Arkells: “There are a lot of people to steal from.”
Clara hat für diese Ausgabe von Backstage die Band Arkells getroffen. Die Jungs aus Kanada sind nach ihrem Auftritt auf dem NDR 2 Plaza Festival bei uns im Studio vorbeigekommen. Dort haben sich Clara und Sänger Max Kerman unterhalten und obwohl die Jungs eine harte Tour hinter sich hatten, ist dabei ein sehr witziges Gespräch über ungewöhnliche Proberäume und den Unterschied zwischen Kanadiern und Amerikanern herausgekommen. Aber kein Wunder, denn Max war sichtlich erleichtert darüber, mit dem Konzert auf der Expo Plaza eine erfolgreiche Tour abgeschlossen zu haben. Deshalb wollte Clara auch gleich mal wissen…
How was it to play on the Expo Plaza Festival?
Max: If you get to play these festivals, you get the chance to play in front of a lot of people who may have never heard your music before. So you have to make a good impression. I shaved before the show, I did a little something with my hair, danced around.
To make a good impression for the people in Hanover? That’s so nice, thank you.
Max: Yeah, you know, we’re trying our best. (laughs)
I saw on your Facebook page that you really tour a lot. Are you something like tour-workaholics?
Max: We just like to work. I think the most gratifying part of the job is singing songs to people and seeing them sing them back to you. That’s kind of the nicest thing about being in a rock ‘n’ roll band. If you want to be able to sort of build an audience in different cities around the world you got to go there and play for people. And it’s been cool coming to Germany because the first time we played in Berlin there were maybe 50 people at the show and the next time 150 and we just played there again and it were 350 people. It’s cool when you put in hard work and it pays off.
So do you have the impression that you gain more and more fans here in Germany?
Max: Yes, and that’s why you got to try to put on a good show. So that people come back and tell their friends.
Is your audience here different from the one in Canada?
Max: We’re from Canada and we’ve been touring there a lot longer, so our audience is bigger there for sure. But it’s a cool challenge to come to places outside of Canada and then try to win over fans there.
We stay with Canada, because I read that Arkell is the name of the street, where all of you grew up?
Max: A couple of us went to university and two of us lived on Arkell Street. We used to be called Charlemagne many years ago, the king of France, but there was another guy called Charlemagne who threatened to sue us if we didn’t change our name. So we had to make a decision very quickly and we thought Arkells sounded like a 1950’s girl band. Like Martha and the Vandellas or The Shirelles. It sounds like an old-school name and that’s what we stuck with.
Are you still attached to your hometown Hamilton?
Max: Three of us are still living in Hamilton. Hamilton is about an hour outside of Toronto and it’s sort of considered like Toronto’s little brother. It hasn’t been quite as prosper as Toronto but it’s on the upswing. People are starting to move there and it’s got a cool downtown. So we’re kind of excited for the city because we get to come home and there are new coffee shops and new restaurants and just new people investing in the city. That’s what we find charming about Hamilton.
And you started making music in Hamilton?
Max: Yeah, in university.
So tell me about that. How was that and how did you find each other?
Max: I went to school primarily to find people to start a band with. I didn’t tell my parents that. I went to university and took political science but I was just looking to meet people to start a band. Then I met Mike, our guitar-player, and Nick, our bass-Player, in the first week of school. From there we just started jamming together in the university residence. Later we met Tim and Anthony. And we we’re lucky that as soon as we graduated from university the band got a label in Canada and things started to happen for us back home. A lot of people start traveling after graduation, they go to Korea or Thailand…
German graduates often go to Canada…
Max: Yeah, and we go backpacking through Europe. But we just started touring. It felt like what the rest of our friends were doing was just travelling around, but the difference is that what we turned into a full-time job. Which is amazing because one of the best things that you can have in your life is a job that you love. And we really, really like our job.
So, after graduation you got to the point where you realized that you can really make a living from your music?
Max: Yes, I mean, it was early days so you never quite know, but we’ve been lucky and it’s been able to be a full-time thing.
I read that you recorded “High Noon”, your current album, in Hamilton as well.
Max: We wrote it in Hamilton.
Right, and there was this bizarre story with an empty factory, where you wrote it in.
Max: There are a lot of cool, old buildings in Hamilton, that don’t get used much and this one building used to be a guy night-club and before that it was a parish. It’s been around for 150 years. I know, in Germany that doesn’t sound very old but in Hamilton that is pretty old for a building. The new owner of the building let us have one of the rooms, while they did construction around us. We just went in there everyday and worked on the music. It was really cool.
And did this special place influence the album or your writing too?
Max: I liked it because it was right downtown in Hamilton and some of the songs reflect on the city a little bit. Also I liked it because, although I don’t know anything about gear or acoustics, I did like having a window with sunlight coming in. Most rehearsal spaces are in basements with no windows, and there we had these huge windows that were facing out onto the street. I think, that mood made its way into the music. The room sounded terrible, but the vibe was good.
So this was a musical influence. What are your other influences?
Max: We love some pop music, we listen to a lot, like Kanye West.
Yeah, you have to listen to Kanye West! No matter which style you’re doing…
Max: Oh yeah, Kanye is so inspiring. I think there are modern bands like The Hold Steady or The National, Arcade Fire, those sorts of bands. We really love Wilco and The Avett Brothers. There’s a new record by this band Dawes from L.A. I could probably go to each song and say: “Uh, what we were trying to do there is channel this!” But I like referencing though. For instance we have a song called “Never Thought That This Would Happen”, which in my mind has a My Morning Jacket feel to it, a great American rock band. I don’t know, there are lots of people to steal from. (laughs)
But I think that every band is also influenced by their home country and that’s why I wanted to know some things about Canada. So you have to tell me a bit about the musical landscape in Canada. Maybe there is something special about it that helped you in your career?
Max: What I like about Canada is that it’s a small country, not geographically of course, but population-wise it’s only 35 million people. I mean, in Germany there are 85 million people in this small landmass. So the nice thing is, just about everybody in the Canadian music industry knows each other. You’re really one degree of separation between knowing your favourite band that you grew up with. I think that’s one of the nice things. You go to every city and you know somebody or there is a band that means something to you from that city. When we were starting to play we’d go to the local rock club and all those bands would tour through. So if they played to a thousand people in Toronto, they’d play for 200 in Hamilton because it’s right down the road. So you get to see these gods ten feet away from you. I feel like there is a familial community. And, I know it’s a stereotype, but the Canadian bands are generally very supportive of each other. Everybody is kind of rooting for each other, which is really nice.
Is it a goal for Canadian bands to be successful outside of Canada?
Max: I think every Canadian band is very ambitious and wants to make the same success that they have in Canada happen everywhere. But it’s very hard. There are some bands that are beloved in Canada and not so much outside of Canada, but there’s a lot to be proud of in that. For instance The Tragically Hip who play 20,000 people in Canada. Outside of Canada people don’t know them quite as well but they are so beloved in Canada and they mean so much to Canadian music fans.
When you were talking, I just realized that the only things I know about Canada are facts from series like How I Met You Mother or Southpark. So you have to tell me other characteristics about Canada that is not stuff like “Canadians are too polite”.
Max: Southpark is not entirely wrong. But I mean this in a good way. You know, Canadians and Americans are similar, if you would get blindfolded and taken to one place or the other, I don’t know if you could necessarily even tell the difference. But I think the foundation of America, I’m painting with very broad strokes, is kind of confrontational and very proud. They started off by telling the British: “Fuck you, you’re not telling me what to do, we’re out of here!” And that ingrained in their culture and in their constitution. And Canada was like: “Hey Britain, do you mind, if eventually we do our own thing?” And the Brits were like: “Ok, but give it some time.” And the Canadians said: “Ok, just let us know.” Canadians are very proud to be Canadian. Every Canadian knows what makes Canada special, which is, there are great social services, a real respect for different types of people, but we’re not overly proud in the way Americans are. We are not like: “I’m Americaaan!” I think that’s maybe one of the main differences. Canadians are just very aware and grateful for what they have. Again, I’m painting with very broad strokes.
Why would you recommend me to definitely visit Canada?
Max: Well, there’s amazing geography. If you go to Western Canada near British Columbia, the Rocky Mountains are incredible. If you go to Vancouver, it’s right on the Pacific Ocean and if you look the other way there are these mountains. It’s incredibly beautiful. So there are natural wonders in Canada which are pretty specific. But also Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver are the three major cities, and they are all very different from each other. Toronto is the most like Chicago and New York. Vancouver is totally its own thing because it’s in the Pacific Northwest. And Montreal is French speaking and part of Quebec. So you get a little slice of life in each place and it’s all a little bit different.
Diese Episode wurde veröffentlicht unter der Creative Commons Lizenz Namensnennung 3.0 Deutschland (CC BY 3.0 DE).