Limehouse became a touch redder when Peter Snow moved there many years ago. Sometime in 2012, he started an alternative rock band called The Soviet Influence. As the name suggests, it's a band that leans heavily to the left and tries to give voice to workers and issues of social justice.
The song that best describes their political ethos is, perhaps with a small amount of irony, a Christmas tune. “Working on Christmas” is a love letter to “nurses, doctors, porters, cleaners, firefighters, truck drivers, servers, plumbers, electricians, paramedics, all the real workers,” as per the opening lyrics.
“[102.1] The Edge in Toronto played it,” said Snow, the guitarist and vocalist. Exclaim magazine also featured the song in a playlist called “The Holid-Eh List” of Canadian holiday music.
Now with four full-length albums under the group's belt, including last year's new release Thieves of Joy, The Soviet Influence has drawn a following with its sound that the band compares to Radiohead, Bloc Party and The Talking Heads.
If the name Peter Snow sounds familiar, there's a good reason for that. He ran as a candidate for Ward 2 in the last municipal election.
Since then, the psychotherapist and social worker has found a new job with the Canadian Coalition for Seniors’ Mental Health, where he can design mental health policy more broadly.
But despite the band and Snow’s political leanings, The Soviet Influence is not interested in deploying the proletariat against a decadent bourgeoisie. Its message, political or otherwise, is to be kind to one another.
“Part of it is talking about working with people and caring about people,” Snow explained. “In that sense, even the stuff we have that isn't about [politics] is part of that because there's that compassionate piece to it.”
It should be noted that Snow and his band mates are not naive about the reaction a name like The Soviet Influence can garner. He does see the odd comment disparaging the group, but they are mostly observations “like, ‘oh, that's a controversial name.’”
“I think the people that come to see us generally know what we're about. We’re pretty transparent.”
While the band is deeply critical of the policies of western governments like colonialism, Snow doesn't spare the Soviet Union from his critical eye.
“One of the big flaws of the Soviet Union was its imperialism, in my opinion. Same as one of the big flaws of America and one of the big flaws of the UK,” he said.
He said he sees little distinction between the United States and its history of “going into a country to overthrow their government” and the Soviet Union “rolling tanks into Czechoslovakia.”
Snow has been in bands since the age of 16, but became inspired by the 2012 Quebec student protests against the raising of university tuition. He created the album Boundaries, and the very first song on it was called A Song for the Anarchists.
“I have seen the riots on the streets on Montreal,” the song begins. “I’m a messenger and not the enemy,” it continues.
But at the time, Snow was a solo act. As time went on, he leaned more into the project. Bandmates Ty Mackenzie, Steve McFarlane and Sarah Becker joined and The Soviet Influence became what it is today.
Their first live performance in Halton Hills was at the Furnace Room Brewery. They have also performed at Tommy’s Grill in Acton and other municipalities in the area.
The group's full albums and tracks are available on Spotify, Bandcamp and YouTube.
Would-be revolutionaries can also follow the band's work on Facebook, Instagram and its own website.