Gimme Your Answers: An Interview w/ Arkells

Juno Award-winnng artists Arkells release their highly anticipated new record High Noon on August 5th! With the release of the album comes a slew of new European tour dates which will be followed by a North American tour. In our recent phone interview, A Music Blog, Yea? spoke with Arkells frontman Max Kerman to discuss old westerns, movie soundtracks, teaming up with an orchestra, touring advice, and hating green rooms — enjoy!

AMBY: Hey Max, thanks for speaking with me today.

Arkells: Thanks for the love, we appreciate it.

AMBY: It’s our pleasure! There’s been a lot of anticipation leading up to this record, whether it’s the three year wait since your last release to High Noon teasers like seeing the name on license plates. You must be pretty excited to finally release this album.

Arkells: We recorded most of it last October and then one thing led to another. We’re very excited to get back on the horse and start playing new songs live.

AMBY: What were some of the highlights you had while creating High Noon?

Arkells: It’s all kind of blurred to be honest. I don’t remember much about the recording process or making the album. It was back in October and I just remember we worked really hard by going in there every day; we probably had twelve to fifteen hour days most of the time. We really wanted to make the most of the time we had in the studio. I remember more about liking the record. We buckled down in Hamilton, and we like to say we worked nine to five on these new songs, but it’s more like ten to three [laughs].

AMBY: When it comes to the title, what inspired the band to call the new record High Noon? Are you fans of the classic film?

Arkells: I do like westerns and think the album has a cinematic quality to it. There are some really nice musical moments; we hired a string section to play on a number of the songs. I definitely really love music in movies, so maybe one of these days one of our songs will make it into a feature film. Lyrically, it’s one of the lyrics in the song Fake Money. A lot of the songs have a confrontational feel to them and hopefully after the confrontation there will be some clarity. I think we get to the bottom of things on this record, lyrically.

AMBY: On a side note, you mention wanting one of your songs being featured in a feature film. If you had your choice, which film would you love to see your music in?

Arkells: Ohh [laughs]. I love Cameron Crowe movies because they always have great soundtracks. There’s that film Drive with Ryan Gosling and I thought the soundtrack for that was amazing. I don’t know! There’s a movie called Blue Is the Warmest Colour and the music in that is pretty fantastic.

AMBY: On July 11th, Arkells teamed up with The Boris Brott National Academy Orchestra to play four shows in one night which consisted of 50 performers and 70 audience members. How did this big collaboration come together?

Arkells: It was a really cool experience. I think the band’s always interested in trying new things. We’re really lucky to have a bread and butter product that we can kind of play anywhere. We do acoustic things and have collaborated with other singers before. A friend of mine in Hamilton who works with the National Academy Orchestra and asked if we wanted to perform with them in a proper theatre as part of their summer concert series. It seemed like a pretty cool idea but it felt a little too fancy for us. So, we asked if we could do something a little different and put it in a rock and roll venue and make it feel like a punk-rock show. From there, the idea evolved and turned into something really special. I think everyone had a pretty memorable time.

AMBY: Do you think you’ll take part in anything similar in the future?

Arkells: Yea, now that we’ve done it once we kind of understand how it goes. It took a lot of planning and was definitely a little nerve-wracking playing the show; we weren’t exactly sure how it would go. Like everything else, once you do it the first time, it should be easier. I like to think of it as a trick up our sleeves or something we have in our back pocket.

AMBY: With the album’s release comes some new European tour dates. Arkells are known for doing some extensive touring. With all the touring you’ve done, do you have any tips for acts or bands who might be new to hitting the road?

Arkells: We’re sort of learned how to do it over the years and it’s become easier and easier. We understood the things that are annoying about touring and the things you like about touring [laughs]. The trick is, or a suggestion for a younger band, is to immediately identify the parts of touring that are annoying and laborious and will get on your nerves. If there’s a way to eliminate those or smoothen the road, then do it. For instance, when we first started touring, none of us had smartphones. Now we have iPhones and iPads and those types of things which make driving around a little more bearable. So just establishing…

AMBY: Easing the transition.

Arkells: Yea. For instance, I hate band green rooms. I think they’re the most depressing places in the world. They’re usually smelly and if they’re shared between two bands there’s no space. I will not hang out in band green rooms, anywhere else, but no there. That’s good for my mind.

AMBY and Arkells: [laughs]

AMBY: When not on stage, what does the band like to do for fun in a city or town?

Arkells: It depends on the city, but we’re pretty good explorers. We know this job is a lucky one; we get to tour around and travel to places that most people don’t necessarily get to see every day. If we’re in a major city like New York or San Francisco, we always try to rent a bike or find a renowned restaurant or coffee shop and take in the city as much as possible. In Germany, they have really good bike lanes so we always try to ride our bikes there.

AMBY: You’re known for throwing in Mowtown covers to tracks like The Clash’s Rock the Casbah. Can fans expect to hear or see any new covers in the near future?

Arkells: We’ve got something up our sleeves, but I don’t know exactly what the next one is going to be. We’re focused on learning how to play the new stuff! We haven’t had a chance to dip into any covers… yet. I’m sure there will be something.

AMBY: Lastly, what’s something about Arkells that most of your fans don’t know yet?

Arkells: That’s a good question. I think we’re pretty transparent with most of our personalities. The thing people don’t know is… we’re quite hands on as a band. We like to be involved in all aspects – everyone enjoys all aspects of the job. The reason we do it is because we get to write songs and do that on stage, but, there are a lot of parts of being in a band and we’re engaged in all of those parts. We’re grateful for that.


Thank you Arkells, for giving us your answers!

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Interview by Alicia Atout | @AliciaAtout

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