Canada has produced quite a list of outstanding bands. You might remember Rush, The Tragically Hip, Steppenwolff or Neil Young.
Over the past 8 years the Arkells have become one of those. Winners of the renowned JUNO Award in 2010 for New Group Of The Year, delivering two full length albums a couple of EP´s and last but not least they have been on the road ever since and securing new companions along the way.
Some have compared Arkells to well known music luminaries such as Bruce Springsteen or Hall & Oates (which apparently is a wonderful band to cover songs from) which are great compliments but this is a band that has managed to create their own powerful sound in a strong current of sound-alike acts flooding the musical landscape.
Beautiful imagery in their lyrics draws me in repeatedly and I can’t help wanting to know about these places and people entwined within their stories.
Driving to work, I had the radio on,
Only to hear Curtis Granderson’s gone.
Reminders they come in empty lots,
67′ took these city blocks.
A few days ago I had the opportunity to talk to bassist Nick Dika. Here is the conversation.
Your current album „Michigan Left“ was released in Canada in October of 2011 and in Europe in 2013 . Are you working on new material at the moment? Are you already recording? What´s The Arkells status?
We are currently in the process of putting the finishing touches on our next album. We spent October/November recording with Tony Hoffer (who’s produced Fitz and the Tantrums, the Kooks, Phoenix and Beck) and are in the final stages of mixing and mastering the new record. We hope to have the new music out by the fall of 2014.
How does songwriting work with childhood friends? Are there certain things that you just don´t talk about? Are there boundaries?
Typically, Max will have an idea for a melody and/or chord progression that he will bring it to the band and then from there we start to jam and play around with it. We usually take it in a bunch of different directions and arrangements before we settle on something. No real formal or informal boundaries.
When you write songs with personal references are you ever afraid that the audience won´t get it
A lot of the songwriter’s that the band really love (like Bruce Springsteen, the Weakerthans, the Hold Steady) have a history of including references to places and people that a wider audience might not know personally. We think the stories we are telling in the songs can be relatable and speak to large themes even if you don’t know the person or place the song is specifically about.
2012 was one of your busiest years on the road yet, what is 2014 going to bring?
Once we finish the record, we should be hitting the road again. We will doing some festival dates in Germany and Canada this summer and should be hitting the road again shortly after the release of the record.
We would normally not recommend anybody to cover a Smokey Robinson track but we love your interpretation of „Tracks Of My Tears“ and we know it is old news but could you tell us how that cover came about?
We have a tradition of sending out a digital download song to our fans at Christmas and this year, Mike had the idea to do a sparse/stripped version of Tracks. He programmed most of the track himself and showed us. We loved what he did so we got the guys to sing over it and then sent it out on Christmas morning.
Moving over to a big label have there been any noticeable changes in any of the processes of the band?
In Canada, Michigan Left came out on Universal, and in Germany it came out on the Organisation, which is an indie label.No matter what kind of label you are on, you want the people working with you to be inspired and energetic about your band and albums. We’ve been in the lucky position to have very hard working and inspired people on the label side no matter what type of label we’ve been on and we are very grateful for it.
Interviews not included what would you say the most aggravating part of the music business is?
Air travel. I don’t care how far technology advances; there will always be something terrifying about being suspended 50,000 feet above the ocean for five hours.
What are 3 things on the Arkells bucket list?
-Make a bucket list
-Achieve things on bucket list
-Check tasks off bucket list
And please tell us 5 things that the world probably doesn´t know about the band?
- Despite constantly harassment, Tim and Max have never seen the Godfather.
- Some of Anthony’s nicknames are „Zozer, Little Joe Pesci, Tone and Zoeman
- Nick talks way too much about how good an actor Michael Fassbender is
- The first concert Max ever went to was Weird Al Yankovic
- Before Mike was in the band, he was on course to become a F1 driver.
Thanks again for chatting with us today.