Hamilton’s own Arkells were at the Sanderson Centre last Wednesday to put on an awesome show for Laurier Brantford’s first year students – and the whole venue was rocking. The night got under way with The Walkervilles from Windsor. They played a great set, and were followed by Sam Cash & the Romantic Dogs, a great rock piece that had a very Sam Roberts-esque sound. Around 9:30 p.m., the Arkells took the stage and proceeded to play until almost 11 p.m. They played a mix of older hits and songs from their new CD High Noon. Among these were the single Come to Light and the amazing tune Cynical Bastards. Afterwards, I was lucky enough to get to talk to lead singer Max Kerman about the show, the city of Brantford, and his time in university.
How did you guys like the shows tonight and at Laurier Waterloo?
It’s good. I think there’s definitely a lot of Arkells fans, but there’s also a lot of people that haven’t heard of the band and just a couple songs. So it’s really cool to get to play for new people. It’s great, different than a typical Arkells show, but I feel like it’s a really cool opportunity. There’s a lot of excitement in the air, the vibes are really good, and nobody is being judgemental or condescending.
So it’s kind of like nobody has any expectations?
Yeah, everybody just wants to have a good time. For me, I remember seeing some of my favourite bands in first year when I was in school, in McMaster. Sam Roberts came to my frosh week, [and] Bedouin Soundclash. I remember just how special I thought those concerts where, and just how good of a time everybody was having. So the fact that we can be that for somebody else, that’s pretty cool.
You guys are playing bigger cities now, in the States and such. What’s it like coming back and playing smaller Canadian cities?
It’s great – to us, a show is a show. We play a lot of different shows in the summer. We’ll play festivals, sometimes open for bigger bands, or play our own shows. So we really bounce around, and it keeps us sharp, keeps us hungry. We are always trying to make sure that the show is as good as can be, and that we are thoughtful of how we interact with the crowd, and how the set list is laid out. We take all that stuff pretty seriously.
So you guys met in your first year of university?
Yeah, three of us did.
Cool, so talk a bit about that – and if you have any messages for first year university students.
University is an awesome time, because when you’re done, there’s a certain expectation that you have to buckle down and figure out what you want to do. And although whatever program you’re in can be difficult and time consuming, we really made the most of our time when we were in school, and to be able to really pursue really fun, creative, stimulating things like that only happened because we were in university. Because once you have a proper job it’s hard to find the time, so we really had a great time. We went to class, and graduated, but every weekend we were playing shows. We were rehearsing all the time, always hustling. So I would tell students to make the most of it, because it is a great time to follow your dreams.
You mentioned tonight during the show that Brantford and Hamilton, where you’re from, had similar values and were both hard-working towns. Since both cities are so close, and you can relate to them, do you have any special memories from Brantford at all?
You know what’s funny – the last time we played in Brantford, we’ve only played here once, was in 2007. It was at the Ford Plant, which I don’t think even exists anymore. It was right downtown, one of the corner buildings. It was kind of a legendary indie-rock venue, from the early 2000s to 2008, or whenever it closed. And I just remember there was definitely a music scene, and a lot of Brantford bands would come to Hamilton. But at the time I just remember how empty the downtown was. And just walking around today it seems like the school has had a great impact on the city, and I think that’s a really positive step. There’s definitely some similarities with Hamilton, just in people investing in the downtown core. The thing about Hamilton and Brantford is that the bones of the cities are really great. They are proper towns, instead of just suburbs. And as a result you can walk around and see cool buildings, and you can really feel the community. And of course both cities have really had a tough go in the last 40 years or so. So it’s really cool to see a kind of renaissance happening.
Awesome. Well, thanks for your time, and I really loved the show tonight – really great energy.
Thank you, you’ve got to give it your all every time.