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Get to Know the Rock Band the Arkells

Frontman Max Kerman discusses the band’s newest album Morning Report and his favorite pop song at the moment

This five-piece band from Hamilton, Ontario began jamming together in the late 2000s. Since then, the Arkells have garnered international praise for their politically charged lyrics, catchy hooks and infectiously high-energy stage presence. 

In the past two years, the Canadian group has been a regular in the American music festival circuit and is slated to play the NHL Centennial Classic on January 1, 2017 in Toronto with multi-platinum recording artist Bryan Adams and country rock group Cold Creek County.

Although the Arkells have been around for nearly a decade, their newest album Morning Report shows the band in their most vulnerable and honest state. With transparent tracks like “Passenger Seat” and “Come Back Home” you’ll hear frontman Max Kerman spilling his heart. Continue listening and you’ll hear Kerman’s sense of humor come through in “Drake’s Dad.”  We caught up with Kerman and he discussed the new album and the band’s success in America.

How has touring been this past year?

So I think that success is very relative. We’ve always been super grateful for all of the opportunities we’ve had in Canada from playing festivals and shows. The next step, though, is always going to be trying to achieve that success in America. America is such a competitive place and there are so many talented bands. This year we had a chance to play Lollapalooza, Bonnaroo and Firefly Festival, and play in these great venues with some awesome people. We’re going to be playing with Frank Turner early next year. Basically we were really happy to have our shot this year because a lot of bands don’t even get a shot.

Image Credit: Matt Barnes

What have been some of your most memorable performances throughout this tour?

There are some legendary venues we’ve been able to play like Massey Hall in Toronto, Canada. We headlined two nights there this past November. Normally I don’t care about that stuff, like the expectations that come along with a performance. Going into that one though, I was a little stressed. Especially because it was a seated venue and you never know how that’s going to go. Everyone stood though and it was a good time. 

What are your favorite songs to perform live?

When you play a new record, you kind of have an idea about how songs are going to come off live. But you don’t really know until you start playing them. There’s this song called “A Little Rain” that we’ve been opening a lot of the shows with and that song is one I didn’t predict would be such a crowd-pleaser. Our single right now, “My Heart’s Always Yours” has also been pretty fun. There’s a trumpet solo in the bridge that we made Anthony our keys player learn how to play. He played trumpet in high school so we made him break it back out.

Are there any songs on your new record that are difficult to perform?

I think all of the newer songs are proving to be tough. We have a lot of stuff going on from different drum patterns to gospel chants we’re triggering. I think after a few months of touring with a new record it gets easier but for a while it’s weird. 

Morning Report cover art

What has been the highlight of your career so far?

There have been so many moments over the past ten years. I remember the first show we ever played at a small pub in Hamilton and we were so amped that we were playing the same stage as the big local bands. Then it became, ‘I can’t believe we’re on the same festival bill as Pearl Jam.’ I think the most recent thing was the Massey Hall shows. It really is just such a legendary and historic venue. It was where Neil Young made a live record. 

Image Credit: Matt Barnes

What is a band or artist that fans would be surprised to hear you listen to?

The song “Starving” by Hailee Steinfeld. I love that song. Also “Black Beatles” by Rae Sremmurd featuring Gucci Mane. There’s also a lot of really good Canadian pop music right now from Beiber to Alessia Cara.