Arkells are not a straightforward rock band any longer. The group’s latest album, Morning Report, reaches into a variety of different in areas—hip-hop, dance and orchestral influences to be precise.
Replicating these new aspects on stage could be a tough task for the average band, but Arkells’ members believe it’s an opportunity to challenge themselves creatively.
“It’s not so important that we recreate every texture and sound that’s on the record,” says frontman Max Kerman. “It’s more important to perform it bigger and with more enthusiasm and my job is to be the dance instructor at the front of the stage.”
Ensuring fans get two different experiences—from studio to stage— is a unique part of the Arkells’ approach.
Lately Kerman has been influenced by artists such as Chance The Rapper and Kanye West. Bringing elements of the hip-hop performance has helped grow the band and evolve Kerman as a frontman.
“We’re trying to make moments of magic for the crowd,” Kerman says of live shows. “I love going to a show and seeing something unexpected and be able to leave the show going ‘and then they pulled someone up on stage and that person played guitar.’ I’m always trying to think of moments that people can take home with them, that can give a song new meaning.”
During the six months spent recording Morning Report, the band worked with four different producers, which gave the record a “fresh dynamic” and kept the band on its toes.
The first track of the album, “Drake’s Dad,” tells the story of when they ran into the man himself. The lyrics illustrate the Arkells’ fun-loving nature—partying with a bride and her bridesmaids, and pre-drinking in the shower. Musically, the song has a heavy hip-hop influence while still staying true to the Arkells guitar-band sound.
“There are sounds and rhythms that you can take from a song like “Drake’s Dad.” We’re using the sort of gospel choir that you might hear in a Kanye West song. The horn arrangements are something Kanye might do, and there’s a loopy sample that has southern groove you might hear in Atlanta hip-hop music,” Kerman says of the production’s variety.
The group strives for honesty. From “Drake’s Dad,” the band gears down for “Private School,” with heavy drums and lead piano bass notes. Kerman growls during the verse before breaking into a swagger-filled chorus:
“Without an ounce of shame, oh you know/I just want to love you.”
The Arkells aren’t ashamed of trying something new and are doing the best work of their career thus far. Kerman hopes the band keeps experimenting and pushing their sound into different genres, while still staying true to themselves.