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Catching Up With Arkells at Mo Pop

One of the bands I was most excited to see at Mo Pop is the rock band, Arkells. Hailing from Hamilton, Ontario, band members Max Kerman, Mike DeAngelis, Nick Dika, Tim Oxford, and Anthony Carone are quickly taking over the alternative rock scene. They are 4-time Juno Award winners for categories such as “Breakout Group of the Year” in 2010, “Rock Album of the Year” in 2015 for their album High Noon, and “Group of the Year” both in 2012 and 2015. They have topped the charts with singles “Leather Jacket,” “11:11,” “Private School,” and “Knocking at Your Door” from both their 2014 album High Noon and 2016 album Morning Report. From witnessing their insane energy and talent in their set at Mo Pop, I have no doubt that we will be hearing a lot more from them in the future. I was lucky enough to get the chance to interview frontman Max Kerman before his show. We discuss the band’s new album, Detroit music, and the Arkells’ ever strengthening versatility in their music.

Most of you met each other in college. When did you decide to take the leap and be a full-time rock band?

We were playing throughout college and a lot of young people have to go through that decision to either carry out with the band or find a real job. We got lucky that we were offered to work with a label and a manager right out of college, so we never really had to make that decision, and even when we did have to make that decision, nothing was really certain, but it has all generally gone in the right direction since we started. We were really lucky with the timing of how things evolved for us.

How has your music evolved since you first began playing music together and what direction do you see your music going to in the future?

I think every passing year, our tastes just kind of evolve and grow. I’d say when we first started the band, are tastes were a lot more narrow and we had a specific sound that we were like “Oh this is what we like, this is who we are” but as we get older, I think I appreciate more and more music. I think as a result, each record sounds pretty different from new influences that have come into our life which I think keeps the music exciting and interesting.

As a band, you’ve covered numerous Motown hits. What is it about the music of Motown that resonates with you as a band and how does that love for Detroit music translate into your performance at Mo Pop?

Well my dad went to Wayne State University in Detroit, so when I was a kid, I had a lot of Motown in the house. Those were some of my earliest memories of music and those songs are timeless.  They never get old for me, so it was a big part of my childhood. I have a real affection for soul bands and soul music because it’s passionate music; It’s very earnest. You don’t put on a front, you get to be your most passionate self and I think that I relate to that a lot as a performer.

Your latest album Morning Report has been described as rule-breaking due to its stray from a single musical template. Do you agree?

Yeah, I agree that like, we don’t necessarily fall into the cliches that rock n roll bands might fall into. I think we kind of have a sense of humor which you don’t get a ton of in rock n roll and we’re not afraid to experiment. There are a lot of amazing experimental rock bands, so I don’t want to say that we’re the cutting edge or anything because I don’t think we are. I think that some people may have an idea of what we ought to sound like and we don’t really care about that.

Your song Drake’s Dad talks about the crazy parties and road trips you’ve been on. What event inspired this and what details/story of these parties were left out of the song?

The song sums it up pretty good. That road trip was a bachelor trip I took with 17 friends down in Nashville, Memphis, and Louisville. I like road trips because anything can happen. That’s sort of the point of the song. Anything can happen when you go out there in the world and it’s also really nice to have someone at home who you can crawl into bed with.

The first single of a band’s new album sets the tone and acts as a catalyst to their new sound. What made you want to release “private school” as the album’s first single?

I think Private School is pretty different for us. I think I sing a little differently. It’s kind of a bone-headed song which we were excited to try, and I think whether you like it or not, the first song on an album is going to set the tone and say something about the rest of the songs, so I like the idea of trying to do something a little different to say this isn’t just like the last thing you heard, this is a brand new chapter.

I heard 11:11 and Knocking at Your Door on the radio many times and I was actually shocked when I figured out that they were both Arkell’s songs. Yet despite their differences, I love both of those songs. How do you think this versatility strengthens all of you as a band and why is it important to stray from the sound that fans are expecting?

Yeah, I think it goes back to what I was saying earlier about having a wide variety of influences and I think that the artists I admire the most are ones that are eclectic. If you think about the Beatles or [David] Bowie or Kanye West and go through their discography, there’s cohesion, but it doesn’t all sound exactly the same. I think we like to branch out and do maybe some poppier and dancier music and then something somber and then something pretty heavy and rocking.

As a whole, what message do you want Morning Report to give to listeners?

I think that there isn’t a singular message, just that humans are complicated. I think that there are a few different parts to any person and I think that the record embodies that idea that there are some serious moments, heartbreaking moments, but there are also some really fun and joyous moments too. So I think that you get a little bit of everything on it.

Is there anything else you want to add to say to fans?

We’re going to be back in Detroit at the Majestic Theatre November 2nd, so I’ll see you then.

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