If there was one thing I was looking forward to at Sasquatch! Music Festival this year, it was getting the chance to see some A-list Canadian bands take the stage and win over our neighbours to the south. Canadians — and Rocktographers — are extremely familiar with Hamilton ON’s Arkells, and we’ve been lucky enough to have 3/4 Rocktographers gain Arkells All Access (Sorry Webmeister Bud!) — I’m sure we’ll have some sort of Rocktographers style fight to the death to sort out who will apply for it for Canada Day. Needless to say, it was a rare treat to be able to see them for a mid-afternoon set on a smaller stage at the festival.
Before the show, I sat down with frontman Max Kerman and guitarist Mike DeAngelis to talk about their run away hit, Canada 150, and playing Sasquatch!
Knocking at the Door:
Kirsten: “Tell me a bit about the process and crazy turn around time and subsequent success you’ve seen with Knocking at the Door? I mean, recorded in March, released in April, already a Canadian #1 hit for three weeks by May.”
Max: “It was very Kayne-esque. You know, we make our own timelines up,” laughs Kerman. “We’ve never done anything like this before. Most rock and roll bands usually stick to a schedule. We’ve got a lot of inspiration from people outside of rock and roll who aren’t as beholden to these more traditional modes of putting out music, and it’s been really fun doing it this way.”
The nontraditional method of release for Knocking at the Door is obviously working well for Arkells, as it’s dominated the rock charts in Canada, with one reporter apparently even designating it as “a bonafide Jock-Jam!” according to Mike, in reference to its popularity on sports networks and in a now-airing Blue Jays commercial.
Canada 150 celebrations:
K: “So in Victoria, we’re pumped to have Arkells headline our sesquicentennial event.”
Max: “Sesquicentennial? That’s a great word.”
K: “Haha, I’ll be honest: I’ve had it in my back pocket. I’ve been waiting to use it forever! So, tell me how it came to be that Arkells would be playing Victoria’s Canada 150 event?”
Max: “Well, we knew there were gonna be a lot of parties thrown across Canada and we were hoping to get an invitation to do something… and the people of Victoria came to us! Victoria seems like a really quintessential place.”
“It’s an excuse to get out to the west coast and we’re really thrilled about it.”
The thing they’re excited the most about? Victorian’s will be thrilled to know our island’s culinary prowess is just as legendary as we like to think:
“NOODLEBOX! We love Noodlebox!” laughs Kernman. “Tacofino!” chimes in DeAngelis.
From headlining a massive event like Canada 150 in Victoria, and even filling in as headliners for Chromeo back at Rifflandia 2016, a midday set on a smaller stage at Sasquatch! may seem like a slight to bands with an ego. In fact, I remember personally being likewise shocked and excited that Arkells would be playing the Yeti stage in the afternoon. However, Arkells emitted the same energy and excitement towards performing at Sasquatch! vs. any headlining slot.
Mike: (recalling playing in Atlanta, a place they’d previously not played or visited.) “We did a festival there in the middle of the day, and when we first started there was a small crowd but as we played it grew and it grew and it grew. And that’s exciting in it’s own way – just as much as if we were playing a big headlining show.”
Max: “There’s something very satisfying about that first impression you make that feels good.”
Max: “Give me a stage, gimme a crowd and we’re going to fucking win them over.”
And win them over they fucking did. The Yeti stage swelled with people, who briefly emerged from their carefully curated shade spots, for Arkells 45 minute set in the sweltering mid-day sun of the Gorge. I ended up shooting INTO the sun for the majority of the time, making for an extremely challenging — but fun-as-hell — All Access experience.
Huge thanks to Max, Mike, and the Arkells for the opportunity. See you guys at Canada 150!