Virgin Fest: Arkells relish Canuck comradery
It may be cliché to paint all Canadians as a polite group of people.
It’s hard to believe if you’ve ever been to a NHL game and see the devotion fans express by being rowdy and drunk. But whether you like the stereotype or not, our Canadian music heavyweights are the nice guys everyone says they are according to a new band on the Canadian independent music scene.
“You always hear about these bands being great people or nice people or whatever and I can definitely confirm that everything you’ve heard about them is true,” says Dan Griffin, keyboardist, guitarist and vocalist in the band Arkells, when speaking of touring mates the Tragically Hip and Sam Roberts band. “They were nothing but really great hosts to us and that really means a lot to a young band like us who are just sort of learning the ins and outs.”
It was little over two years ago that five friends from Hamilton, Ont., Griffin, Nick Dika (bass), Mike Deangelis (guitar, vocals), Tim Oxford (drums) and Max Kerman (lead vocals) got together to form the band Arkells. In the last year the boys from the small Ontario city have gone coast to coast multiple times sharing their debut album, Jackson Square, to a receptive audience, impressing music critics along the way.
“We have this vicious touring schedule and it feels like we’ve been on the road since the sixties,” Griffin reflects while in Vancouver a few days prior to Virgin Fest Alberta. “But really it’s only been a couple of years so we’re looking back at our schedule and thinking how amazing and fortunate it has been to have done everything in the last two years.”
Virgin Fest Spotlight
Show: Saturday, Aug. 8 @ 4:10 p.m.
For the band’s website click here
Rather than let their quick rise to fame on the independent Canadian music scene go to their heads, Griffin and his bandmates are grateful for the opportunity they’ve received and all that comes with touring around the country in a minivan.
“It’s amazing when you drive together, there’s a lot of things about it that you have to be prepared for – you’re away from your family and friends back home a lot and there’s definitely some tough things about it,” explains Griffin. “But at the end of the day, I mean, getting to arrive in a place like Calgary with a festival like this and getting to play in front of thousands of people you’ve never seen and that kind of feels like a privilege to us and that’s why we got into it at first.”
One of things they’ve learned along the way is whom they’d rather have at the wheel.
“We don’t let Max drive. He drives like he has no arms. He just got his license relatively recently so we try to avoid him driving as much as possible. Mike does the bulk of the driving actually. Max also is coincidentally is the worst to sleep beside as well too. He sort of rolls around and sometimes you’ll wake up to him sort of hugging you,” Griffin says.
Bad bedmates and aggressive touring schedule aside, it’s their talent as musicians and their sound that has brought them this far playing several Virgin Festivals and sharing the stage with many other great Canadian bands.
“We’re the worst at describing it (their sound) but maybe we’re the best at playing it. But we never really know how to describe it,” says Griffin when asked to describe their music. He prefers to hear what others have to say about their music and then adds his observations, citing the Beatles and the Motown era as influences on their songwriting.
“I guess at the end of the day our biggest influence is trying to be the sort of band I remember when I was 10 years old going to shows and getting blown away by the energy and convictions of bands,” explains Griffin. “The whole idea of if you’re on stage taking up people’s time and they’ve paid to come see your show the most important thing is to make sure they feel like you’ve shown up with something to say and something meaningful to give.
That’s what we try to do.”