By Paula Sanderson
Max Kerman met Mike DeAngelis and Nick Dika during “Welcome Week” at McMaster University. They took political science together and graduated in 2008. But that’s not the only thing they had in common: they were all talented musicians.
Joined by bandmates Anthony Carone and Tim Oxford, they wrote their first song early in first year. “I can’t tell you what song it was, or where we wrote it, because I don’t remember; but it could have been in the common room in res, on the second floor,” says Kerman.
Like most university students, the boys moved out of residence and into a house after first year. They lived on Arkell Street in Hamilton for second, third and fourth year.
The product was Arkells. They’ve toured with Metric and Sam Roberts, have been long-listed for the coveted Polaris Music Prize, and even took home the Juno for best new band in 2010.
And On Oct. 18, Arkells released their second studio album, *Michigan Left*.
Kerman sarcastically describes their style as, “European dubstep music,” but quickly changes his answer to: “It’s pretty fun rock and roll. If you like the Beatles, you’ll probably like us.”
Arkells worked hard on the new album, spending a month in the recording studio, and then another month to mix it. “But in terms of writing the songs,” says Kerman, “that was a process that took over two years.” Their first studio album received a lot of positive feedback from the music industry, but the band didn’t feel pressured while they were making *Michigan Left.* “We were all really happy about the material going into the studio. It was just a matter of making sure it was recorded properly,” says Kerman.
“I think if we were unsure about the songs, or if we didn’t like the material, then we might feel a little more pressure; but at this point, we’ve lived with the songs for so long that we’re just excited to finally get it out there.”
Kerman’s favourite track on the album is “Agent Zero,” which is also the last track on the album. “It’s probably the most different for us. It’s kind of a two-parter; the first part is very subdued and quiet, and then the second part is a Fleetwood Mac- inspired basic guitar harmony jam.”
Kerman says the main difference between their two albums is the inspiration. “Sonically, it sounds different. We’re listening to different bands than when we made *Jackson’s Square.* That’s probably the main difference. On this record, we were trying to steal from other bands – like really cool synthesizer sounds, or weird guitar tones, or different keyboard marks – and on *Jackson’s Square* there wasn’t that much of that kind of thing.”
Lyrically, Arkells’ music has lots of historical and geographical influences.
“Our surroundings definitely influence our music and our sound, and we live in Hamilton, so I think the lyrics are affected by that city,” says Kerman. “We like writing about places that we lived in, or places that we’ve been to, or stories of other people.”
And that’s why the band loves Halifax.
“Halifax is a real source of inspiration for us as a band. Some of our favourite artists are from Halifax,” says Kerman.
He lists Joel Plaskett, Sloan and Matt Mays as examples.
“When we do come out to Halifax, it’s always really fun because we get to see the places that those bands reference in their songs,” he says.
Right now there are official tour dates for Ontario and western Canada, but Kerman affirms they are coming out east. “Oh yeah, it’s coming,” he says. “In the new year, we’ll be announcing tour dates and we’ll be out in the Maritimes.”