In­die rock­ers on their bat­tle of the bands be­gin­nings

North Toronto Post - - Arts - By Ron John­son

“We came in sec­ond in the fi­nals. We lost to a ska punk band called the John­stones,” says Max Ker­man, of June Award–win­ning band the Arkells, re­fer­ring to their first stage ap­pear­ance dur­ing McMaster Univer­sity’s an­nual bat­tle of the bands.

“They all had their shirts off, they had trum­pets and were skankin’ around talk­ing about their dicks. You can’t com­pete with that.”

Dur­ing the first for­ma­tive days of univer­sity, stu­dents do their best to make friends and find like-minded peo­ple. Ker­man, for his part, sought out po­ten­tial band­mates and stum­bled upon Mike DeAn­ge­lis on day one.

“Mike and I were both in re­spec­tive ter­ri­ble high school bands,” says Ker­man.

“I mean, when we first started, we were also ter­ri­ble,” says DeAn­ge­lis. “But high school was def­i­nitely an­other level.”

“I was to­tally pro­fil­ing peo­ple. That was my MO,” says Ker­man. “Mike looked vaguely like he could be in a band, and my first ques­tions were: ‘Where are you from and what kind of mu­sic do you like?’ ”

Soon Ker­man, DeAn­ge­lis, and fel­low McMaster stu­dent Nick Dika would start jam­ming, and the Arkells was born. Next step: land a gig.

“The first show we ever played was the bat­tle of bands, and we carted our gear over in a shop­ping cart from the gro­cery store,” says Ker­man, “The sec­ond gig, we opened for a band at the Cas­bah. And we’d seen bands play there: Joel Plas­kett, Stars, Matt Mays. And I re­mem­ber not be­ing able to sleep, go­ing, like, we are lit­er­ally go­ing to be play­ing on the same stage as our he­roes. This is so ex­cit­ing. And hon­estly, the evo­lu­tion of the band has just kind of been an ex­ten­sion of that feel­ing.”

Fol­low­ing those first steps at clubs such as the Cas­bah, the band played a lonely af­ter­noon set at Yonge-Dun­das Square dur­ing NXNE back in 2007.

“A very hun­gover Shawn Creamer, owner of the Dakota Tavern, hap­pened to be walk­ing by, but he’d never heard us be­fore. He liked what he heard and in­ex­pli­ca­bly bought five CDs,” Ker­man ex­plains. “We never met him that day, but he was, like, I re­ally like this, and the Dakota is the main hang for a lot of mu­sic biz types, and he started giv­ing it [a CD] out to man­agers and la­bels who he was friends with. Joel [Car­riere], at Dine Alone Records, was given a copy. He lis­tened to it, and he reached out. And that was sort of our lucky break mo­ment.”

Al­though the band lost the bat­tle to the ska-punk kings, it hasn’t slowed the band down. Their new al­bum, Mon­day Re

port, was just re­leased to rave re­views and fea­tures the hit sin­gle “Drake’s Dad.”

They head­line at Massey Hall on Nov 4. and 5.

The Arkells met while at­tend­ing McMaster Univer­sity

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