Hamilton indie-pop stalwarts, the Arkells, have had a big year. The band's sophomore album Michigan Left has produced four hits. They've crisscrossed North America more than once and joined Billy Talent for a European jaunt. Now, they're up for five nods at the Hamilton Music Awards, which take place on Sunday at Mohawk College's McIntyre Theatre.
CBC Hamilton caught up with the Arkells' frontman Max Kerman to ask him about the awards, life on the road and the group's upcoming tour with The Tragically Hip.
You've been touring almost non-stop. Where in the world do you find yourself?
Right now, we're in the middle of the third week of a four-week tour of the United States, opening for Lights. We started in San Francisco, now we're in Cincinnati and we'll finish in Boston. We also did a two-month spring tour in the States. We've seen a lot of America this year.
What was your wildest experience on the road this year?
I don't know if this would qualify as wild — but we were in the U.K. We had just played Glasgow, Scotland and were driving to Nottingham, England on the main highway that takes you from the north part of the island towards the middle.
It was raining pretty heavily and we assumed there had been an accident because it was gridlocked. It turns out the roads, including the main highway, were completely flooded.
We were in the middle of the biggest rainstorms that England's had in awhile and we couldn't make it to the show. We rarely cancel shows, but we tried every route and just couldn't get there.
What do you tell people you meet on the road about the city where the band is from?
A lot people in the States or elsewhere don't really know where Hamilton is, so we say, "Hamilton is about an hour from Toronto and an hour from Buffalo. It's a really interesting city because it's geographically divided and sort of culturally divided as well, depending on where you are in the city." We say it's a city in transition and has a history of industry. It has a blue-collar reputation, which is something that I'm proud of.
I know you're asking, "Does he actually say this, like, at the bar after playing a show?" But I actually do.
Let's talk about the HMAs. How does it feel to be nominated for awards in your band's city of origin?
It's great! We won a few two years ago and were ecstatic. It was awesome. It was fun to see a lot of peers and party with bands that we've played with over the years.
Have you prepared any sort of message in case you win?
We're not going to be able to be there, which we're really bummed out about. I don't know what the protocol is for that, because we don't want to be presumptuous and assume that we're going to win anything.
Sometimes when you watch the Grammys and Pink Floyd is touring in Australia, for example, they'll usually send a video message. But I don't know what we'll do.
Are there any groups in Hamilton that you think most deserve to be honoured, whether they've been nominated or not?
It's hard to say. I can tell you who I love. We're obviously really big fans of Young Rival, Monster Truck and The Reason. There are some other bands like The Dirty Nil and New Hands — both of those bands are awesome.
Cam Malcolm and Toledo, though I don't know if they're nominated. There's so much good music in our city.
What do you guys have planned for the next couple of months?
We're getting home soon. December's not too busy, so we're probably going to be doing some writing, practising and stuff like that.
In January, we're starting a month-long Canadian tour with The Tragically Hip. We're really excited about that. We've played with them a couple of times before, but we've never had the opportunity to tour with them. We're really honoured that they asked us to go on the road.
I think it's one of the most quintessential Canadian tours. We'll be doing it in January and Februrary with The Tragically Hip, everywhere from Red Deer, Alta. to Halifax, N.S. We're all big fans of that band and I think they mean a lot to Canadian culture and Canadian music.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.