On November 11th, in a midst of my assignment week, I took some time out to speak to Arkells, a Canadian band who are making waves across Europe.
I headed down to Electrowerkz, Islington to meet the band I have been playing on repeat on Spotify all week, and to interview Arkells frontman Max Kerman. We sat in an urban courtyard with vintage bicycles and fairy lights hanging over our heads chatting about their tour, new album and some interesting pre-show rituals.
So, how’s the tour been going so far?
It’s been going great! This is kind of a relatively short run in Europe, typically we’re here for 3 weeks or a month, but it’s only 12 days, which is kinda nice actually.
We had a great show in Berlin, probably the biggest one there yet, which is great because, you know, we tour a lot in North America and over here we haven’t toured as much.
We also played this festival near the Baltic Sea in Germany called The Rolling Stone Weekender Festival.
That’s fantastic; I heard it’s a great festival!
Yeah it’s awesome! We got to see Alabama Shakes and a bunch of other great bands.
Are you working on any new material?
Well, we’re always working on new material, but we just spent a couple weeks in the studio before we left for this tour and when we get home, we’re gonna be recording some more.
So, it’s definitely kind of a busy time! It’ll hopefully be out mid-2016.
Great! So, what advice would you have for people who want to start their own bands?
Oh nice! I think it’s really good to be persistent, and not dwell on the rejections, because everybody gets rejected all the time, and I think it sort of hard to not take it personally, especially if you’re starting out.
Just put your head down and keep up the work, don’t dwell too much on negative news and focus on what you can do.
Focus on the dream!
I think that’s the best piece of advice. We still get turned down and rejected all the time, we just don’t get discouraged and move onto the next thing!
Nerves of steel!
Yeah, you just gotta keep moving forward. The other thing is to put yourself out there as much as possible, and don’t be afraid to introduce yourself to people. To, you know, go to lots of shows and become a part of the culture.
Do you think your music carries a message?
I think some of our songs talk about political things that are important to us, and just some songs admire other people. There are some self-reflective songs, some love songs or some about the importance of friendships.
Our latest record, ‘Crawling Through the Window’ is a song about a friend, and then another, like ‘Book Club’ is just about driving around with your friends.
So I think there’s a little tone to it, like ‘down to earth’. I appreciate that quality in other people.
How do you write a song?
I’m definitely always taking notes on my phone, writing down themes or just phrases that I think are interesting, or picking up what my friends say, or the things we’ve been through together.
Let’s talk about the new album. High Noon really differs to Michigan Left. Do you think your music has evolved?
Well it’s always a little hard for us to tell how it’s going to be perceived, since we’re inside of it, but like that they don’t sound too much alike. When we were making Michigan Left, we were in different spaces, I mean we’ve grown a couple years in age, and listened to new artists.
I mean we don’t sit around and listen to the same million records all day, there’s always new music to discover, I think that influences the way we write. Some of my favourite bands have made a dramatic shift record to record, and that’s just natural.
Oh really? Who are some of those influences?
From The Beatles to Kanye West, they’ve all made changes. David Bowie is a great example. There’s tons of great bands that kinda changed..
What about the music industry? Do you feel like it has changed since Arkells formed?
I think it has changed a lot because of technology. We formed in 2008, and I don’t think Twitter really existed and Instagram definitely didn’t exist. All the ways to get your music out there have changed. We’re lucky to be employed in it, this is our job and I think we do our best with what we’ve got.
I mean some things if you wanted you can ‘groan’ about you could, but for us it’s … you gotta play the hand that you’re given, so we feel pretty fortunate.
Do you have a pre-show ritual?
[Laughs] We do! We always put our hands in, and do like a cheer – but everyday it’s different. Usually it’s just some nonsensical thing across that day. So tonight it might be something like “Jolly ol’ chap!”
So to conclude, are you looking forward to the show?
Yeah we are! Every time we come back it gets a little bit bigger, the shows get a little more exciting – I think it’s going to be like that tonight.
Thank you very much Max!
Thanks for coming over!
For upcoming tour dates, music and more head to Arkells’ website. Listen to ‘Leather Jacket’ below via Soundcloud.