After two days of non-stop interviews and touring, we sat down with Max Kerman [vocals, guitar] and Mike DeAngelis [vocals, guitar] from rock band, the Arkells
, to talk about their upcoming album Morning Report
dropping on August 5th. Since their formation in 2008, the five-piece have garnered praise for their politically charged lyrical content, juxtaposed by a light, fun sound, resulting in an extremely refreshing mix.
Between jokes and endless amounts of grapes and granola bars, the band spoke with us before their set at Baeble's first installment of our annual Bands and Brews
concert series, about their songwriting process, postcards and what's different about the new album.
Arkells takeover Baeble HQ]
If my online stalking proves me right, you two met in college and had instant musical chemistry, how did the rest of the members come along?
We were really lucky, because every band needs a really reliable drummer, so when we met Tim [Oxford] he was like a human metronome and was a very powerful drummer, and so he suited us like the missing piece that we needed. With Anthony [Carone], a lot of the songs start on the piano and I like to use the piano as a songwriting device. I'm not particularly good at it but I love hearing a good piano player experimenting with good keyboard sounds and that is totally Anthonys world. He's amazing at it! I'll be like, can we come up with something like this [making piano playing gestures with his hands] and then he'll come up with exactly what I want, way better than I though.
JP: I heard you guys send postcards to your fans on Christmas, is that true and how do you go about it?
The first couple of years we sent out as many as we got and the years that followed, we sent out as many as all of us could sign in one sitting, it was intense!
What was the largest amount you ever did?
Probably three thousand, yeah it was a lot! We had to do a cut off at some point.
JP: Out of all the festivals you've played so far this year, which one has been your favorite?
Firefly. We got to play for the campers the night before the festival open, it was awesome. So much fun, just less rules and so much energy.
JP: For your last album, you guys were working with Tony Hoffer only, and for the new upcoming one you decided to self-produce it, how'd you land at this decision?
This record was different because we worked with four different guys and Tony was one of them. He's an amazing guy and an amazing producer, and we did one song with him and it turned out amazing, but we also wanted to see what other producers had to offer. I think it helped take the band new places. Plus, it's always exciting to try different things. We worked with George Chiccarelli, who's a big name engineer producer (The White Stripes, The Strokes, My Morning Jacket) Brian West. It was really cool, each one of them a little different but equally talented.
JP: So songwriting, what comes first, songwriting or the music making?
We are always sort of thinking about music in a lot of different ways, so I'm always taking notes if somebody says something interesting. I have a list of lyrical ideas that Im always working on, so musically speaking, we are always thinking about things that are exciting to us that might inspire songs. We are always consuming stuff, and then when we get together as a group we start hacking away at ideas and cross our fingers hoping something comes together. Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn't, but I think we are more successful if we are always thinking about it.
JP: With the track "Private School," I'm sure you've been asked a bunch about the lyrical content, but I'm more interested in the process. It sounds like a perfect combination of effortlessness [the music] and Intelligence [the lyrics]
Max made a demo of this song with this sort of hip-hop drum beat and a really lazy, cool sounding vocal. He showed it to the rest of us and usually we like to mess it all up and start to get in there, but this time we were just like, thats so cool, just how laid back and breezy the whole thing was and that's always hard to replicate, so in the studio we built on top of that early demo and Im pretty sure the verses and vocals are from the demo, which is weird because we usually dont write that way.
JP: Based on your sound I would've assumed you always go for the raw/demo version?
Often yes, but it changes every time. We listen to this interesting podcast called Song Exploder
and the most interesting part about it is hearing all these different ways that people make songs and music, and how they change and evolve over time. So unfortunately, there isn't a blueprint that makes a song happen!
We wish we knew because it would be easier to write more songs, but instead we just hope that the creative gods come and enlighten us!
JP: In an ideal world where everything goes your way, how do you guys want the new album to be perceived?
We hope people hear that there is an honest enthusiasm behind the lyrics and the music and that they think these songs are different than the stuff we did before, because we feel like it's different. In a way, we think we have already gotten that reaction, or at least we like to think so!
JP: In what ways would you say that the album is different?
- I think sonically we are trying different things, mainly in the way the songs are produced and lyrically, we are playing around with different ideas. For example, "Private School" is kind of a silly and fun song, which I like, but there is definitely depth and serious undertones to it. At the end of the day, we want to try new things, while still sounding like ourselves.
There really isn't much of a plan, we just make the music and let people make up their own minds, which is fine with us because regardless of what they say, we have so much fun making it.
JP: Last but not least, how do you feel about being labeled as a band with a social political agenda?
I think it's cool. I appreciate when artists arent afraid to speak their mind and these days, there aren't a ton of political songs out there, compared to how it was back on the '60s and '70s, so I truly do like it. At the end of the day, we want to be producing music that's honest, and those are themes that we think about a lot and that motivate us to pick up a pen and write down some words. So, if that's what's driving us and it comes from a sincere place, then that's all we can really do.
JP: Do you now feel a responsibility to keep writing in that same way?
Only if I was still fired up about it! I wouldn't be writing songs that are political in nature just because our fans like that part of us, we really do have to be fired up to do it.
Visit the band's website
to get your tickets for one of their upcoming tour dates.