by Robert Defina



Hamilton’s Arkells have been riding an incline for quite a while now. Their debut record Jackson Square allowed for a modest entry to the Canadian music scene, and with one door open came many more. “Whistleblower” led the charge for their sophomore release, Michigan Left, a record vocalist Max Kerman said was “more ‘80s” compared to the others. The Arkells’ success broadened, perhaps to its widest extent, with their third record High Noon, a synth-charged beast that capitalized on Arkells’ signature to make catchy Indie Alternative Pop Rock (or whatever genre you want to call it), producing a few hit singles that received wide acclaim, most notably last summer’s hit “Leather Jacket.” Slowly, the band has become more and more of a household name, gradually improving their sound over the years and reeling in new listeners at every turn.

Now, the band is preparing for their fourth release, Morning Report, an album which they promise is their most dynamic. I had the pleasure of sitting down (divided by a 13-hour time difference and a Skype call) with Kerman to discuss where the band has been and where it plans to go with Morning Report.

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“Each record, we’ve had different influences” Kerman noted, “Jackson Square was more Indie Rock and reflected what we were listening to at the time,” citing bands such as Wintersleep and the Constantines. “We’re big music fans. We’re always looking to discover new music.” The Arkells seem more interested in painting with the entire musical palette rather than worrying themselves with a consistent sound. “Morning Report is our most dynamic record yet. We’ve got horns on there. There’s gospel sounds.”

This is what Kerman believes encapsulates Arkells. “We’ve never really been part of a scene… We have more of a populous [fan base], which reflects the music we like. We are a populous band because we appreciate different types of genres and people. We never feel like we are pigeonholed.”

All of this variation manages to translate well to the live atmosphere. “Our live shows have always been cohesive. The songs always meet in the middle. Tony [Carone] and Mike [DeAngelis] dial in sounds to replicate the record on stage. We are all about rambunctious live Rock ‘N Roll. We like to turn up, have a good time and make a it a bit of a party.”

This attitude is something the band strives for. “Rock ‘N’ Roll used to be about pushing the boundaries,” he said, “but that’s not really there anymore. I think the culture leans more towards EDM because those genres move really quickly.” Kerman even compliments Kanye West. “[He] makes aggressive, kind of hilarious, weird sounds. He embodies the ‘I don’t give a f**k attitude’. He is rock ‘N’ Roll.”

In their own way, the Arkells are finding this sweet spot of Rock ‘N’ Roll artistry. “We typically don’t worry about the competitive aspect of music. We just try our best to do our best job… Any time you start chasing after something someone else wants then you’ve probably already failed because the music shows the faults. We try to write what is exciting for us.”

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So, when it came to Morning Report, Kerman tells us that the songs “come from an honest place… They’re about my friends, my girl, the people in my life.” The album channels the feelings of sending a text the morning after. “It’s about recounting the trouble from the night before. Great stories come from that.” And that doesn’t always indicate positive, laugh-along fun vibes. “The first batch of songs started with acoustic break-up demos [but] there are too many sad mopey white guys singing songs these days.” That mantra led to the next batch of songs being “more fun” than the others. As a whole, Kerman describes Morning Report as  “eclectic with intimate quiet moments but also jubilant joyful community Rock vibes.”

This statement seems to fit when considering “Private School,” the record’s lead single and wonderfully layered track most appropriately described as a not-taking-itself-too-seriously good time. Even furthering this cause is the opener “Drake’s Dad,” which is about exactly what you think it is. “I took a road trip with 16 friends, we rented three mini-vans” – the math checks out – “and on our first night we were in Memphis getting ‘drunk on friendship’ and we saw Drake’s dad at a bar so we introduced ourselves. We even took photos with him. He was a really nice guy. On the second night in Nashville we ran into 100 bachelorette parties.” The wild parties and experiences in Nashville amounted to a chorus that “finishes with crawling into bed.” But, all in all, the song is “about the joyfulness of friendship and deeply appreciating the lighthouse that is your partner. You can go out and have a good time but they are always shining in the distance.”

As for the rest of the record, Kerman says, “‘My Heart’s Always Yours’ is a straight-up jam and is the easiest to like.” Then there’s “Savannah,” which Kerman believes was one of the most difficult tracks the band has worked on. “‘Savannah’ was demoed for High Noon and we had like six different versions of it but nothing hit the sweet spot. Sometimes songs have to ferment. You have to let other music go before another song can take shape.” When it comes down to pushing their boundaries, Kerman says “Round and Round” is the track to keep your eye out for. “It requires the most payoff. You may have to listen to it a couple of times… but it’s one of the most dynamic songs we’ve done.”

The record is certain to deliver different notes for Arkells. While changing soundscapes doesn’t always fire on all cylinders for every band, Kerman is confident in the Arkells’ songwriting success. “It’s always been my belief that you work your ass off and you take everything in as a student of music and you write your best song and then after that it’s not up to you.”

Morning Report will be released on August 5, 2016, and Arkells promise they have something special planned for Toronto fans in the fall.

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Upcoming Tour Dates

June 25 – Kirkland Lake, ON @ Kirkland Lake Community Complex
July 14 – Pemberton, BC @ Pemberton Music Festival
July 23 – Oro-Medonte, ON @ WayHome Music and Arts
July 24 – Rock The Shores @ Colwood, BC
July 28 – Chicago, IL @ Lollapalooza Festival
July 30 – New Glasgow, NS @ The Riverfront Jubilee
August 21 – Leipzig, GR @ Highfield Festival
August 23 – London, UK @ Lexington
August 25 – Ubersee, GER @ Chiemsee Summer Fest
September 9 – Jackson-Triggs – Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON


Pre-Order Arkells Morning Report Here

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