The Arkells are playing Sugar nightclub in Victoria (tonight) Saturday November 12th. Opening for them is Rich Aucoin. Be sure to arrive early – Rich puts on quite the live show.

This post marks a couple of firsts for EhBSeasides: it’s the first interview for us, and it’s the first contribution by a guest writer. My friend Lucas Kitchen had the chance to chat with Max Kerman of the Arkells back in October 2010. Part of this conversation was published in CFUV‘s magazine Renegade Radio. Here’s the full interview:

Lucas Kitchen: What drives you guys to tour so much?

Max Kerman: We connect most when we play the songs live, and we really enjoy playing live. We get a lot of joy being able to travel from city to city, and trying to win people over. The band is at its best when we’re playing live.

LK: What have you learned about touring across the country, about touring in general?

MK: There’s a good attitude within the band about how seriously we take touring, I mean we have fun doing it, but the reason we have fun doing it is because we take it seriously, and because we do everything in our power to make sure the show is good because if the show is good then we’re going to feel good. Touring in Canada especially, you’re out driving 8 hours a day between cities so its tough to show up to a venue and play a half ass show. It’s something we try never to do because what’s the point otherwise? If you’re gonna be hauling all your gear somewhere and show up and not take it seriously and not put on an energetic show, then there wouldn’t be any point in doing it. I think the one thing we’ve learned is that you have to take every show seriously and try your best
every night.

LK: What have you learned about the country from criss-crossing it so many times?

MK: I find we always end up fueling up in the same spots ’cause our gauge gets low at the same points on every trip. There’s a gas station in Chamberlain Saskatchewan (which is between Regina and Saskatoon) which we always fill up at. There’s little truck stops we become used to. We found out there is no reception between Sault St Marie and Thunder Bay which is like 10 hours and kinda strange for people used to having their cell phones on them at all times. We’ve found that even if its not snowing, the Rocky Mountains can be terrifying because of fog. We’ve had a couple of really frightening experiences going down the mountain between Kamloops and Kelowna and not being able to see anything. We’re probably better drivers now because we’re used to each land formation that the country has to offer. The prairies can be pretty easy, but they can also get really slippery on the roads.

We’ve also gotten better at occupying our time on the road, listening to a podcast or an audio book. The guys have computers out and get into their movies and TV shows. The first couple of tours everyone was really excited and just kinda anxious the whole time but now its like I don’t mind getting in the van for a long period of time because I know I can send some emails, watch a movie, read a book, stuff that I like doing anyways.

LK: Anywhere you haven’t been yet that you’d like to go?

MK: In Canada we’ve been basically everywhere except for PEI which I’d love to see. We got to tour America this past summer with Tokyo Police Club and that was a great experience, they’re one of our favourite bands. Just getting to see other places around the world is something the band allows us to do, so that’s just really the next step, getting to see other cool places.

LK: How important is Hamilton to the band?

MK: The band was formed here and it’s the band’s home. Everyone comes from places just outside of Hamilton but we met in Hamilton. The band’s become such an important part of our lives and Hamilton is such a big part of that.

LK: Does a band lose a little part of who it is if it’s forced to relocate?

MK: If a band loses its connection to where it’s been sleeping every night for the past 5 years it’s because they’re not sleeping there, it’s ’cause they’re on the road all the time, feeling a little lonely. I don’t think we’re at that point yet but I understand that bands don’t always have the same connection they once had to their home towns, just because the nature of being in a band is that you’re not at home. But that’s not a bad thing, it just shapes a man differently. Every band remembers their first gig and starting off playing awful shows and it’s one thing we haven’t forgotten. It feels like in recent memory that we were playing to nobody at the Casbah in Hamilton but still really liking it. It’s all part of the process of growing up as a band.

LK: I know that the band members all have degrees of one sort or another. What was the plan back then when you were at school, what were you thinking of doing when you were working towards those degrees? What would you have been doing if the band hadn’t popped up?

MK: I can’t speak for everyone, but I can say that I’m smart enough to surround myself with people much smarter than me. That’s the only thing I really got going for me is that I pick the best and the brightest to hang out with. I don’t know exactly what I’d be doing. We all have our own interests, journalism is something I think of few of us might get involved with, Mike is a really excellent graphic designer, Dan could be at law school, Tim is a fantastic recording engineer – we record a lot of our demos with Tim – and everyone could have gone to grad school. Everyone would be keeping busy, I’m sure of that.

LK: Where does the band name, Arkells, originate?

MK: Mike and I lived on Arkell street. For a period of time we were called Charlemagne but then we got a cease and desist order from an American singer/songwriter. When we started working with Dine Alone Records we had to tell them our dirty little secret that someone else had the name. We had about half an hour to change it because there was a deadline we had to meet about the promotion of our EP and we didn’t realize it was coming up so soon, and it was like “oh we’re just heading off to the printer, what’s the new band name?” Arkells had been kicking around for a while ’cause it kinda sounded like a 60s doo wop group. We could never fully decide because changing your name is kind of a painful process, not everyone in a band will completely agree on a name ’cause it’s just too tricky. But with half an hour we had to make an executive decision and so that was what it was gonna be.

LK: You’ve always been a band that enjoys hanging out after the show and talking with fans. Do you think that connection with your fans is important to build?

MK: When it comes down to it, we’re the biggest fanboys of our favourite bands and we’ve been lucky enough to have some really good experiences with Canadian bands. We opened up for Cuff the Duke and they were super kind to us and treated us really well. I’ve seen Joel Plaskett who’s probably my favourite songwriter in Canada and I’d go to his shows and stick around and he’s just as charming in person as he is on stage. I think there’s a real humbleness that a lot of Canadian musicians share. The fact that people are paying 20 bucks to come out to a show and buying a shirt, the least we can do is come hang out a bit if people want to talk. We’re really happy to do it, and people get a kick out of it as well.

LK: Jackson Square came out just over 2 years ago now and we’ve heard some new stuff at your last concert, is there a new album in the works?

MK: Yeah we’re just in the process of figuring out who we’re gonna do it with and then hopefully we’ll be recording in January or February. We’ve been practicing a lot in the last few weeks and getting really excited about the new stuff. The new stuff has been super fun to play live and it’s going to be a little prettier I think. I’m really excited and can’t wait to show people when its finished.

LK: One more anecdote for Victoria:

MK: We’ve always been pretty aware of having to try our best when it comes to playing live. I remember the Waking Eyes tour when we played Victoria, we came off of a Vancouver show that went really well, and then the club that we were playing at in Victoria had bumped our show earlier, and we got these ticket counts and we hadn’t sold too many tickets. So the whole band was feeling kinda bummed out after coming off this high at the Vancouver show: here we are in Victoria, we haven’t sold that many tickets, the show’s been bumped early ’cause they wanna get a band in later that’s gonna bring in a lot of people. I remember the first three or four songs of that show I wasn’t even really looking up which is uncharacteristic for all of us not to be engaging with the crowd. And
then I looked up four songs in and a really nice crowd had formed and people were getting into the music. The show was going really well and I was kicking myself because
we came in with a really bad attitude and by the end of the show it ended up being a wicked show. It taught us a lesson about not really caring about anything other than
putting on a really good show. Since then we’ve said, alright guys, we gotta bring it no matter what.