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Home » Rock n Rolla

Arkells hook a Michigan Left after Jackson Square

Submitted by on October 18, 2011 – 5:51 pmNo Comment

Despite the success of Jackson Square, Max Kerman, lead man for The Arkells, said the band felt no pressure recording its sophomore offering.

“If we weren’t confident in the material going into the studio we probably would have felt the pressure,” said Kerman, reached by phone yesterday on the eve of the release of Michigan Left. “But because we’re in love with the material and really excited to play it for people, then that pressure doesn’t really exist.”

Ultimately, said Kerman, the band is pleased Michigan Left has already produced two singles and looks to be picking up where the last left off.

Recorded in a 150-year-old home in Bath, ON, a quiet village on the southern shores of Lake Ontario, the album has an inviting, small-town quality, and the antiquity and curiosity of an old home.

Kerman said the band searched out, and found in that old home in Bath, a place that offered little distraction.

“We were looking for a space where we wouldn’t get too distracted and where we could all be together and wouldn’t have to commute to,” he said. “It allowed us to record at our own pace and make our own schedule… it was really nice to be able to make a record on our own terms.”

Sonically, said Kerman, the songs on Michigan Left are very much a reflection of the music the boys in the band are “listening to today.”

“I think that was really important for us – to present a cohesive record that is sort of a representation of where The Arkells are at as music fans in 2011,” he said, citing Phoenix and Spoon as two namesakes the band drew from for inspiration.

“The new record sounds a bit different but the fundamental part of it is in check. We’re definitely a band that wants to write songs that people can sing along to. That was one of the great things about Jackson Square, so I think that’s still the name of the game: To be a band that people want to celebrate with.”

The Arkells’ story, now well-documented, has been one of success nearly from its onset.

Since forming five years ago, the Hamilton five-pack, who met playing softball together as kids, has fastly become one of Canada’s most popular bands.

Two years after its release, Jackson Square earned the band the coveted Juno Award for New Group of the Year, in April, 2010. A month later, the band was hand-picked by Them Crooked Vultures (John Paul Jones, Dave Grohl, Josh Homme) to open for the supergroup at the Air Canada Centre. In June, The Arkells played for 12,000 people at Burlington Sound of Music. Burlington, ON, is a city of 165,000. That’s just over seven percent of the population.

Still, Kerman said, he doesn’t think winning the Juno served as the catalyst to the band’s success since the spring of last year.

“I don’t think it was like we woke up the next day and we were widely popular,” he said, adding:

“When you make a record, you don’t think about winning prizes. It’s not like you’re training for a sports team and you want to win a championship. When these things come about they’re unexpected but I think it definitely helps our recognition across Canada.”

With songs like “Deadlines,” “Oh, the Boss is Coming!” and the first single from Michigan Left, “Whistleblower,” The Arkells are a Canadian band that wears its anti-capitalist leanings on its proverbial sleeve.

Asked what the band’s stance was on the “occupy movement” – the protests and rallies staged in financial markets in cities across the globe in recent weeks – Kerman didn’t pull punches.

“Their [the protestors] sentiment is really sincere and I really like it when people come together over a cause that’s worth fighting for. A social movement to make this world a better place to live is ultimately a good thing and I hope that no one gets injured, and that it’s a peaceful protest.”

Named after an intersection design that replaces left turns with a permutation of a U-turn and a right turn, Kerman said he believes Michigan Left is a fitting metaphor for where The Arkells have been, and where they plan on heading next.

“Ultimately, I like the idea of having to go one way to actually go the other way.”

Story by Rémi L. Roy

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