The Arkells play Fedstock, reminisce about undergrad
Photo by Tina Wallace
“MCMASTER UNIVERSITY BROUGHT the Arkells together,” Arkells’ lead singer Max Kerman told a crowd of anxious and excited white-shirted 101ers at Fedstock on Sept. 1.
Kerman, Nick Dika, and Mike DeAngelis met during their own orientation week. They were interested in meeting new people and playing music in university—not unlike many of their peers. They played throughout their undergraduate years, sometimes coming home after shows or recording sessions and writing papers late at into the night.
Going to school at McMaster, they played to a lot of university crowds; there are many campuses within a few hours drive. These experiences gave the band a lot of affection for shows like Fedstock.
Kerman attributes the band’s early success to going to school in Hamilton. It was there that the Arkells were able to open for bands like The Trews, Thornley, and Tokyo Police Club, among others.
“If we were in Toronto, we would have never had a chance to open. It’s just too competitive,” Kerman said in an interview with The Fulcrum backstage. “But in Hamilton, if you can sort of distinguish yourself even a little bit, you’ll get thrown on these bills as the local opener.”
The band acknowledges their luck in having had the opportunity to play full-time after graduation. In 2007, Dine Alone Records showed interest and they’ve been touring ever since.
From “Book Club,” the first song off the band’s most recent album Michigan Left, to the second encore song “Whistleblower,” the Arkells had this year’s 101ers dancing and screaming along to every word.
The Arkells deliver a live set that cannot be compared to their recordings. With a cover of Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back” and a singalong of “This Little Light of Mine,” the audience was entertained for the full 60–minute set.
“We’re definitely a rock ‘n’ roll band,” said Kerman. But the band has been lucky not to get pigeonholed; in the last year the Arkells toured with The Tragically Hip, Lights, and Billy Talent.
Over the summer, the band focused on its next album, with plans to record in October.
“The ideas usually start with me,” Kerman said of the songwriting process. “There will be some lyrical melody or chord change that I’m excited about.”
He waits for an idea that strikes him poignantly before bringing it to the band to work collaboratively and create something new.
“I don’t bring, like, 15 ideas every day,” he said. “It usually has to be something that I’m pretty stoked about.”
With the material for the new record, Kerman said there is more positivity and a move away from the sarcasm and cynicism that marked many of the Arkells’ earlier albums.
“On the other records, even if it was a love song it was kind of like, ‘This is terrible,’” Kerman said. “But on our next record there are a couple that are genuine, sweet, positive love songs.”
For a band that first met in orientation week and developed as the members continued their studies, it’s not surprising that youthfulness is a recurring theme in Kerman’s songwriting.
“I don’t think I’m at the point where I’m interested in writing about getting older,” Kerman said. “There are some really good albums about getting older, and I like listening to those records, but I don’t think I’m personally in that mindset.”
—With files from Sabrina Nemis