Redferns via Getty Image Singer-songwriter Kathleen Edwards, Arkells, the…
- Posted on Nov 21st 2011 2:00PM by Aaron Brophy
Universal Music Canada
But then they discovered pop music.
The resulting new album, 'Michigan Left,' certainly won't rock the lives of the hipster set, but it appears the Ontario five-piece are more interested in rocking radios around the world anyway.
"I think we've come to really appreciating pop music again," lead singer Max Kerman tells Spinner.
"Here's a really far-reaching example. If you listen to, like, the songwriting even in the songs from the Backstreet Boys, there's something to it, there's considerable talent behind it, and I think if you go even further back and you've got bands like Fleetwood Mac and Hall & Oates, they're using the same tricks."
Kerman -- who's joined in Arkells by guitarist Mike DeAngelis, bassist Nick Dika, drummer Tim Oxford and stand-in keyboardist Anthony Carone -- turned his back on the music of his countrymen in his pop quest, finding comfort in the arms of '80s pop-rock instead.
"I think in the last couple years, like when 'Jackson Square' came out we were really into Constantines -- they're one of my favourite bands ever -- and Wintersleep, Weakerthans, the Tragically Hip and Sam Roberts -- really great CanRock. But on this record, we really came to appreciate some '80s music like Fleetwood Mac and Hall & Oates and we really tried to take from there wherever we could. And that's pop music worth listening to."
It wasn't just Stevie Nicks' cooing or John Oates' mustache that captured Arkells attention, though. Dig deeper into the songs on 'Michigan Left' and echoes of that era's best pop-rock, the likes of Midnight Oil, Big Country, Simple Minds, INXS and U2 can be heard woven into songs like 'Coffee' and 'On Paper.' DeAngelis confirms that's no accident.
"I think there's a clarity in '80s guitars that wasn't in our music before," says the guitarist. "So we wanted to introduce that a bit. There's definitely a more conscious effort with melodies on guitar and cleaner tones and sometimes even a delay or something that you find in '80s music."
This new outlook for Arkells will surely cause howling in some quarters. After all, not only did they discover all this pop-rock between albums, they also made the jump from indie label Dine Alone Records (home to the likes of City and Colour and Tokyo Police Club) to Universal Music (Lady Gaga, Lil Wayne and Justin Bieber).
The band don't seem phased by such thinking, though. To them, good music -- be it pop, indie, R&B or rock -- is all a lot more interconnected than it gets credit for.
"We found that there's a connection with a lot of music," says Kerman. "Like, the Phoenix record, 'Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix,' which we love, the intro in the song 'Girlfriend' is very similar to the intro to 'Everywhere' by Fleetwood Mac. And when you say Fleetwood Mac and Phoenix, people say, 'Oh yeah, there are a lot of similarities.' But the point is, regardless of how it's recorded or what time it's from, a lot of good music comes from the same place and that's the thing, the common thread.
"We've done Motown sets where we cover Motown top to bottom and Motown is really entrenched in a lot of early Bruce Springsteen material like 'Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J.' and 'The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle,' so I think music's more connected than people realize sometimes."
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