Mediaplanet sat down with Arkells frontman, Max Kerman, to talk about their new tour dates and how the band will spend their summer.
How has being Canadian, and your hometown of Hamilton, helped shape your identity as a band?
Hamilton is where the band was born, and it’s where we learned how to perform and write songs. So many of the bands that influenced our sound were Canadian acts touring through town. Every week we’d go see someone new and try to steal some tricks for our own. The city of Hamilton has been so supportive throughout our career, and we celebrate them with our hometown festival “The Rally”. Wherever we are in the world, there’s usually at least one person who’s from Hamilton in the crowd singing along.
Describe the energy and environment found at a summer Arkells show.
I think it’s a healthy mix of joy, sentimentality, with straight up passion. Over the years, we’ve developed an understanding between the band and our crowd which insists that everyone must bring good energy to the night for it to be successful. The show is only as good as the spirit in the air. My favourite part is pointing the mic at the crowd and hearing the power of the audience singing together. I try to keep my eyes peeled for what’s happening on stage and in the crowd that might make the night unique. It’s all about how we’re all interacting with one another.
How does summer touring differ from the rest of the year?
We’re mostly working on the weekends and most of the shows are outside, so if the weather is good, the nights have a magic to them. Canadians really appreciate a perfect summer night. We’ve also gotten pretty good at telling our friends and families that we are unable to attend summer weddings and birthday parties. Those are working hours!
Arkells have just shared a few exciting announcements – a new song & album, “Laundry Pile” and two unique shows in Southern Ontario this July. How are these shows different, and will we hear new music?
We’ve always prided ourselves on being a versatile band. There are so many musical influences that run through our catalogue, but the heart of everything we do comes from the singer-songwriter tradition. We like to believe that all our songs can translate pretty well on an acoustic guitar around a campfire. In 2020, we released Campfire Chords, which was a ‘greatest hits’ of sorts. We loved working on the new arrangements of the songs, and it got us thinking that we should do a concert that honours those versions of our material. That’s what our Campfire Nights shows are going to be about this summer. Something different for our fans to look forward to.
Our new album is called Laundry Pile and it comes out in September. It’s a very intimate, quiet record and we’ll have a couple new tunes out by July that will fit right into the Campfire Nights set.
Why was it important to do these shows outside of a major city?
It’s pretty amazing when you play shows in small communities, and it feels like the entire county comes out to support. My grandmother Laurel Cridland was raised on a farm in St. Williams, just outside of Burning Kiln Winery – one of our Campfire Nights stops. I still have family in that neck of the woods. Playing a show in a unique space out of town also offers an excuse for people to travel and get out of the city to visit places they might not otherwise.
Canadian’s have long awaited these warm summer months, what are some of your favourite summertime activities to do when you’re not performing?
I love the summer in the city. I’m playing in some co-ed softball and flag football leagues. I love bicycling around town. Reading the newspaper on the front porch with the birds. I’m helping my dad coach my nephew on his baseball team. It’s nice to be around town!
If you had to put together a bucket list for fans road tripping to an Arkells show, what would that include?
I’d say you should tweet at the band and ask for recommendations about where to eat and hang along the way to your destination. Make a playlist with all your favourite Arkells songs. Download some episodes of The Best Hang Podcast – it’s a show I co-host with some pals. And that should just about cover it.