EXCLUSIVE: Interview with Arkells’ frontman Max Kerman

Arkells are the Canadian five-piece alt-rock band who are shaking up the music industry with their high energy offerings.

Made up of vocalist/guitarist Max Kerman, guitarist Mike DeAngelis, bassist Nick Dika, drummer Tim Oxford and keyboardist Anthony Carone, Arkells have already released four studio albums, performed across the world, and have won a loyal army of fans along the way.

The band are about to release their brand new album Rally Cry on October 19. The ten-track album includes their spring single ‘People’s Champ’ and the newly released ‘Relentless’. In support of the album, Arkells will also be heading out on tour including a European/UK leg.

Ahead of their album release, we spoke to frontman Max Kerman about Rally Cry, the new single ‘Relentless’, touring and much more.

You’ve just released your new single ‘Relentless’. What’s the reaction to it been like so far?

It’s been amazing actually – getting texts from friends I haven’t heard from in a while who are calling it a “banger” – so that’s encouraging. The decision to make it the lead single was a bold one. We have a number of other songs on Rally Cry that are more conventional guitar driven rock music, but I like the idea of coming out of the gate with something different. We’d been covering Peter Gabriel’s Sledgehammer and I think that song subconsciously made it in to the groove.

For the first time ever, you sampled a track after listening to a South African artist called
Chicco. What was it about his song which inspired you?

My dad showed me the song last autumn, and immediately thought it was epic. It was definitely a keyboard part that we wouldn’t have been able to think of ourselves and so it felt really fresh to our ears. It was cinematic. It felt foreign yet very familiar at the same time. I immediately heard melodies I could sing over it.

How did this impact on the creative process? How long did it take for the song to come together?

I sent the voice note to Mike D (guitarist) who chopped it up and made a sample from it, and from there the band started building up the song. It was honestly one of the quicker songs on the record. The parts just kind of presented themselves.

Lyrically, what does the song represent to you as a band? Is there a particular lyric which stands out the most for you?

I was thinking about my folks, and the people in my life that give me strength. Finding resilience in life can come in variety of forms – rejection and failure is often a good source of resilience – but in this song, it’s about tender love and affection and understanding.

“You ever heard of a soft touch?” – that’s my dad. He’s a social worker and a warm guy.
“A little sun, a little raindrop, watch this thing grow” – that’s just good sturdy parenting, I was lucky to have.

The chorus comes from a conversation I had with a friend, Paul Langlois of the Tragically Hip. We talked about being in a band, and how much of life you experience together, and the idea of being there for each other. His band’s singer – Gord Downie – recently passed away of cancer, and Paul said that through everything, Gord was “Relentless, like a dog on a bone.” I love that old expression, and it made its way in to the song.

Are there any plans for a ‘Relentless’ music video? If so, what can we expect from it?

Yep. We just shot it last week and working through the edits now. Stay tuned.

‘Relentless’ forms part of your forthcoming album, Rally Cry. What can you tell us about the

It’s 10 songs. We wanted to keep everything focused. This isn’t a sprawling record. Each song has it’s place. It’s not a “let’s throw everything at the wall” kind of operation. We were thinking about how these songs would feel to play live, and how they would fit in to our setlist, and the moments we could create on stage. We spend so much of our time touring that it’s important to be mindful about all of that.

Why did you decide to call it Rally Cry?

It’s a lyric in Relentless. I like the expression to begin with, but you can read it a number of ways. A rally is about gathering momentum around a common cause, and I think our music always has an outward looking purpose, and communal feeling. Cry could be a scream, but it also could be tears of sadness or tears of joy. All of our records are two words – Jackson Square, Michigan Left, High Noon, Morning Report. So Rally Cry fits right in.

Is there a particular song on the album which you’re most excited for people to hear?

Changes on the day. But I think the opening track Hand Me Downs excites me the most.

You’ve worked with some great people on the album, including Eric Ratz, Mark Needham
and Greg Calbi. What were they like to work with?

We’ve had the pleasure of working with amazing producers – and they all share an amazing sense of focus, curiosity, patience and obviously skill. Eric Ratz is awesome to work with because of all these things, and his musical acumen and instincts are as good as any. Mark Needham worked our last record and he comes back with amazing mixes on the first go. Even though his catalogue is insane (The Killers, Imagine Dragons etc) he doesn’t have an ego at all. He’s a real student of the game. With Greg, we looked up who mastered the Arcade Fire and Kacey Musgraves records, and it turns out it was Greg for both. If Greg was good enough for them, he’s good enough for us.

You’ll be heading out on a UK/European tour in November. What can fans expect from your

We’ll be playing a bunch of the new jams, and it’ll be the first leg of the Rally Cry headline tour – so fans can say “I saw them when.” Ha! You know, we really spend a ton of time thinking about how to pull of these songs live, and how to make the shows as inclusive as possible. If all goes right, it should be a joyful affair.

Is there a particular city that you’re looking forward to playing/exploring?

We played so many great shows with Frank Turner in the autumn, but the one that really stands out is the gig in Sheffield. Towards the end of our set the crowd started chanting “YOU’RE SHIT” and I was very confused because they were all smiling and seemed to be having a good time. Turns out they were saying Yorkshire, which was a relief. So we’re excited to head back to Leeds to play for the good people of Yorkshire.

You come from Canada, a country which has produced some incredible music talent over
the years. How would you describe the music scene there and how has the country
influenced you musically?

We started our band at the height of the indie-rock golden era. In small clubs, we got to see bands like Arcade Fire, Broken Social Scene, The Weakerthans, Stars etc. It was a very exciting time, and really informed who we wanted to be as a band. Of course since then, it’s grown in wild ways. Acts like Alessia Cara, Shawn Mendes, Drake make us very proud as Canadians.

We’ve already mentioned some of your plans for the rest of the year, including the album
and your UK/European tour. Is there anything else we should be looking out for from

With any luck we’ll be back for festival season in the UK next summer after we wipe the floor on this headline tour.

Thank you to Max for his time. Check out Arkells on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and their Official Site.

Rally Cry is available to pre-order now.

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Written by Katrina Rees

I'm Katrina, or Kat to pretty much everyone. I'm an editor for CelebMix, a content writer, a boyband lover and an all round music fanatic.
Twitter: @lifeofkatrina