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Lead singer Max Kerman talks about the band’s success, treasured frosh memories

When Arkells played Fedstock in 2013, they established themselves to a generation of Gee-Gees as one of the most exciting live acts around. Now, three years later, they’re returning to campus for a much-anticipated encore.

On Sept. 8, Arkells are back in the city to headline the uO Show—a frosh week favourite.

“These frosh week shows are a really great opportunity to have a long-term effect on people,” says lead singer Max Kerman, who attended McMaster University in Hamilton. “I remember being in first year and going to see Sam Roberts Band or Bedouin Soundclash, and those are bands that mean a lot to me still … If we can do that for somebody else, then that’s awesome.”

With four albums packed with hit singles, Kerman admits it’s getting increasingly difficult for the band to narrow down a setlist. These days, fans can expect “a good mix of tunes from each record,” balancing singles, “deep cuts … and some surprises too.”

The band’s songwriting has evolved steadily throughout their career, with their latest album Morning Report incorporating an even wider array of musical influences.

“I don’t think our records sound too similar because we’ve always expanded our music palette,” Kerman explains.

“What would Kanye do here? What would Justin Bieber do here? Or, what would The Cars do here? What would Elvis Costello do here? And those are influences that weren’t necessarily on earlier records, but we talked about them on this record as we created the songs.”

Arkells’ hyper-specific lyrics come from sources closer to home.

“I have a really interesting group of friends and interesting characters in my life,” Kerman says. “Whether it’s roommates of mine, or family members, usually you can pull interesting stories out of what they’re doing.”

The Hamilton natives have also been accumulating some great (and quintessentially Canadian) stories from the road—exploring Germany with Billy Talent and hanging out with The Tragically Hip.

“Paul (Langlois) their guitar player would be out by the exit smoking most of the time, so we’d huddle around him … and we’d shoot the shit.”

According to Kerman, the secret to Arkells’ enduring success is that they like working together, and respect one another’s opinions.

“I think that’s what gets the best out of the music and performances—that everyone’s willing to take constructive ideas.”

He advises aspiring musicians to “try to find people that complement your skillset and that you enjoy working with,” and to “try to make it as fun as possible.”

“If you’re able to highlight the things you don’t like about performing and try to change that, and try to make it more enjoyable, then your performances will get better,” Kerman explains. “Same thing with songwriting—try to find the part that you’re sort of lacking in, and don’t get discouraged by it, just try to fix that.”

Do they have any big plans to attend to while back in the Capital?

“I heard there’s a good Taco place (on Elgin St.) that I haven’t tried yet,” Kerman says.

uO Show will take place on Thursday Sept. 8 at University Square outside of FSS. Tickets can be purchased online for $5 or at the door for $10.


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