"So you actually went to the show planning to play with Arkells?"
"Yeah and no. It was a thought but it was kind of like a far-fetched idea rather than it's actually going to happen."
Well, it actually happened...
All summer long we've been bragging about how cool our Bands + Brews series at Industry City in Brooklyn is. Held in a unique, one-of-kind setting, we've offered those willing to ride the express trains deep into the heart of Brooklyn intimate and sometimes very personal encounters with a variety of amazing musicians and bands, including My Morning Jacket's Carl Broemel
, Great Good Fine OK
, Xenia Rubinos, Tigertown, Handsome Ghost, and Drowners.
Case in point: Meet Stephen Baumgarten, just one of a hundred or so souls who came down to our 'hood for our first Bands + Brews of the season. It was the Hamilton Ontario outfit Arkells
who were on Stephen's radar. After catching a show of theirs' earlier in the year with friends, Stephen caught wind of Bands + Brews the day before when the Arkells cryptically tweeted out info about a secret show in Brooklyn.
It seems Stephen had more on his mind than just catching a show from one of his favorite bands. No, this amicable grad student/life guard/Arkells die-hard practiced his chops earlier that morning, picked his moment, and politely asked singer Max Kerman if he might "sit in" on the band's next song. Max obliged and Stephen totally owned his moment...so confidently that we initially thought it was planned in some way. Like Stephen was a ringer the band brings on the road to perform the "stunt" night after night. When we found out it was real we knew we had to track down Stephen (thanks social media!) to find out how he pulled it off.
Bands + Brews...anything can happen people! Don't miss out on our event of the season on September 22nd. Details coming SOON.
show planning to play with Arkells? thought.
It was a farfetched idea rather than it's actually going to happen.
the song? Which ones do you know? Really? Howard, bring our boy up, he thinks he can... - So why don't you tell us a little bit about yourself? - Sure.
I am a grad student I'm home here for the summer.
I work as a lifeguard.
- So why do you love the Arkells so much? When did you first start getting into them? - I think it was after that show when I saw them... It was at the Knitting Factory.
Me and then all my friends were just like that was incredible.
That was a really good show.
And so that kind of solidified that I love them.
And then this experience was wow, they're amazing and I'm obsessed now.
- So you've never seen the footage of you actually doing this? - No.
- Would you like to see the footage of you doing this? - Yeah.
Why not? I'm going to probably cry a little bit.
Can I play guitar for you? You want to come up and play the song? Which ones do you know? Really? Howard, bring our boy up, he thinks he can... - I was so happy.
- Dude, some dude just hopped on stage.
- It sounds good.
- So weird.
- Did you practice beforehand? - I probably played the music maybe earlier the day or, like, the day before, just like kind of playing to play.
tell your girlfriends about me - Give it up for Stephen, everybody.
Will you see them again? - I will.
I will try again.
I will definitely scream again.
- Do you feel like Bands + Brews was also kind of a factor in this? - Oh, yeah, because it was definitely such a small intimate setting that it could happen.
- If it was at bigger venues or whatnot, I don't think I would have had, first, the ability to be as close as I was to the stage.
And then also I don't think the crowd interaction that happened there would have happened anywhere else.
- And all the brews.
- And all the brews.
This is for true.
It did help.
It definitely did help.
You made a wish at 11:11 I held your hips at 12:34 There was a kiss just waiting to happen A cab was calling outside the door
Its a weird time to be a rock band right now, observes Max Kerman, the singer, guitarist, and chief songwriter for the Arkells. I just feel like rock has gotten so conservative and doesnt know where to go. To be honest, I dont really listen to a lot of rock music right now.
Thats not a radical statement for your average twenty-something in this EDM-dominated era, but its a bit surprising coming from a guitar-slinging guy whose band seemingly personifies a certain old-school, ethic. Hailing from the gritty industrial outpost of Hamilton, Ontario, the Arkells have notched four Juno Awards and a gold record on their sweat-rusted belts, proving theres still a place for passionate, no-bullshit rock 'n soul in the mainstream. (In 2015, they were the most-played band on Canadian alt-rock radio.) But the groups new album, Morning Report, betrays a more irreverent, adventurous ethos that more readily recalls the cut-and-paste approach of hip-hop beatmakers than the plug-and-play attack of a live rock band, with click-tracked rhythms, subliminal samples, electronic pulses, and sax and violins threaded into the richly textured mix.
Certainly, this is the Arkells most eclectic album to date, from the piano-pounded, California Love-schooled swagger of Private School to the silver-lined break-up song My Hearts Always Yours, the sort of ascendant, blood-pumping anthem you can easily imagine sparking an arena full of waving illuminated smartphones. But if the Arkells have mostly scrubbed away the surface soot of their Hamilton-spawned sound, lyrically, Kermans songwriting hits even closer to home.
A lot of the songs are about me and characters in my life: my friends, my parents, my girlfriend, Kerman says. And a lot of times, theyre songs about what happened the night before. So thats why its called Morning Report: you text your friend the next day and its like, 'Give me the morning report!
But Morning Report balances tales of last nights debauchery with more sobering examinations of a time in life that doesnt get much play in rock music: your late-twenties. Its the phase when all your friends start getting married, your parents suddenly decide to get divorced, and long-distance relationships hit their shit-or-get-off-the-pot breaking point. But while melancholic, meditative ballads like Passenger Seat and Come Back Home provide unflinching portraits of marriages on the brink of collapse, rousing, soul-powered sing-alongs like A Little Rain pay poignant tribute to the friendships that help you through the tough times, and provide that much-needed shoulder to cry on.
Thats another thing thats so conservative about white-guy indie rock, says Kerman. What makes Drake so awesome is he just puts all his emotions right on the table for you to see. All of these songs and stories come from a genuine place for me.
The morning reports we get from our friends may arrive through smartphone screens, but the songs on Morning Report all chronicle face-to-face interactionswith all the intimacy, intensity and awkwardness they entail.
This is our weirdest, funniest, saddest record yet, Kerman concludes. And therefore, our most honest one, too.