Hey Reddit. We’re a band from Hamilton, Ontario, and we’re in the middle of touring our latest LP High Noon. The record was produced by Tony Hoffer (Beck, m83, The Kooks) and Eric Ratz (Metric, Billy Talent, Sarah Harmer).
Feel free to ask us about anything about the band and this funny, odd, wonderful thing we get to call our job. Any nook and cranny about the songs, gear, shows, job you’re curious about, ask away!
If you have a question for any of us in particular just address us personally here (Nick, Mike, Tim, Anthony, Max). Max will answer the general questions.
It’s a very unpredictable line of work, but we are very lucky to have this job.
We just wrapped up our Canadian tour and are kicking off our US/Europe spring dates next week. We’ll also be playing festivals this summer back in Canada.
Do any of you guys want to go to the basketball game tonight?
you got TICKETS?!?!?
What do you get when you go to Burrito Boyz?
small shrimp – hot
Half chicken half sweet potato, everything on it, extra spicy.
What was going through your head when the power cut out at Supercrawl? Is this something you’re used to dealing with by now, or were you freaking out on the inside?
Honestly, the cabling from the front of house to the power generator cut out. I dont think supercrawl predicted as many people and the pressure from all the bodies caused the outage. We were freaking out on stage, but the rule is when shit goes wrong: keep on grinning and pray to god.
We’ve never had the power cut out like that, but it definitely wasn’t the biggest surprise in the world – we’ve played enough shows that we are used to technical malfunctions. We’re most concerned with you guys having a good time!
You guys are known for playing really awesome Frosh week shows around Canadian universities. Which school have you had the most fun playing and what was it about the school that made it so awesome?
Bishops was the drunkest by far. Not us, them. Great little town.
So who really is Lonnie?
Lonnie is my partner Lauren.
What’s is your song “Coffee” inspired by/about?
Um….sort of about a person who starts spewing hate in the name of religion. If God is great and guiding you, why is he telling you to do/say awful shit: “Do you hear him, do you feel him, do you see him when you’re dreaming? Did he hit you, or hold you, or cut you off when you’re speaking?”
Where’s the best pizza joint you’ve been to on tour?
I have a soft spot for Megabite pizza in Vancouver. Their Hawaiian in particular is awesome. It’s also a place we discovered on our first ever Canadian tour, so I think there’s some sentimental attachment as well. -Mike
I just moved to Hamilton and have fallen in love with the city. I’d love to know (as passionate Hamiltonians), what are some of your favourite things about the city people might not know?
The best part about Hamilton is that it’s a real city. It’s not designed like the suburbs. You can walk to things. It’s affordable. Lots of young people doing things, creating…new businesses, ideas.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to start up a small band?
Keep playing and don’t get discouraged – you never know what opportunity will turn into something bigger
Have you guys ever been star-struck or nervous to meet someone?
Bry Webb from the Constantines and Joel Plaskett are ones that stick out to me. Both are such huge influences for us and super talented songwriters and players, and really kind people too. Also meeting Dave Grohl, Josh Homme and John Paul Jones (!!!) when we opened for Them Crooked Vultures was pretty surreal. Dave was walking around the backstage yelling ‘Fresh pots!” and jamming Zeppelin with JPJ during soundcheck… Crazy.
We got to play with Stephen Lewis. That was pretty cool for me and I was a little nervous then.
We had the opportunity to open for Them Crooked Vultures a few years back. I can honestly say that meeting John Paul Jones made my palms a little sweaty (As would meeting anyone who was in Zeppelin). Then there’s Josh and Dave. As a drummer, however cliche it sounds, I’ve admired and learnt a ton from listening to Daves drumming over most of my life. Thanks for the question!
What’s your favourite NHL teams? Who are you guys pulling for in the playoffs?
Tim will be rooting for the Habs. My brother went to school in Ottawa so I have a soft spot for the Sens. Who doesn’t love Erik Karlsson?
What made you name your song Leather Jacket rather than Payphone?
haha, that song had been kicking around for a while as “payphone” but then fucking maroon 5 came with a song with that name.
I’m from Hamilton and happen to be in Brighton, UK visiting my brother when you are there too. How can I buy you a beer while I’m there if I’m not going to the festival?
Just come to the festival. And tweet at us for the beer.
Please and thank you!
Is Dan Griffin ever going to return to arkells or is anthony a permanent member now?
sadly, dan’s a lawyer now. anthony is full time and we’re super lucky we found him.
Why “Arkells” and not “The Arkells”? Does it bother you when people add the “the” or am I just looking way too in to the semantics?
Too many “the” bands. Arkells just reads better
Do you recommend Abigail as a wedding song? It’s become “our song”, even if it’s about breaking up…
Ha, you know what, if it makes you happy. DO IT. And film it so we can see!
In Deadlines, which Europeans are you talking about?
Europeans: the ones that live a more relaxing life. The ones that leave time for their passions. I saying “fucking europeans” jokingly. They have it figured it out.
Max, do you ever get mistaken for Adrian Grenier? And if you do, do you use those powers for good or for evil?
I’ll take it!
How would you say your writing/inspiration changed between Jackson Square and High Noon?
We just like more types of music than we used to. Our musical palette has grown. Like, you know how kids are picky eaters, and then one day you realize “I love caramelized onions!”…The difference between JS to HN is “Turns out I love Phil Collins!”
At what point in your career did you start building a team around the band? Was it gradual, bringing things on one at a time (ie manager, booking, press etc)? Or did it all come when signing the label?
We still try to do as much shit as possible for ourselves. No one will care about the project as much as the people IN it. But, we’ve been lucky to meet some super talented creative people in the business that have championed us. Basically, do as much as you can for yourself until you both a) feel like you’ve hit a wall AND b) find someone who is talented + wanting to help
Thanks for your questions. To be honest, I picked up a Ludwig Supraphonic from ’63 a couple years back. I always bring many snares for recording sessions (different sizes, wood snares, brass snares, steel snares, etc.) and ever since I have yet to have an engineer or producer pick ANY alternative over this Supra! It’s 5.5×6 and it sounds amazing tuned a little lower than I would tune it live. As for the team, it grew gradually throughout the bands progression. Some changes have happened along the way but we can happily say we’ve worked with some amazing people!
How do you decide which songs you’re going to cover in your encores?
Covers are tricky. Because if the cover is too obscure you might as well play your own song. but you don’t want to cover the same song that the dude at Rusty McFarlan’s is playing at the Pub down the street. it’s about finding that sweet spot…the right song that is gonna start the party but not typical.
What was your favourite place on campus to hang out at Mac? Also any news on if you will be playing the burlington Sound of Music festival this year?
We used to go to a place called Ramshead all the time – it was on Main St across from the hospital. I think it’s a Taco Del Mar now haha
What made you guys decide to play “Come to Light” over “Cynical Bastards” at the Junos? They’re both great songs, but i was surprised since Cynical Bastards was about hamilton (represent!!)
It was between come to light and leather jacket actually. the junos wanted come to light, we wanted leather jacket…I think they ultimately made the right call…I think come to light played better on TV than leather jacket would.
As a huge Arkells fan and a huge baseball fan I have to ask- “Michigan Left” opens with the lines “Driving to work, I had the radio on, Only to hear Curtis Granderson’s gone.” What the heck is this about? Where did Granderson go? Why is he important? Near as I can tell he was on the Yankees when you would have been writing this song.
The song is about a town sort of down on its luck, and then hearing MORE bad news (their beloved baseball player is traded, to the yankees no less)….ultimately though it about not being discouraged, and finding inspiration in your neighbours and people who want to make the city great again.
What inspired the song Leather Jacket?
I keep a list of phrases, lyrical ideas on my phone. I add to it whenever inspiration hits. Leather Jacket is a collection of different ideas to make one narrative. Super inspired by The Hold Steadys front man Craig Finn lyrically. Listen to the song When No Ones Watching By Craig Finn…
The phrases I used from my “phone list” in Leather Jacket were: “The kind of place that has a payphone” “dad’s leather jacket” “southern / british accents”
Could you please elaborate the lyrics/meaning of Book Club? It’s by far my favorite song but I have a hard time understanding the actually meaning of it
It’s about cruising around with my childhood friend Matt. He and I would drive around in his mom’s car, listening to whatever she had in the cd deck (women in songs). It’s called Book Club because Matt buys and reads 2-3 books per WEEK. Then I steal it from him and never return it.
Who would you like to tour with most? Any artists that you like to think are your inspiration/mentor?
Sam Roberts / Jim Cuddy / Downie.
Max, I’ve read that you’re a fan of Joel Plaskett, any particular favourite tune/album?
I love all of plaskett’s stuff, really. The first one I ever heard was Truthfully Truthfully so that sticks out to me..
Did you guys go to Oakville and Burlington a lot when you were younger?
I (Nick) have some uncles in Burlington, but for the most part I don’t think we spent a lot of time in either.
How cool was it to have some of your songs in CBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff pregame montages?
Very cool. Hockey is such an institution in Canada its an honor to be a part of the broadcasts.
Amazing! No matter what we will accomplish in the future, nothing will make my dad more proud than those montages!
How was your experience in Victoria BC? Any chance that you will return in the future? Also what advice would you give to someone just starting to learn the drums?
We had a blast in Victoria on this last run and we most definitely plan on returning. As for starting out with drums, my advice is a) to play as much as possible b) don’t let it become stale – find people you enjoy playing with c) play along to music you really enjoy. I would often start playing rudiments or out of Syncopation (etude book) and as soon as I found it uninspiring I’d just throw in the headphones and play along to songs instead. If you keep it fun, you’ll stick with it and any time spent with sticks in hand is progression imo. Thanks for the questions!
For the song “I’m Not the Sun”, how was it inspired?
It’s about when 20 year olds keep breaking up and getting back together over and over and over again and the misery it causes.
As an aspiring musician/producer what would be some tips you would have on networking and trying to get yourself noticed?
ask to volunteer your time for free with a more established producer. you’ll learn a ton and meet lots of bands. gotta work for free for a while.
I’m from Buffalo, and whenever you guys come around, you give the most amazing performances, and the crowds just love you. So I wanna ask, what’s your favourite part about Buffalo, or just WNY in general?
Honestly, Donny and his crew at the town ballroom have been the biggest supporters of our music and go above and beyond to make the show GREAT. Knowing there is so much TLC put into having the band play buffalo makes every show special. Cantina loco is awesome of food.
Which of your songs do you think will remain “stapled” to the setlist for years to come?
based on fan reactions: boss, lennon, paper, kiss cam, leather jacket, come to light, 11:11, NTTWH
If you could only listen to one song for the rest of your lives, what song would it be?
max – in my life beatles.
If you guys weren’t in the band, where would you be/what would you all be instead?
max – i think i’d want to be a reporter, podcast producer.
Do you have any songs you don’t like performing anymore? Also, what is the weirdest fan interaction you’ve had?
Playing our material as often as we do, different nights we tend to have different favourite songs to play (and different from member to member) but I will say that the idea of us rehearsing some old songs may not get the blood pumping the same way some songs we are really challenged by may. To play to a crowd that is magnetic and reciprocating the energy, that is what really makes any song exciting for us night after night. When we start a song and you can really feel the crowd going off, that song is the most exciting in that moment whether it be from any of our records and regardless of how many times we’ve played it. Thanks for your question!
At the 0:37 mark in Book Club, it sounds like the iMessage sound (when you receive a message) is hidden in the background… confirm/deny? Every time I hear this tune, I swear that I can hear it.
ha really? never noticed that. lots of weird little sounds on that record. though.
How hard is setting up U.S. tours? I’m really bummed you guys aren’t coming back to Washington DC this time around!
Sorry we are missing DC this time around! The US is actually easier to tour because the cities are so close together compared to Canada
Who exactly are you talking about in “Champagne Socialist”?
a champagne socialist is someone with socialist values but still like to drink champagne and have fancy material things. Most liberal leaning people in Canada would classify as a Champagne Socialist to some degree. Myself included The song is about a guy I really admire who had every opportunity to live this kind of life, but instead chose to commit himself to the workers, unions, and the people! He truly lives by his values, and isn’t a contradiction like the rest of us.
Do each of the members of a band have individual tastes in music or does it have to be similar so that making music is more compatible?
I think we all have different tastes, but there is a venn diagram thing happening where our inspirations align…
Who books most of the gigs when you were first starting out or how that process worked?
Max here – I booked a lot of the shows…and there were older bands who offered great advice on what promoters to email at the local clubs in southern ontario. if you’re cordial, willing to learn, and well researched, people will make time for you. We’ll be back in calgary this summer.
Can you describe what goes on the last 30 minutes before playing a live show?
A little bit of warm up playing/singing, tying of shoes, drinking of beers and making sure everyone is present and accounted for.
What was your favorite stop on your last Canadian tour? And why was it Saskatoon?
Honestly all of the shows blew us away, though I can say the support in Saskatoon in particular was really awesome and surprising to me. Victoria and Winnipeg stick out as the most rowdy, which from our perspective can be fun to watch (and when the 6’5 dude decides to crowd surf, occasionally terrifying). The whole thing was a blast though, really.
How come the second verse in im not the sun never made it on the record?
Wow! How did you know there was a verse cut?
The song was too long, so we needed to trim some parts to get to the second half instrumental part.
What’s Strombo’s living room like?
Super hip. Very tidy. He’s a great host.
What can you tell us about Max’s green jacket?
It’s a sweet jacket and I can’t find it. And pretty pissed about it.
How was touring with The Maine & the 8123 bands?
They are as nice and talented as they are handsome. I email pat all the time for advice. Super generous dudes.
What’s the hardest part of touring?
Being away from our friends and family I think. Also sometimes the travel is super gruelling, especially long drives. It’s always fun though, so it’s hard to complain.
My band started in February and we haven’t got any gigs yet. We’re based in Cambridge (UK), and the punk/alternative scene here is a little tired and, well, dead. Our aim is to revive it and hopefully go on to gigs outside of our hometown next year. What are your tips to help up get gigs? Also, any tips for stage presence?
Basically, the NEXT day after a gig, discuss any parts of the show that made you uncomfortable or uptight, and tight to figure out how to make it better. For example: I hate the “dead air” between songs, so we have transitions/intros for each tune to keep the flow going.
What are your thoughts about streaming services like Spotify?
For us, it’s important people just hear the songs. If music fans don’t know who you are, then it’s hard to get anything going. So in that respect, streaming services are helpful .
Whats the nicest fan gift you’ve gotten?
We’ve gotten a bunch of nice things…drawings, baked goods, sports jerseys.
What’s the weirdest setlist request you’ve ever gotten, and can I attempt to outdo it?
Take your best shot! We haven’t ever gotten anything too outside of the lines request wise
Max, whatever happened to Foam to Mesh?
Foam to mesh retired back in 2003. But founding member Ben Whitely is the best bass player in Toronto and plays with EVERYONE.
Since Hamilton has so many awesome places to eat, which is your favourite place to grab food?
so many good spots. currently sitting in jack and lois.
La Spagett on the mountain, Bread Bar on Locke, Wild Orchid in the north end, Valentinos in westdale
What’s the one album you guys need to bring with you on tour to listen to?
It changes from tour to tour – its usually a mix of classics and new stuff that we are discovering or is coming out around the time of the tour. For the classics – Beatles and Billy Joel (for Tony) probably get the most play
What was one of the best shows that you have ever seen live, and have you incorporated anything you saw there into your shows?
One of the best shows I’ve seen recently was St. Vincent. She’s a really powerful performer and guitar player, and the whole production was very cool without being overblown. Really inspiring.
In your opinion what makes a powerful set of lyrics?
the right combination of music and words. the right combo of quirky and straight forward lyrics. something that feels original and timeless.
How fun it was to film the video for coffee?
It was really cool having all our dads there and hanging out together. They had a blast. It was also very funny seeing my dad in skinny jeans.
If you had one piece of advice to give about anything, what would it be?
Go to the bathroom before you get in the car.