An Interview with Arkells' Frontman Max Kerman

In anticipation of the Arkells’ “Knocking at the Door” tour, which started early last week, we sat down with frontman Max Kerman to chat about all things Arkells, from their craziest tour stories to their newest music and best advice.

HC: So you just kicked off the first leg of your “Knocking at the Door” tour a few days ago. How is that going so far?

MK: Oh, it’s been great. We started on the West Coast—Phoenix, San Diego, LA and a few other places we haven’t been to as much as areas like London, Ontario or Calgary or Vancouver so it is exciting to see the shows grow. It is the nature of being a touring rock and roll band, you gotta keep going back and hope that the audience and the people are spreading the word. So yeah, it’s been good.

HC: So you mentioned that you toured in a few places you haven’t been to before. What is your favorite place so far?

MK: San Francisco is awesome! It’s a great city and I recommend anybody to go check it out if they have the chance.

HC: I know you guys have gone on tour a few times over the years. What is your craziest tour story?

MK: We get asked this a lot and I always forget what would be a good answer because we are a pretty tame band. But I do remember all the long drives in themselves are kind of insane. We once drove straight home from Lethbridge, Alberta to Hamilton, Ontario and you get delirious in the middle of winter. We were somewhere outside of Thunder Bay and the highway got shut down, that kind of stuff is always kind of insane to me. It is crazy to think about how much you’re travelling for the job.

HC: You have put out a bunch of new music over the past year. What song had the fan reaction that surprised you the most and why?

MK: The song wasn’t a single but people seemed to really connect with it; it’s called “And Then Some.” It’s more of a ballad, off our record Morning Report, and the song is really cool. I feel like each record has a sweeper on it that people just get connected to, like on the first record we had a song called “John Lennon,” which was one of our first singles—people really liked it. On our second record, songs like “Kiss Cam” and “Agent Zero” were kind of in that space. And on the third record, “Never Thought That This Would Happen” was a big one. On Morning Report it was “And Then Some” cause you kind of expect people to feel connected to a song on the radio, but when it’s just an album track and people get really into it, it’s pretty cool.

HC: So can you explain a bit of your writing process behind “And Then Some”?

MK: It started with a melody in the intro that was written on the piano. I think a lot of songwriters are constantly looking for two things to happen at once. The first thing is for it to feel really original and make your ears tingle, to get excited about it and to want to keep playing it over and over. But at the same time, you want it to be really simple and familiar. So achieving those two things at once seem like contradiction, but if you can get something that’s both exciting, fresh and new feeling, and at the same time really familiar, then I think you’re onto something.

The song itself is somewhat lyrically autobiographical. It’s about a Christmas party that I go to every year, drinking White Russians (which is the drink of choice at that particular Christmas party) and then making out in the closet.

Check out the music video for “And Then Some” here!

HC: You guys do a whole bunch of covers. If you could do the ultimate cover of any song with any band, what song and which band would it be?

MK: Good question! It’s kind of impossible to choose, but we covered some Tom Petty on the weekend cause right now I am in the mood to cover a lot of Tom Petty. So we did “Runnin’ Down a Dream”, which is great. There are many good ones—“Listen to Her Heart”, is a great song of his, “Even the Losers”, “The Waiting”. I saw The Killers do “The Waiting” and it was great, so I would do it with Brandon Flowers.

HC: So after this tour, what’s next for you guys?

MK: We are always pretty busy. People will sometimes say “you guys never stop” and my response is that most people aren’t allowed to stop work for a few months just cause they don’t want to work. So we try to be blue collar about our jobs in that sense that if we’re not on tour then we ought to be doing something related to the band, our jobs or the business of it all. So right now we are actually calling from the studio, working on some tunes.

HC: You mentioned that you’re working on some new tunes. Does this mean we can look forward to some new music soon?

MK: Yeah, you could say that. We are always working on stuff. We are really lucky that we get to come from tour and we don’t have to work a part-time job at a coffee shop or something like that. We can just be thinking about the next t-shirt design, or what the stage ought to look like on the next tour, or what our next song ought to sound like so it’s a pretty privileged position to be in.

HC: So if you weren’t touring or doing music, what do you think you would be doing right now?

MK: I really like group work and being a part of a team. I like finding other people that are really talented and impressive to me and building something together with them. So that could mean a lot of different jobs, but I have this little side thing that I do with a couple of other friends, like a podcast. I love podcasts and it's similar to the band where I’m not good at drums or I don’t really care about keyboard in particular, so I am really glad that the guys in the band care about that stuff and are really good at it. So, same thing with the podcast: you kind of get to work with other people who are good at editing or are maybe funnier than you or have a different perspective—you get to talk to them. You get to record it and put it on the internet—so yeah, something involving team or group effort.

HC: What is one piece of advice that you didn’t take, but probably should have?

MK: I don’t know if anybody has really told me this directly, but it’s probably inferred many times when I was younger and now I really appreciate this kind of philosophy. Momentum is really important, keeping things moving is important. You got to remember, especially when you are doing a job in the arts, that the point of it is to create stuff and just do stuff. And I think when I was younger, I was maybe a little more precious about every little thing. And not to say that I am not precious now, but I don’t like to get bogged down in irrelevant conversations or detail. I like to really keep it about the work and keep the ball moving forward cause that’s what is exciting about life. And when you get distracted by petty details, which we can all be guilty of, and I was guilty of in the past, it is just distracting to the things that life is all about- which is trying to live it to the fullest. So I would say keep your eyes on the prize, don’t get distracted by the small stuff.

HC: And last but not least, is there anything that you want to say to your fans?

MK: I always start off with thank you because ultimately this isn’t a one-sided thing. If there weren’t people out there listening and buying tickets, we wouldn’t have this job. I would say that there are things I am really grateful for with our audience. We are in a position where we can kind of do whatever we want artistically and our audience is really up for that and is excited to see what we do next. We are really happy that we have such open-minded fans and we think of them as peers. So thanks for being open-minded and letting us chase down every musical limb and show them to you.

Make sure to stay updated on the Her Campus Facebook page for photos and details from the London, Ontario show!

Tickets are still available here!

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