Ahead of Arkells’ upcoming UK and European headline tour, frontman Max Kerman took the time to answer a few questions about the new album Rally Cry, Donald Trump, touring with Frank Turner and Karaoke.
IINAG: You recently played to 24000 people in Hamilton. Was this the biggest headline show you ever played?
Max: Ha, yes – by far. It was a really special day. It felt like the whole city got on board and was involved in one way or another. We got to curate the line-up and plan the programming around the day. We had an artist flea market outside the stadium. A community bike ride. To be able to have that kind of control was something new for us, and we loved the opportunity.
Sweaty club shows are some of my favourite memories as a band
Do you see yourself do more stadium shows like this in the future? What is is like compared to an intimate club show?
Max: We’re just happy to be in the game, you know? We try to make the best of every show we play. We do plenty of support tours still, and the chance to win over a new fan can be just as rewarding as headlining our own show. Sweaty club shows are some of my favourite memories as a band. To us, it’s all about the energy in the room, no matter the size of the venue.
Video: Arkells – Knocking At The Door (Live)
Felix Hagan & The Family will be supporting you on all UK and EU dates. How did you get to know the band and why did you pick them as supports?
Max: We got to know Felix when he was playing keys with Frank Turner and The Sleeping Souls. Matt, the keyboardist in the Sleeping Souls was on paternity leave, and Felix did the North American tours when we were out together. He’s a lovely and talented guy. When we found out that he had his own band, we wanted to check them out we had them open our London, UK show in the spring. They blew us away so we asked if they could do the whole Fall run.
Frank Turner is the best. When it comes to music we are like long lost brothers.
What was it like to tour with Frank Turner and how did people react to Arkells?
Max: Frank’s the best. When it comes to music we are like long lost brothers. I’ve learned so much from him as a performer, and I think Arkells have rubbed off him in a way, too. His crowd gets there early, and they’re excited to hear the support because they know Frank has hand picked them. In Canada Frank opened for us, and our crowd LOVED him. It was the perfect tour.
The last time I saw you, you played for over 2 hours (and the gig only started at midnight). Are you planning on breaking your own record on this tour?
Max: We did? That’s a bit shocking – normally we don’t ask our audience for more than 2 hours! I hope you felt it was worth your time!
Which of the new songs are you most excited to play live?
Max: We’ve been workshopping all the new songs on this American tour. They all feel amazing to play live, but Eyes On the Prize stands out as a real moment in the set. Also Show Me Don’t Tell Me.
Arkells have evolved with every album. Rally Cry sounds bigger than ever and has a lot of funk and soul vibes. Is there anything specific you listened to while you were writing the record? What were your main inspirations?
Max: We have so many influences when we record. Off the top of my head, as I go through the track listing that would be Joe Strummer, Arcade Fire, Frank Turner, ABBA, Peter Gabriel, Fleetwood Mac, U2, Bruno Mars, Stevie Wonder, Springsteen, Chance the Rapper, New Orleans Brass, Cage the Elephant, David Bowie, and Bob Marley.
Arkells – People’s Champ (Live)
People’s Champ and American Screams have a strong political vibe, can you tell us a bit more on what inspired these tracks?
Max: We tend to write about the communities we are apart of and the people and places we see in our travels. We spend a lot of time in America and the political scene in America offers a lot of fodder for songwriting. It’s a pretty interesting time we’re living in right now, and we are passionate about telling stories that are nuanced, and show the various parts of human nature.
People’s Champ is about a demagogue – someone who uses fear to create division – the opposite of leadership in my opinion. In this case, I’m referring to Trump.
American Screams is about the hysterical nature of the political debate, and how no one seems that interested in moving forward together.
Why didn’t you put Knocking at the Door on the album?
Max: It was released digitally world wide. In Canada it was apart of the deluxe version of Morning Report, so we didn’t know we were allowed to put on Rally Cry!
Just before Rally Cry was released you did a pop-up party at a karaoke bar in Toronto. Would you be up for doing this again on tour?
Max: Ha, don’t get me excited!
Rally Cry is out now digitally and on physical formats. Arkells will be touring the UK and Europe this November. All dates and ticket links can be found here.