Arkells recent single Private School took listeners for a surprise, but fans were pretty quick to jump on board. The band enjoys challenging their fans. In their words, “a reaction means you`re challenging people. When you`re not trying, you’re dying.” 

Max Kermen, the lead singer of this Canadian rock band, formed in Hamilton, Ontario, breaks down their new sound, the future of rock, and the Canadian music scene.

Mediaplanet Your recent single, Private School, was completely different and unique from any other Arkells song or sound. What influenced you to make that change and can we expect more of the same on the new album?

Max Kermen We were really excited about not repeating ourselves. I think bands sometimes feel beholden to their fans about the music. But for us, we find a lot of inspiration in other acts not afraid to pivot and try different things. So, yeah — on this record we’re definitely exploring new territory. And, I think that’s one of the most fun things about being in a band: being able to try new things and doing what excites you. That’s sort of how we’ve always operated – just trusted our gut and then put it out in the world and hoped for the best. I think as long as you’re honest with yourself, that’s the best thing you can do as an artist.

MP I know the band  has an incredibly wide pallet of musical influences. Is there a genre that influences you most?

MK: We are, at our core, a rock and roll band – drums, bass, guitar, and keyboard. But, the music we’re interested is much wider. We listen to everything from hip hop to pop, to electronic and singer-songwriter music. And, there’s elements of all of that in our new album. To me, because there’s been so many indie-rock records in the last 30 years, the world doesn’t really need another one. I think it’s way more exciting to create something that uses the principles of rock and roll but takes from other genres as well.

MP On a more serious note, as a Canadian artist, how important is it to give back to the community?

MK: Some doctors and dentists donate their professional time for free to help people in devastating situations. When it comes to services we can offer, being a musician, singing, and dancing for a good cause is the least we can do. We’re happy to participate where ever we can if asked to help out for a cause that’s worthy and needs an extra hand.

MP How would you describe Ontario’s music scene?

MK: It’s small, which I like. You’re never more than one or two degrees from another performer, booking agent, manager, or label. We’ve been doing it for eight years now and we’ve come to meet a lot of good people.

MP: What do you believe has been the greatest contribution that Arkells has made to the Canadian music scene? Have you changed it at all?

MK: We were lucky in the early days to open for bigger bands who we’re kind to us — The Tragically Hip, Sam Roberts, Joel Plaskett — and I think if there’s one thing we’ve passed on to bands that are younger than us, it’s that we’re decent dudes who look out for other acts. I like to think we’ve learnt how to treat other bands you tour with from the older generations. So, when we became headliners, we treated the opening acts right as well. I think that’s one common theme with Canadian bands — everyone is pretty down to earth and is good-hearted.

MP Out of all of your performances across Canada which has been the most memorable?

MK: We’ve been really spoiled when it comes to playing at a lot of awesome shows. Squamish Festival last year was beautiful because we were surrounded by all the B.C. mountains. We did Field Trip, downtown Toronto, which was also awesome. A couple club shows have been great too. We did an event for Fort McMurray this week out of a small 400-cap venue in Calgary, and it was awesome — really exciting to feel an intimate crowd like that, just raging. So, I don’t know which was most memorable — there’s too many to pinpoint.

MP What song is the killer jam for Summer 2016?

MK: Good question — to be honest, the whole Chance the Rapper album is amazing. It’s spectacular and channels everything I like. It’s soulful, it’s funny, there’s an optimism to it but its not too light either. He is talking about real issues. Blessings — that song is great.

MP If you could sum up your experience in Canada’s music scene, what would it be?

MK: Lucky.

MP And, why’s that?

MK: Because there is a lot of really talented musicians that are deserving of writing and making music as a full-time job. I know a lot of them. And, the reality is, a lot of them don’t get to do it. So, we are really lucky to make it our full-time job and make a living from it.


Upcoming Arkells Canadian Performance Dates (Announced):

  • 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 30 - New Glasgow, NS @ The Riverfront Jubilee

  • September 9 – Jackson-Triggs – Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON

Be sure to check out Arkells upcoming album, Morning Report, available August 5th.