HOW IT ALL STARTED: The Arkells
Indie rockers on their battle of the bands beginnings
“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