BuzzMusic recently talked with Canadian rock legends Arkells frontman Max Kerman about their latest album release "Rally Cry". Arkells depart on their North American tour on January 31 and make their stop in Los Angeles on March 26 at Troubadour w/ special guests Dear Rouge. Click here for tickets.
Hey Max! We are super excited about your new album "Rally Cry" and upcoming tour! Can your tell our readers a bit about the band and how you guys came together?
Thanks - we're stoked too. I went to college looking to start a band, and by the second day I had found Nick and Mike. In the early days we played in the battle of the bands, and other local shows, just trying to figure out how to perform and write songs. Just as we were finishing up school, we were offered a record deal and we've been pretty much a full time band since then.
Were you guys able to exceed your expectations with your fifth studio album "Rally Cry" ?
I think we set the bar pretty high for ourselves when we're in the studio. If anything feels repetitive or stale, we keep digging. We were trying to make something compact and direct. 10 songs. There's not too much meandering about in the production - they reveal themselves pretty quickly. We're very happy with how it turned out, and it's been a blast performing live. The sing-a-longs are in full form.
You stated that the best part about being Canadian is the ability to observe America and appreciate it from a more outside perspective, do you think that observation really help influence your creation of music that can translate well across American listeners as well?
The songs are all rooted in story telling with nuanced and interesting characters. The songs all have some heart, and some humour. I think those sensibilities translate across borders.
Let's talk about your new album "Rally Cry". How did you guys determine the chronological order placement for the singles within the album? Did you want to create an entire story line within one project (An opening song, middle, and ending) or were they completely at random?
Tracklisting is a subjective thing, but we all agreed pretty quickly that Hand Me Downs "felt" like an album opener. Similarly "Don't Be A Stranger" felt like a closer. A lot of the choices we make creatively are simply based on the question: "does this feel good? does this feel cool?" There's technical things we consider when we're putting together a tracklist - flow, tempo's, key of the song - but ultimately it has to just feel good.
One song off the album that stood out to us was "American Screams", based off your outside perspective. were you able to draw any environmental influences for this track?
We spend a lot of time touring in America and observing the political landscape as an outsider is an interesting vantage point. From traveling between cities, and seeing the difference in daily life between urban and rural, it's easy to understand why there is friction in the country.
One trait we noticed while listening to "Rally Cry" is the apparent diversity presented. "People's Champ" was real up-beat and funky. "Show Me Don't Tell Me" had a more other worldly, cultural aesthetic. and then you had songs like "Relentless" and "Company Man" felt more emotional and powerful. yet, all songs held lyrical substance which was appreciated. How are you able to find balance with experimenting with other genres while not going too far away from your personal brand?
We feel like we can go in just about any direction musically because the common thread is the five of us singing and playing. A lot of rocknroll songwriting has to do with the personalities in the band, and out musical instincts will always be present, no matter the type of song we're chasing.
What's your song-writing approach? Do you create a specific vision for each song before writing?
The songs come in bits and pieces. We actually have been doing these "making of" stories on our Instagram account. Here's one: Only For A Moment: https://www.instagram.com/p/BrlEDJJFv54/
2019 seems to be a busy year ahead for Arkells! Touring from January all the way to June. Is there a certain city on the tour that you're most excited to perform? We can't wait for your Los Angeles Show at the Troubadour!
We'll be in game shape by the time we hit LA! We have an awesome time in LA, San Fran. Of course NY and DC. Philly. Ha, I could really list them all for different reasons. The songs take on a different meaning when we play them live, so I'm glad we'll get to have these shared experiences all over the county.
Which song from "Rally Cry" are you most excited to perform and why?
Lately, Hand Me Downs and Eyes On The Prize have been going off! Great sing-a-longs. Everyone in the room is invested.
Full list of tour dates available here: www.arkellsmusic.com/live