Russell Township, Ohio
Are you looking for music that will grab hold of you and keep you on your toes… where each of the band’s songs has its own unique sound? If you haven’t heard of Arkells yet, then this is the band your brain, ears, and soul have been craving. Check out the below overview of this alternative rock band and interview with Lead Singer Max Kerman.
Hailing from Hamilton, Ontario – about an hour outside of Toronto – the guys of Arkells have created a sound that is magnetizing and addictive, and not quite comparable to any other band. The Arkells’ music is a unique mix of intriguing lyrics and incredible vocals with engaging beats and melodies. Listen to Leather Jacket from the album High Noon and the band’s latest single Knocking at the Door and you might find yourself playing the tunes over and over again.
Already huge in Canada, Arkells, an extremely impressive and captivating alternative rock band, has won four Juno awards (Canadian version of Grammy), including Group of the Year in 2012 and 2015, and Rock Album of the Year in 2015. As the band grows in popularity in the US, do you realize what this means? Music lovers in the US need to go see the band now before they start selling out huge arenas across the country. Finishing up a few shows in August, the band will tour the US in the fall. Be on the lookout!
High energy, huge talent, impressive stage presence, amazingly great sound, completely engaging… these are some of the words that describe an Arkells concert. With Max Kerman on vocals and guitar, Mike DeAngelis on guitar and backing vocals, Nick Dika on bass, Tim Oxford on drums, and Anthony Carone on keyboard and backing vocals, the band is constantly moving on stage, dancing, and grooving to the tunes. The audience is drawn in, and cannot help but get involved and start moving, too. From old fans to new, manic jumping dancers to those gently rocking out, the crowds are completely enthralled by the Arkells’ performances.
I had the fortunate experience to interview Max Kerman, Arkells lead singer, after the band’s incredible performance at LaureLive 2017 (see LaureLive article). Check out the Q & A below!
Tell me a little about Hamilton, Ontario.
I grew up in Toronto, actually, but I went to Hamilton for college. It’s an industrial city, but changing. There’s a lot of emphasis on secondary education and healthcare now… kind of like in the way that Pittsburgh changed.
I really enjoy it… There are a lot of great bands that tour through Hamilton. When we were first starting the band – in the mid-aughts – we saw all these legendary Canadian bands that shaped the way we think about performing and songwriting.
How often do you play in Canada? More so than in the US?
We played more in Canada starting out, and then we started touring down in America. There are a lot more places to play down here, and it’s an easy enough drive.
You’ve got to put in the time if you want to see things grow. You can’t expect to show up at a town and have a thousand people show up at the gig. But, I like that about the work. If you put in the time and keep delivering, it will grow. In our experience, if you keep on putting in good work, you can turn around in a few years and go, “Ah ok, we built something.”
Is it exciting to play at festivals like LaureLive, Bunbury, and Coachella?
We look at a festival set as an opportunity to win over new people because there are a lot of people who are here to take in the weekend, see a bunch of bands, and discover new bands. They specifically come because they have one or two bands that they really like, and then they’re interested in learning about new music. If we can win over those fans, and have them come out to the next show, that’s awesome.
How do you write songs? Is there a process that you follow?
It’s always sort of on my brain, and I think part of songwriting is just taking in as much as you can. You just learn and think of ideas through osmosis… by listening to a lot of new records, and reading a lot. I think all that stuff is helpful. And, then you have to be inspired to write about something that moves you. So, I’m always sort of jotting down little ideas on my phone throughout the day. And, then when I have a chance to sit at a piano, I can start to try to make sense of it. Sometimes it comes, most of the time it doesn’t come, but, that’s OK.
Do you ever get writer’s block? (I do sometimes.)
Nah. I feel like writer’s block is how you choose to frame the story. I try not to think about the idea of writer’s block. I just think about putting in the work, and results will come. Stephen King has a good book, On Writing… check it out! It’s a pretty helpful little toolkit.
Excellent, thank you! Have you ever thought about creating a completely different style of music, like country for instance?
I think we have a pretty good variety in our music, so I never feel too constrained to what people feel Arkells should sound like. In our set today, the last song had a really gospel-y part to it. The second song we played has a two-step country thing to it. We’re definitely influenced by a lot of genres.
How do you feel about touring? Pure adventure or a hassle?
One of the charms of the job is that there is a variety. You get to be at home, and once you’re at home for too long, you get the itch to get back on the road. And, then once you’ve been on the road for a couple of weeks, you kinda want to get home. I like the fact that I don’t have a typical 9 to 5 job. I genuinely like the travel. There are definitely days where you get a little homesick, but then the trade-off is worth it.
Do you have a favorite venue?
In Buffalo, there’s a venue called the Town Ballroom. That’s my favorite. I recommend you check it out.
(Note: Arkells are playing in Buffalo at Artpark on Saturday, August 19, 2017, so you all might want to check out the band!)
I will for sure! What do you like to do for fun or adventure outside of music?
I’m a big sports fan, so if we have an off day on tour, we’ll go see a baseball game or basketball game.
What was your first concert, who were you with, and where was it?
It was with my parents at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, a big arena. It was Weird Al!
Do you ever get to see concerts?
Yeah… lately I’ve been into stuff that’s a little outside the indie rock genre, because we’re around that a lot. So, we played Coachella a month ago and we got to see Lady Gaga and Lorde. That was really exciting. They deliver a different show and I’m always looking for little tricks to take from everybody, even if it’s a different genre altogether. You can kind of steal it and make it your own. I think it’s a good thing to do.
We loved the Elton John music that Keyboardist Anthony Carone played earlier. Do you ever play any other covers?
We do a whole Motown set. You can check it out online. (Nici Note: Wow! Max can really belt out these tunes, and the band nailed it!)
Is there anything else that you would want your fans to know?
Just that we’ll be on tour in the fall!
We want Cleveland or Akron on the tour list, OK?
You got it!