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Arkells' new album 'High Noon' dives into personal politics

Arkells, from left to right: Nick Dika (bass), Anthony Carone (keyboard) ,Max Kerman (lead vocals/guitar), Mike DeAngelis (vocals/guitar) and Tim Oxford (drums). THE CANADIAN PRESS/ho- Brooks Reynolds

TORONTO – Arkells frontman Max Kerman and guitarist Mike DeAngelis were giddy with excitement after getting their hands on their new album on vinyl between press interviews at Toronto’s Liss Gallery.

Kerman thrust it in DeAngelis’s arms to hold up like a proud papa so he could capture the moment for Instagram — with hundred of fans immediately hitting “like,” proving they’re not the only ones excited for the release of “High Noon.”

The Hamilton-based group’s third studio album is out Tuesday and the band described it on their blog as their most “confrontational” record to date.

“One of the jobs of an artist or creative person is to ask tough questions,” said Kerman. “I always really appreciate it when pop musicians dive into political matters in thoughtful ways.”

Listening to the Clash while writing for “High Noon” inspired Kerman to insert his personal politics into his writing.

“Making songs that are saying something has always been one of the highest priorities of the band,” said Kerman.

He goes on to say there is a particular focus on exploring the relationship between privilege afforded by money and power and the responsibility that should come with it.

“‘Fake Money’ is talking to someone who has been reckless with the power they have,” said Kerman of the track that opens the album, a theme also explored on the record’s closing track, “Systematic.”

But ultimately what binds this album to the band’s body of work is music that is upbeat and positive, said Kerman.

“Never Thought This Would Happen” is a prime example. It tells the story of making out with an old friend at the Hillside Festival, which is held annually in Guelph, Ont. The song also chronicles the awkward aftermath of such a scenario.

“Things got weird after the weekend,” said Kerman, recalling the lines of the song as DeAngelis laughs.

This song came from just one of the ideas Kerman is constantly logging in his phone.

“95 per cent of them are terrible but five per cent of them are OK and that’s how songs start,” said Kerman.

It’s DeAngelis’s favourite track on the album because it features many of the new sounds they were trying out.

“The rhythm of it creates an interesting feeling for me that is new for us,” he said.

The band worked with producer Tony Hoffer — who has also worked with Beck, M83 and Phoenix — to create this fresh sound.

“These are all bands we are huge fans of so it was an honour to work with him,” said DeAngelis.

The band flew to Los Angeles to work with Hopper, but most of the creative process happened closer to home.

“I wanted to find a rehearsal space that was about a 10 minute bicycle ride from my house,” said Kerman, explaining why they chose to write the record in Hamilton.

The band hunkered down in an old warehouse — which went through waves of ownership reimagining it as a parish, spice factory and nightclub — last summer and wrote the 11-song record.

They’ll be on the road again touring in Germany and the Netherlands soon, returning at the end of the month to play shows in Ontario.