By Keith Sharp
When Arkells’ lead vocalist/guitarist and chief songwriter Max Kerman starts to focus on writing any new project, he taps into ideas, anecdotes and feedback from his friends, family and girlfriends as an inspiration for penning new material.
Titled `Morning Report’, the Arkells’ fourth studio recording sees this Hamilton quartet comprising of Kerman, guitarist Mike DeAngelis, keyboardist Anthony Carone, bassist Nick Dika and drummer Tim Oxford move away from the alt-rock foundation of their first three releases to instead focus on a more adventurous, eclectic direction that balances distinct hip-hop and EDM samplings with a more structured pop styling.
Admitting he was getting tired of the established rock scene, Kerman, in Toronto on a media tour to promote the new release and to also perform with his band at a private contest-winners concert explained he was determined to pushing the envelope with the band’s new project.
“I don’t write music with a particular agenda, I am just chasing new sounds and new agendas that are appealing to me,” explained Kerman. “It’s what compels me to sit down at a piano and hack away at something for a couple of hours.”
The idea behind `Morning Report’ is a system of communication Kerman has with his friends, who continue to trade emails, facebook messages and tweets about what they got up to the night before.
“People think that because I am a songwriter and lead vocalist in a band, that my job is interesting but I find what my friends are doing to be equally of interest,” Kerman explained. “My friends and I will go out at night, but it’s the following morning when we are all asking, `So what did we do last night. “Where did you go at 1:30 in the morning, and what happened to you when you split at 2. That’s my favourite part of going out, our discussions about the morning after.”
“It’s like on one of our new songs “Round And Round”, I’d like to think that in every group of friends, there’s one guy who will get naked if he drinks too much,” laughs Kerman. “The kind of guy that ends up dancing on the couch.”
It is the same friendship spirit that is captured on “Drakes Dad” where Kerman and 15 friends took off in three rental mini vans on a road trip down south to celebrate a batchelor party for one of the group and ended up bumping into Drake’s Dad, Dennis on their first night at a bar in Memphis.
[styled_box title=”The Arkells – Drake’s Dad” color=”black”][/styled_box]
“He couldn’t have been more gracious,” reflected Kerman “Especially considering there were 16 of us, drunk on friendship and cheap American beer.”
This encounter sparked a song about their travelogue experiences continuing on to Nashville and the relief of returning home to their beds in Hamilton. Of course, when Arkells shot the video for “Drake’s Dad”, the record’s second single, they had to return to Memphis to coax Drake’s Dad into the resulting video.
With other songs focusing on relationship breakups and resolutions “Passenger Seat”. “Come Back Home” and the bittersweet “My Heart’s Always Your”, Kerman also shows his creative range by penning the infectious, up-tempo “Private School” and his ode to friendship with “A Little Rain”.
Arkells initially gained traction in 2008 with their debut “Jackson Square” receiving raves from the alt-rock community. Having been recipients of a Juno Award for Top New Group in 2010, the band’s second release “Left Of Michigan” and their third album “High Noon”, continued to be branded alt-rock even though they chalked up Juno wins as Top Canadian Group in both 2012 and 2014.
“We’ve always thought of ourselves as being more than alt rock and it was just a matter of us progressing and pushing new boundaries,” explained Kerman. “When it came to writing songs for the new album, I found myself being influenced by the likes of Kayne West, Elton John, Elvis Costello, even Justin fuckin Bieber. “We wanted to take our rock roots and evolve our sound to incorporate what is new and current. At first I didn’t understand the entire EDM crazy, I scratched my head a bit but now I totally get it. It’s the whole idea of creating new sounds and pushing the boundaries.
It was this desire to expand the Arkells musical lexicon which led them to only use “High Noon” producer Tony Hoffer for one track off ‘Morning Report” while splitting the production chores with Brian West, Gus van Go and alt-rock veteran Joe Chiccarelli.
“People think the record won’t sound as cohesive if you record it with different people but hip-hop artists and pop artists get away with it all the time,” professed Kerman. “Everybody in modern music is making music on airplanes.”
The release of a new record inevitably requires a ton of touring and Arkells are up for the challenge with dates in Germany (Aug.21), London England (Aug 25) before returning to Canada August 27th for a date at the Kee To Bala in Ontario, dates in Calgary (September 3), Edmonton (Sept.4) before embarking on a major U.S tour Sept.15th in New York which takes them through October and November. Arkells will play two key dates at Toronto’s Massey Hall Nov.4 & 5.
As for the future, Kerman is aware his band is only as good as their last song. “But for us, there’s always the next mountain to climb, that’s what makes this whole business exciting,” he observed. “It’s not like we can throw ourselves on the couch and say `Hey we did it’. Okay, its gratifying that we did record the album and we’ll go out and tour it and, hopefully, our audience will sing the songs back to us, but there is always that next challenge ahead. That’s what drives us forward.”