Hamilton’s Arkells continue to grow their audience organically

From a dry heat to a drier cold, Max Kerman will likely need a case or two of Lubriderm over the coming weeks.

When his record company tracks him down, the frontman for Canrock darlings Arkells is enjoying the desert climate of Phoenix.

This is, of course, before the four-time Juno-winning Hamilton quintet head back to their frozen home for a cross-country headlining run in support of their latest release Morning Report

Prior to Arkells’ Saturday night concert at the BMO Centre, Kerman spoke with theYYSCENE.

Q: I know this is a cliched question to anyone in a Canadian band, but how well do you do in the States?

A: You know, it’s developing. And I thought it was one of the most rewarding parts about the job of being in a band, I like to think, at least, the work that you put in you’re going to get back from it. In the places that we’ve toured a lot in it, like New York, Boston, D.C., Detroit, Chicago — those larger places we’ve been to more the results are pretty great, actually. And the other places where we’ve never been, like Salt Lake City, it’s not nearly as impressive. And that’s just a result of us not being there. There’s that one in a million band that has a radio hit that can show up in any town and there’s 500 people waiting for them. But otherwise you’ve got to be ready to put in the time, which is totally good. It’s based on your hard work and your merit, so that’s totally fine with me.

Q: That’s actually a perfect summation of your career in this country as well. To watch you guys grow and — even on a local level — see you get bigger and bigger audiences, and to do that organically, that has to be pretty gratifying?

A: Oh, I totally agree. Calgary is a great example. That’s a place we’ve been to a bunch of times, and every time we try to deliver a better show than the last, and as a result people tell their friends and maybe the radio station plays us a few more times because they like what they saw, and that’s how it’s grown. I think the Calgary show’s going to be the second biggest show of the tour, after Hamilton. It’s going to be our second biggest headlining show ever, which is pretty incredible …

I think that one of the most gratifying compliment we get, and it’s pretty regular and it makes me most proud, is that people say, “You get better every time.” We’ve always had the reputation of being a good live band, but the fact that the show has consistently approved is something that I’m really proud about.

Q: How is the new album going over live? I saw that you’d said you wanted to get people scratching their heads with it, but the first couple of songs — Drake’s Dad and Private School — are entirely different for you as a band.

A: I think with the record when we were recording the attitude is like, “Let’s make sure this is a really good headphone experience, first and foremost … and then we’ll figure out how to make it work live.” And then you have to get it to a point where you think you can pull it off live — that’s one of the challenges of playing songs like that— but after you do play it a few times and the band kind of becomes locked in to those arrangements and certain triggers that Anthony (Carone) will be able to do it with his keyboards and Tim (Oxford) is able to do it on a drum pad, it’s ultimately us playing it, all of those parts. You want to have music that are people are excited to hear. So as long as you make sure the songs are there first and then you figure out how to play them live afterwards …

Q: I’m guessing one of the best parts of this tour is going to be the competition between you and opener Frank Turner trying to one-up each other?

A: That’s totally true. After the second or third show we have with him in the fall I went up to him and said … because he such a performer, “I’m stealing all of your shit.” And  he said, “No, no, no. I’m stealing all of your shit.” There’s definitely been this mutual admiration happening between us, and as you said, it’s a really motivating thing … like, “We’ve got to bring our A-plus game.” And I think we’re doing the same thing for him.

(Note: This interview was edited for space and clarity.)

Arkells perform Saturday night at the BMO Centre.

Mike Bell has been covering the Calgary music scene for the past 25 years with publications such as VOX, Fast Forward, the Calgary Sun and, most recently, the Calgary Herald. He is currently the music writer and content editor for, and the co-host of the show Saved By the Bell, which airs Wednesdays from 4-6 p.m. on CJSW 90.9 FM. Follow him on at Twitter/@mrbell_23 or email him at He likes beer. Buy him one.