By Jamila Pomeroy
Nestled in the cozy neighbourhood of Mount Pleasant, sits the coveted Cartems Donuts. While generally speaking, the atmosphere on a Friday, at noon, consists of donut connoisseurs getting their mid-day donut and caffeine fix, this week its walls housed a packed group of eager Arkells fans. The Canadian band has reached peak chart positions in North America, winning multiple Juno’s, making their appearance in the quant space, an added sweetness to the rainy day.
Sheltered from that rain and cosseted in the fogged up windows of the donuterie and its guests, stood the Arkells: in a stripped down, acoustic form, three members of band played an incredibly intimate set, kicking off the beginning of their North American 2019 tour for their latest album Rally Cry, their fifth studio album.
Reining in the realm of popular alternative rock, the band uses their fame and accessibility to spread awareness about pressing topics of the era. “We always touch on social issues in our community. A lot of our songs are about how we are connected to each other as people and how we lean on each other,” says lead singer, Max Kerman, who studied political science in university. Featuring political motivations in their music, Arkells protest through lyrics; thematic revolutions found in the lyrics of “Knocking at the Door,” which was written about the Women’s March in Washington; “The Ballad of Hugo Chavez” about the Venezuelan President as a political prisoner.
“People Champ, is obviously a big ‘fuck Trump’ one. We have a song called company man on the new record, and it’s sort of thinking about this idea of tribalism and how we are all born into something; like a republican or democrat, and you don’t question your drive and how that’s kind of problematic,” explains Kerman.
Outside of these lyrical narratives, are the sonic inspirations developed from the music around them, such as in the song “Hand Me Down,” which the band did an entire breakdown of the song, later, at an intimate studio performance at the Peak Vancouver. “We were at this Arcade Fire concert and ‘Keep the Car Running’ came on,” says Kerman, while sharing the band was struck by ongoing rhythmic guitars of the song. Kerman explains the band found great inspiration for piano from the National’s “Fake Empire,” and drums from Florence and the Machine’s “Dog Days are Over,” with a great, general inspiration coming from Joe Stummer’s “Johnny Appleseed.”
Spending the better part of the day with the band, you get an overwhelming feeling that they are truly about giving back to their community and forming deep bonds with their fans; perhaps the top of them all being Kerman’s father, who has been touring with them. We found him huddled in the back, with a giant smile, sporting the remnants of Earnest Ice Cream, among the Arkells branded donuts for charity.Arkells, Cartems Donuterie