By: Natalie Clark
Since graduating from McMaster in 2008, the Arkells have become one of Hamilton’s greatest accomplishments. “You write what you know,” mentions lead singer of the Arkells, Max Kerman, who accredits not only Hamilton, but McMaster, to the inspiration behind many of the band’s greatest hits.
“You write material based on your own life experiences; you’re trying to tell a story about a person, a friend, or someone you admire,” said Kerman.
The multiple Juno-award winning band’s career began in Hamilton where Kerman met the other members of the band. Their band name was even inspired by one of Westdale’s own street name; Arkell Street. Their first gig was played at the annual Battle of the Bands at McMaster in spring of their first year and a few of their songs feature campus landmarks such as the Brandon Hall residence in “Where U Goin”.
The Arkell’s music video sets and album titles have included places beyond campus including Cheapies Records, Jackson Square and even a Hamilton Street Railway bus.
McMaster and Hamilton are clearly places that the band admire. For Kerman, the buildings we spend long hours studying in, the neighbourhoods we settle into and the downtown spots we find excitement in paint the setting of his coming of age story, despite winding up there for other reasons.
“I went to McMaster because my high school girlfriend who was older than me was already there in the year ahead of me… I wanted to go to a school that wasn’t near my parents’ house, and McMaster took me in,” said Kerman.
Kerman went on to graduate as a political science major and describes his passion for politics as stemming from his family.
“My mom is a high school teacher and my dad is a social worker, which are two very community-based jobs…because I had this in my house growing up, it makes you think about how you are a part of a bigger thing,” explained Kerman.
He described political science as constantly asking questions about how we understand and figure things out together and how we coexist in this world. His education informed the way he sees the world and Kerman often translates this passion for politics into the band’s lyrics.
The Arkells have had more than a few hits with political messaging including “Knocking at the Door” which is inspired by The Women’s March on Washington and their most recent single, “People’s Champ”, is a protest against American President Donald Trump.
The Arkells are making their way across Canada and the United States this February to tour their new album Rally Cry. Their most local show will take place at the Scotiabank Arena in Toronto on Feb. 16 with special guests Lord Huron.
“Getting the chance to play our new material is something we are most looking forward to, and when we were working on the songs in the studio, we were really thinking about how these songs would come off live,” mentioned Kerman.
The tour comes after their record-breaking show, The Rally, this past June at the Tim Horton’s Field. In true Arkells fashion, where better to have their biggest performance to date than in their hometown? As the Arkells continue to thrive, it’s exciting to see where their momentum will take them next.