Interview: Arkells discuss philanthropy, putting others first, and maintaining positivity

Jan 31 2017, 7:22 am

Arkells recently announced that for every ticket sold on the Canadian leg of their Morning Report Tour, they’ll donate one dollar to Partners In Health Canada — a non-profit organization that works with the local communities in places like Haiti and Rwanda to provide badly needed healthcare to the marginalized poor.

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“On a certain level, it feels like the least we could do,” singer Max Kerman says, speaking over the phone from Phoenix, where the band is getting ready to perform in a few hours. The philanthropic effort is being made possible through Plus One, the Arcade Fire-founded charitable organization that connects artists, audiences, and causes. “We’re in a pretty privileged position with the platform that we have and the fact that there’s an audience that’s interested in what we care about,” Kerman adds.

This act of kindness isn’t a random occurrence for Arkells. The Hamilton five-piece regularly does a lot of good. They’re currently giving away intimate on-campus performances to students who do something generous for their community. The Golden Ticket contest, where fans submitted videos of themselves performing a cover of the band’s song “My Heart’s Always Yours,” awarded the winner free tickets to any and all of their 2017 concert dates. Proceeds from the group’s 2013 Tiger-Cats anthem, “Ticats Are Hummin’,” were donated to the Boys and Girls Clubs of Hamilton. Last summer, the band played a private backyard concert for a young girl battling cancer.

“I think on a personal level, when it comes to my value system, I’ve always really looked up to people who put other people first,” Kerman says. “My dad is a social worker and my mom is a high school teacher, and some family friends do social justice legal work, and those kinds of people have always really struck me because they live their lives just trying to help other people, and that always offers me a lot of perspective.”

When Kerman finds himself wrapped up in something trivial (“some career concern or something”) he thinks of people like the family friend and social justice lawyer who served as the inspiration for the Morning Report track, “A Little Rain (A Song For Pete).”

“I think about how he spends his time and how he’s always in the service of other people, especially people who are disadvantaged,” Kerman continues. “That always gives me a good kick in the butt. ‘Okay Max, there are other more important issues out there that you ought to be thinking about!’”

Music, of course, is a powerful platform. It is something that has the capacity to move, unite, and resonate on a vast multitude of levels. For Arkells, their music and exuberant live performance are also ways that they can maintain a message of positivity and togetherness.

“It’s definitely celebrating human connections and looking outside of yourself,” Kerman says, adding that he often writes songs about people that he admires. “The music isn’t particularly inward, in the way that some genres maybe are, and I think as a result, the show is kind of an outward show, and we really rely on everybody to bring their positive spirit to the show. That means singing, and dancing, and really reveling in the fact that we’re all together in a place and we’re not just looking at our phones the whole time. I think about my favourite shows and they are shows that have a real community spirit to them and where everybody is included. I think that’s definitely something we’re trying to instill in the type of performances that we have. It’s just this attitude of people coming together and celebrating compassion, and love, and friendship. And that’s, I think, a good thing that we can offer.”


When: Saturday, February 4

Where: BMO Centre – 20 Roundup Way SW, Calgary

Tickets: On Ticketmaster, $40

Yasmine ShemeshYasmine Shemesh

+ Arts