Arkells ‘proud to be a Hamilton band’


[img_inline align=”right” src=”” caption=”Arkells (from left to right) Dan Griffin, Nick Dika,Max Kerman, Tim Oxford and Mike DeAngelis. Photo by Dustin Rabin.”]

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By any measure, Max Kerman's time in social sciences at McMaster was a success. He studied under professors who inspired and challenged him; he completed impressive original research and he graduated with an honours BA in political science.

The academic highlight was his 30-page research project on living-wage campaigns and their potential effect on Hamilton. But Kerman had “an ulterior motive” for coming to McMaster, he explains. He had a passion for singing and playing guitar, and knew that Hamilton had given many great rock musicians their start. “Going away to school was a great opportunity to start a band,” Kerman said.

His experience points to a vital part of university life that can be overlooked in the drive to find the perfect academic fit. At McMaster Kerman found students who shared his aims and interests; he found kindred musical spirits. A little more than five years ago, they formed a band called Arkells, named after a campus-area street.

Kerman met guitarist Mike DeAngelis at a Welcome Week event. The two started talking about bands and soon found they had identical taste in new music.

“I told him he was in the band,” Kerman recalls, even though the band had yet to become a reality. The next day while walking around campus, Kerman met bassist Nick Dika, who was immediately recruited. Another McMaster student joined – keyboardist Dan Griffin – and he brought in drummer Tim Oxford to complete the group.

Between them, the band members took plenty of political science classes, education which informs their song writing (“Ballad of Hugo Chavez” hit many of radio's top 10 lists).

The band quickly earned critical acclaim for clever lyrics, energetic live shows and a “catchy, raw and unbridled” rock sound – plus a slew of awards, a Juno win for New Group of the Year and coveted gigs at Vancouver's Cultural Olympiad.

Playing local clubs, writing an album's worth of material and keeping up good marks, band members developed a strong sense of place. They named their debut record Jackson Square, after the downtown shopping centre. And “although none of us grew up in Hamilton, the band was born here,” Kerman says. “We are proud to identify ourselves as a Hamilton band.”

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