It was a Tuesday night in Sheffield, and Arkells frontman Max Kerman felt the energy rushing from the crowd. Weeknight be damned. People were here for the party. Kerman soulfully wailed on his gospel-infused alt rock, and the crowd seemed to be drinking it up. As the Canadian rockers rounded out their set, they heard a strange roar rippling through the arena.
“You’re shit! You’re shit!”
“We’ve never gotten heckled that way before — ever,” Kerman remembered. He was not totally sure why people would start doing that now, especially as the audience sang along to every chorus.
It wasn’t until after the show that Kerman realized what happened. “It turns out they were saying ‘Yorkshire,’” he laughed, “which is the area that Sheffield is in.”
There was no mistaking the enthusiasm at this year’s Austin City Limits Music Festival. The five-piece stopped in for a whirlwind set on October 13th and quickly jetted off to tour the rest of the country. Despite waking up at 3 am to catch a flight, Max Kerman was chipper enough to discuss their new album, Rally Cry, in the bustling media tent.
“We never try to repeat ourselves,” Kerman said. “The production is very focused. I like how sharp it is.”
Fans of Arkell’s earlier records Morning Report and High Noon will undoubtedly latch on to their latest release. The tracks are both raucous and easy-going, and it’s the perfect way to recover from the post-festival doldrums.
The focal point of Rally Cry sits with the effortlessly sing-able track, “People’s Champ.” The anthemic hook makes you want to punch the sky and shout at the top of your lungs. “Relentless” is an instant bop, complete with perfectly percussive hand claps on the one and the three.
The real gem, however, is tucked away at the end of the album. In “Eyes On The Prize,” Arkells find a delicate balance between radio-friendly melodies and joyous shouting from the rafters. The familiar indie tune immediately slips into your bones, making you feel like you’ve heard this hit a thousand times. Then, like a screeching U-turn, the band takes you to church. The rollicking chorus drops as Anthony Carone plays a delicate trickle across the keys. Like light through stained glass, a choir of passionate voices shine in. When the song returns to its original chorus, it has morphed into something completely new.
“We’re not that precious about who we are and who we think we ought to present ourselves as,” Kerman said. “We’re more interested in being inspired by whatever is out there that grabs our ears.”
You can hear their unique blend of alt rock in the video below: