When the five members of the Arkells rock out in Halifax next Wednesday, they will be returning to the home of some their biggest inspirations.
Frontman Max Kerman is part of a four-time Juno Award winning band, but he still feels like a “fan boy” every time he sees Joel Plaskett.
In fact, East Coast rock musicians like Plaskett, Matt Mays and Halifax band Wintersleep are part of the inspiration behind many of the Arkells’ four record albums.
“There is a real culture of live music and musician-ship, and a fondness for going out and just seeing people play,” Kerman said, referring to the East Coast music scene.
“That serves a band like us pretty well.”
Since the band was formed nearly 10 years ago in the industrial city of Hamilton, ON, rock ‘n’ roll has been at their core.
But their latest album, “Morning Report,” has an undoubtedly alternative sound, one that features electronic pulses, click-tracked rhythms with some sax and violin mixed in.
“That mostly has to do with the fact that with with every passing year we have evolved as music fans, with different influences, that help shape the way we think of our songwriting,” he said.
When the band was growing up, it was all about The Beatles and Neil Young.
This showed when Kerman, guitarist Mike DeAngelis, drummer Tim Oxford, bassist Nick Dika and keyboard player Dan Griffith — who was later replaced by Anthony Carone in 2012 — released their first album, Jackson Square. They even named a track “John Lennon.”
But now, Kerman says he’s more likely to listen to Kanye West or Drake. By mixing in some hip-hop and electronic sounds, the band is taking a risk but at least they aren’t repeating the same sound — Kerman is self-conscious about that.
“It would be very easy for us to go into a studio, plug in our amps, and just jam because that’s what we do live,” he said.
But chasing down unique sounds is something he says his band is excited to do.
“Ultimately, what you are trying to do is make people’s ears tingle,” he explained.
“And what makes peoples ears tingle is stuff that is new, and fresh and different.”
The 12 songs on Morning Report also invite fans into their story, one Kerman hopes people can relate to.
For example, hit Drake’s Dad talks about Kerman’s chance encounter with Drake’s dad, Dennis Graham, while visiting Memphis with some friends on a bachelor weekend.
Stories, like this one, come from his random jotting of notes, or through everyday conversation.
And so far, the combination of personal and alternative seems to be working for the band.
Last summer, they made first-time appearances at big-time music festivals like Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza. And last November they headlined two sold-out shows at Toronto’s Massey Hall.
“The beautiful thing about being in a band, and having your own little family business, is that success is always relative,” Kerman said from Phoenix, AZ on Jan. 27.
He still remembers their excitement when they sold out a club of 200 people, that wasn’t in Hamilton. But then they got used to that and challenged themselves to sell out a 300 capacity club.
“I think the band is pretty self-aware and shows gratitude when good stuff happens for us. But at the same time, we are always striving for the next thing,” he said.
But regardless of whether they’re playing in a crowded bar or large stadium, he says they always try and make it feel like a real “communal affair.”
The Arkells will be at the Scotiabank Centre in Halifax on Feb. 15, with an opening act from British folk-punk star Frank Turner and his band the Sleeping Souls.
Original publish date: Feb. 9, 2017