Arkells challenge traditional rock ‘n’ roll conventions, engage with crowd


Courtesy of Creative Commons

Arkells’s new album ‘Rally Cry’ comes out on Oct. 19.

The BMI stage attracted quite a diverse crowd last Saturday afternoon for day two of Austin City Limits Music Festival’s second and final weekend. The crowd, standing patiently on the damp grounds of Zilker Park, awaited none other than Arkells–– a Canadian rock band hailing from Hamilton, Ontario.

They played a highly energetic set, and were incredibly interactive with fans.

“Who knows the chords D, G and E minor?” asked Max Kerman, the bands frontman. A random, dedicated fan was chosen to go onstage and play guitar alongside them. He belted the lyrics into the microphone word-for-word, jamming on three chords as if he were the band’s sixth member.

This is an unusual move by Arkells, but they are not concerned with what is normal. In fact, they often aim to deviate from the traditional conventions of rock ‘n’ roll.

“We try not to think too much about what we ought to be,” guitarist Mike DiAngelis said.

Five records later, Arkells have an impressive and extensive discography under their belt–– the product of risk taking and creative ambition.

“We’re trying to make music that challenges us, that challenges our conceptions of the band and ourselves as musicians, to take in influences that might not be as natural from the rock world, but from other genres,” DiAngelis said. “That’s how I think we are trying to push our personal boundaries.”

As their sources of influence and individual interest evolve, their overall sound evolves with it.

“It’s just the combination of all five of us bringing out sensibilities,” DiAngelis said. “Everybody has a different sensibility, sort of like finding that sweet spot in between it all.”

In light of the current political climate, revolution-charged music has become more prevalent. Arkells partake in this phenomenon with their new music, specifically their recent single “People’s Champ,” a song that articulates the lack of representation in America.The band offers a unique vantage point of the states from their home of Canada, offering new perspective while exhibiting simultaneous appreciation and concern.

“We’re sort of talking about leaders, specifically Donald Trump, who don’t always seem to have people’s best interest in mind. There’s a bit of hypocrisy there,” DiAngelis said. “We wanted that message to be within a song that’s fun, within a song that’s high energy, so we walked a tightrope there, but we’re happy with it.”

Arkells aspire to convey universal messages through their music. While many of their songs are catchy and upbeat, they also carry idiosyncratic themes distinct to the band.

Focusing heavily on the outward experience of music, they emphasize its binding power, communal impact and fostering of common experience among any given crowd.

“We just know what it’s like to be at a show where everyone is on the same page and feeling the positivity,” DiAngelis said. “Having those moments where you can be with other people and feel that positivity is super important. Hopefully we can create that wherever we go.”

Arkells experienced exponential growth as their fan base and rate of success continues to increase.

“We feel lucky that this is our job,” DiAngelis said. “Not a lot of bands get to continue on and make it their career, so we take it very seriously. We want to bring it everytime.”