believed music should stand for something and carry a message. There’s a lot to shout about in the world today, and we’ve got a lot to say.” AKIVA
Bedfordshire-based AKIVA comprise friends-since-school Malcolm Carter (guitar, vox), Rob Mercel (bass) and Dave Mercel (drums) alongside singer, guitarist and synth programmer Dave MacKenzie, who hails from England’s northwest. Alongside the anticipated touchstones of pop music excellence – the Stones, Krautrock, Madchester, psychedelia, the rhythmic lyricism of Alex Turner and Courtney Barnett – AKIVA are happy to acknowledge cultural references less readily associated with rock’n’roll, namely UK current affairs programmes Newsnight and Question Time, and the trusty BBC Radio 4. For here is a band who believe that music is a medium for a message, never more so than in these troubled times. “Our songs tend to have a heavy theme of conflict and aggression running through them lyrically,” says frontman Dave MacKenzie. “Grab a beat, a bassline, add a view of the world and you’re on the right track.”
Some of that worldview takes inspiration from band hero George Orwell – his writings informed much of AKIVA’s enthusiastically received 2018 singles ‘M.O.D.’ and ‘Ammunition’, taken from the band’s Jake Gordon-produced Angelic Studio sessions. Themes of conflict, turmoil and social unrest remain prevalent in the quartet’s output and, sadly, there’s no end of material to draw on in 2019. “We’re generally fascinated and a bit terrified at the current state of the world,” says Dave, “and how it resembles the periods running up to the two world wars in terms of huge inequality, segregation and racial tension, and politicians using people’s fears and financial insecurities to whip up a culture of division, mistrust and discrimination. Never in our lifetimes have we seen the levels of social bitterness and division we’re seeing now. Economics has failed the masses, world leaders are at each other’s throats and globalism is cracking. Everywhere you look there is tension.”
In the face of such fear and division, AKIVA have an internationalist message to spread, one delivered via such honest, powerful and euphoric rock’n’roll that the fanbase attuned to that message is swelling by the day.