Arkells have recently released their highly anticipated, fifth studio album, Rally Cry via Universal Music. With the size and scope to match Arkells’ ambition and ever-growing audience, Rally Cry is the band’s most ambitious project yet. We chat to the Canadian band ahead of their UK tour.


Interview by Evie Kissack

Firstly, thank you for taking the time to answer my questions!

My pleasure. Greetings from Philadelphia. 

I wanted to chat about your new album Rally Cry – an ambitious and adventurous record! How was it working on the new tracks, and what were the band’s hopes for the album?

Thanks. When we're working on a record, we usually have a few goals in mind. First, we want to chase ideas and sounds that make our own ears tingle with delight. Stumbling onto an interesting chord, melody or lyric is one of the most exciting moments of the creative process. We're chasing that feeling. Secondly, we don't want to repeat ourselves. A lot of what we do is a reaction to the last thing we did, so I feel like all of our records feel pretty fresh as a result. 

In the back of our minds we were thinking about how this material would feel when we played it live. These songs will take on a whole new meaning when we play them live, so we want to make sure that the arrangements lend themselves to a good time when we hit the road.

The album touches upon political issues and offers a commentary about these issues in several tracks – notably American Screams and People’s Champ. What was the motivation to write political songs?

We don't intentionally set out to write about anything in particular, but politics is something I keep coming back to. Our music is very communal feeling, and a lot of the lyrics are very outward looking. I'm always thinking about how we're connected to each other, and the relationships between people and their communities. So writing about politics is an extension of that.  

How have you found your fans’ reactions to the album? 

So far so good! We've built up a good relationship with our crowd where we never feel pigeonholed. There's a trust that whatever direction we choose to go, we'll get an honest listen. That's the best spot to be in as an artist, to know your audience is somewhat along for the ride. 

You’ll be heading to the UK this month, playing some great venues. Are you looking forward to this leg of the tour?

We're thrilled to be back. We had the best time in the spring with Frank Turner touring all across the UK, so we're excited to be able to play shows on our own. This is the first headline tour for Rally Cry, so we'll be working out some of the kinks. But we'll learn a lot too. That nervous energy you get from playing new songs offer a different kind of show, but it's a good energy. Should make for passionate shows.

The Hare and Hounds in Birmingham is a great venue, in that it offers the opportunity for more intimate gigs. Do you enjoy performing live in this kind of set-up?

We play everywhere. For us, it's much less about the size of the venue and much more about the energy in the room. If it's a sweaty, rollicking affair, then that's all we can hope for. In a club, the loud moments feel that much louder, and the intimate moments feel that much more personal.

I also wanted to ask more generally about how the band came together, and the story behind the name ‘Arkells’?

Mike, Nick and I met at University, in Hamilton, Ontario. I came to school looking to start a band, and lucky for me I found them in the first week of school. Arkell Street is the student house we lived in.  

Have you always wanted to be a musician?

Um, yes. I never really thought of myself as a musician though. I'm not a particularly good player. But I do think of myself as an entertainer, on some level. And a songwriter. And someone who likes to work in groups. So, that all adds up to being a front guy in a band.  

You met Felix of Felix Hagan & The Family whilst touring with Frank Turner – how is it to work with him again as the supporting act for your tour?

Felix is wickedly talented. He can kind of do it all. We're generally in awe. He and his band are the perfect fit for this run. I've already been texting him about some cover ideas we can do in the encore.  

Are there any genres or musicians that have particularly inspired Rally Cry?

So many. Everything from Bob Marley, to 80's pop, to New Orleans brass to modern hip-hop.

Catch Arkells at the Hare and Hounds on 28 November 2018. Tickets available HERE. 

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