Arkells get nostalgic at Laurier
Frontman Max Kerman reflects on his time as a McMaster student and his close ties to Waterloo
Max Kerman is no stranger to Wilfrid Laurier University. Over the past three years the Arkells frontman visited Waterloo to see his girlfriend, who recently graduated from Laurier.
So when the Hamilton band returned to campus on Sept. 2 to play the Turret during Orientation Week, Kerman found himself reflecting on those times and his own experience when he was a student at McMaster University.
“I am particularly sentimental about it because I met Nick [Dika] and Mike [DeAngelis] at McMaster, and I remember how excited I was to see bands like Sam Roberts or Bedouin Soundclash come to McMaster and play at our frosh week,” he said.
“Those concerts were always really special to me, so the fact that we get to do that for somebody else, I think that’s a real privilege.”
Those that fought their way through the massive line to the Turret reflected Kerman’s excitement, chanting “Arkells” over and over until the band walked on stage. As the opening chords of “Fake Money” filled the room, the floor shook from the hundreds of first-years jumping and dancing.
The audience sang along with familiar hits as the band followed with “Come to Light” off their newest album High Noon, and “Ballad of Hugo Chavez” from their first record, Jackson Square.
Kerman noted the sense of excitement the band feels from students when they play university shows, which they still play often despite their growing fame.
“We really enjoy it. I think a lot of our fans anyway are in university or have just finished university or are going into university … our songs talk about being a young person and relationships and we’re not really that far removed from where the kids at Laurier would be at right now,” he said.
“I think there’s a lot of relatable lyrics and things like that. We make music to dance to and to party to … I think we fit in the landscape for college students in a really nice way.”
The band played several frosh week shows last week, including Bishop’s University in Sherbrooke, Quebec the night before they were at Laurier.
“They’re allowed to drink there because the Quebec drinking age is a little different — so everyone was feeling pretty good. At the end of the set I was just like, ‘Hey how does your school song go?’ and then like on a dime they all started chanting the school song and it lasted about a minute and a half,” Kerman laughed.
However, that energy seemed to be lacking from Laurier students at the show, but the band more than made up for it with their stage presence. During “Oh the Boss is Coming,” Kerman shouted to the crowd, “We played at Bishop’s University last night and they were way fucking louder than you!”
Their fast-paced energy slowed down for “11:11,” which Kerman revealed was written about his girlfriend Lauren.
“This song is a love song about a recent graduate of Wilfrid Laurier University,” he shared with the crowd.
Kerman said over the past three years he would visit his girlfriend in Waterloo a few times a month and frequented spots like Death Valley’s Little Brother, Starlight Social Club, Jane Bond and of course Phil’s.
When asked what his experience was like dating a university student while touring around with the band, Kerman said, “It keeps me young, you know.”
“I get the scoop on what the kids are listening to, which was really helpful because for some of the college shows we like to throw in an odd cover and I’d be like, ‘Hey Lauren, what’s hot right now?’ “
And during their show they did just that. In the middle of “Dirty Blonde” they busted out a verse of Taylor Swift’s “Shake it Off,” asking for help from the crowd.
“I think I have a real youthful spirit and I’m not an old crotchety bastard. I’m not that type — at least yet,” Kerman laughed.
He said through his girlfriend he met a lot of “smart, young, interesting people” from Laurier and encouraged students to put themselves out there while in university.
“There’s no bubble that exists right now,” he said. “Getting to meet people is really nice and I think there’s so many interesting, smart people that you can befriend and will make your life better. So go out there with an open mind and just try to connect with people.”