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Exclusive Interview: Max Kerman of Arkells on his unique bond with Frank Turner



"I always have 'what would Frank do' in the back of my mind everyday."

Canadian rockers Arkells have a string of shows in the UK this week in the support of their latest LP, 'Rally Cry', so naturally we jumped on the phone with frontman Max Kerman to hear all about it.


He tells Lizzie's Lowdown about his very special friendship with Britain’s very own Frank Turner - who they have just released a version of 'Hand Me Downs' with - using their platform to bring people of all political backgrounds together and what touring with the legendary The Tragically Hip taught them...


Watch: Arkells featuring Frank Turner 'Hand Me Downs':



Max is calling from Washington D.C. and is very excited about a text he's just received from Nigel Powell, Frank's band the Sleeping Souls' drummer, who is doing their lighting tech on the tour.


"Nigel text me this morning and he sent along three new lighting ideas for three new Arkells songs," he proudly said.


Max and his bandmates - Mike DeAngelis, Nick Dika, Tim Oxford and Anthony Carone - have supported Frank and the Sleeping Souls many times over the past few years.



"I feel really lucky to know Frank and the guys in Sleeping Souls.

“They came around in our lives right at the perfect time," he admitted.


"To be able to spend so much time with them touring and just being able to witness how hard they work and how they built up this relationship with their fans and how dedicated they are to the art of entertainment, was a real learning experience."


The singer-and-guitarist admits they often pinch one another's ideas.


"We come from the same school of songwriting and performing, it's such a natural fit," he said.


"But to be around a guy who has as much energy as Frank and is as ambitious as Frank, but is also really community-minded, he really lives in the back of my mind everyday.


"In different parts of the world or on tours, I think: 'Well, what would Frank do in this situation or how would he organise the set list?'"


"I know when we tour together, we are stealing each other's bits or taking notes from each other," he admitted.


"You want people like that, who inspire you and give you energy in your creative life.

"You want people who let you see the light in what is possible out there, and Frank has done that for me, I am very thankful."


Arkells - who have multiple Juno Awards to their name - have supported a whole host of different bands of varying genres overs the years, from punk rockers Billy Talent to Canada's very own The Tragically Hip.



And with five albums under their belts, they are able to pick and choose the songs to create a certain vibe.


Max explained: "If we are opening for another band, we can position the set list to the style of music we are opening for.

"We have opened from everybody from Billy Talent to Frank Turner and we toured around America with a band called St. Lucia, who are a little bit more electronic and poppy, so we can kind of cater the set list to the vibe of the night.

"We have a good variety of songs so we are able to become nimble when it comes to that."


Arkells are known for their unifying political anthems, and though Max is anti-Trump, they welcome with open arms people of all political backgrounds to their shows.


"I like to think our political songs come from a place of unification and a place of trying to find common ground and trying to see the goodness in each other."


Recalling an encounter with a fan, who is also a supporter of Trump and loves their song 'People's Champ', he said: "We played in Charlotte the other day and this older guy, like in his 50s, came up to me with this southern accent and was like, 'Oh man, I've been looking forward to seeing you for months now and I love the music.

"'What a great show. I've got to say I am a Trump guy, but I love 'People's Champ', that's great song.'

"He knew that 'People's Champ' was an anti-Trump song.

"But the fact he could show up and enjoy the music, listen to the lyrics and maybe see what I am getting at and be bold enough to come up to me and have a really nice conversation, I thought it was really cool.

"The more you can talk to people that you don't see eye-to-eye with is a very positive thing.”



Frank too has been open about wanting to create a space for fans where they feel they can talk to each other no matter what their political beliefs.


Max said: "I think Frank and I come from the same school. We are up for the conversation.

"In the digital era, it's so easy to type something mean on Twitter and feel good about yourself and make someone else feel bad.

"When you have to talk to people in person, it really changes the dynamic.

"A lot of the time, you ended up realising you have more in common than you think."


Wrapping up the interview, we talked about the huge influence the late great Gord Downie of The Tragically Hip - who the band supported in Canada in 2013 - had on Arkells and why they decided to pay homage to the country icon on the track 'Relentless' on 'Rally Cry'.


Max said: "The Tragically Hip took us on tour across the country and they are the quintessential Canadian band.

"Everyone in Kansas seems to have a personal relationship with their music.

"They built that up by being relentless touring men for so many years and making memories with people."


On what made them so special, he added: "It was never one defining thing that had them living in people's hearts the way they do, it was a collection of a lot of memories.

"For me that is a really inspiring idea because it's about the work you put in.

"It's like putting on your workman hat everyday and trying to write the next great song or perform the next great show.

"If you keep doing that and remain a student of the art, then you can look back in a decade or two decades, three in their case, where you can go: 'Oh, I've done a bunch of things that created moments with people across the country.'

"For us, I learned about keeping your head down and working at trying to get better and trusting that you will be able to make that connection with people."


'Rally Cry' is out now.


Catch the band on their UK tour this week:

Nov 21 - Bristol, UK - The Fleece

Nov 22 - Manchester, UK - Club Academy

Nov 23 - London, UK - Heaven

Nov 25 - Glasgow, UK - King Tuts

Nov 27 - Leeds, UK - Belgrave Music Hall

Nov 28 - Birmingham, UK - Hare & Hounds

Nov 29 - Brighton, UK - Green Door Store