This is how Arkells began 2020: playing a joyous concert in an ice castle on Lake Winnipeg, before merrily drifting C-Class Benzes on a giant frozen track.
It was a different world when Complex Canada initially linked up with Hamilton’s Canrock kings earlier this year. We were at the Mercedes-Benz Winter Experience in Gimli, Manitoba, where the vibes were good and the worries were nonexistent. Influencers and journalists at the press event mingled maskless and within close proximity, trying to share body heat as the band performed their set in a custom ice garage. At one point, we all gathered snug around a small campfire outside while lead singer Max Kerman and guitarist Mike DeAngelis played some chilled-out, acoustic versions of their hits.
Little did we all know that 2020, much like the 603-horsepower E 63 AMGs we drove on ice, would go sideways.
Arkells were deep into making their next studio album before the pandemic hit, forcing them to go the longest they’ve ever spent apart. But like Jeff Goldblum once said, rock, uh, finds a way—from their respective bedrooms, the band recorded a new project, Campfire Chords, which sees them give their classic songs the intimate, unplugged treatment. Perhaps inspired by their kumbaya session in Gimli, it’s a warm and folksy little reprieve from 2020’s tornado of misfortunes, and a reminder of simpler, funner times.
Channeling their inner Kanye, the band just updated Campfire Chords with a new track, "A Little More."
The boys have also been spending the quarantine cooking something up with Toronto Raptors coach Nick Nurse, who confirmed to reporters that he’s been in the studio recording some songs with the band. We heard a preview of what the collab might sound like last month, when Arkells posted a clip of Kerman and Nurse jamming out to “Quitting You”—the lead single off of Campfire Chords—and a cover of Bob Dylan’s “I Shall Be Released.”
Get to know Arkells a bit better via what’s on their feet—shoes are a window into our soles, after all. Check out our chat with Kerman and DeAngelis, where we touch on sneaker culture, basketball, Drake’s dad, and their all-time favourite kicks.
So are you guys into sneakers at all?
Max Kerman: A little bit! I used to be obsessed with sneakers when I was a kid. I'd go to Foot Locker like every week with my mom, just to get whatever the new Vince Carter shoe was. A lot of the throwback Reebok shit, the throwback Adidas and Nike stuff, all that stuff that feels like a more vintage ’90s or ’80s, that seems to appeal to us. I like a solid pair of Docs, too. We rock the Docs.
Mike DeAngelis: I'm a little bit scared of the whole sneaker economy. I know that's probably a Complex thing, but it just seems very intense to me right now.
DeAngelis: Because they're selling Jordans for like a million dollars on like StockX and crazy shit like that. Like it’s turned into some shit over shoes. Just the idea of not wearing shoes that you buy just to sell them later, or waiting in line to buy shoes to sell later—like, I get it, it's like a commodity, but that's intense.
Kerman: Yeah. I like basketball shoes, too. I play basketball.
Oh really! I didn’t know that. What do you rock on the court?
Kerman: I'll buy some KDs. There's certain players I wouldn't buy the shoes of. I mean, like Kyrie Irving.
DeAngelis: Those are actually my favorite ones to look at!
Kerman: Yeah, they're nice. I just find Kyrie kind of annoying is all.
DeAngelis: Does the third eye on the bottom of them freak you out? All the Illuminati stuff?
Kerman: Yeah, like he needs to stop that. He just talks a lot of shit. It's like, stop talking, man! You're trying to get philosophical after every loss and you're just throwing everybody else under the bus but yourself. It's very annoying. But I did hear a funny anecdote where players would be wearing Jordans but to play against Jordan. And Jordan would always go, “Ah, I'm going to fuck these guys up. You're wearing my shoe and asking for a photo with me at the game? I'm gonna fuck you up." And I’ve kind of felt that way. I played in a very recreational three-on-three basketball tournament a couple weekends ago and we were playing against some guys who were Arkells fans. They asked for photos with us before the game, so I was like, "I'm gonna fuck you guys up." But we actually lost, so...
Damn! You got served.
DeAngelis: Yeah man, that’s harsh. Do you think that perhaps your desire to crush them is what made you lose? Maybe if you didn't have this like….
Kerman: Supreme confidence? [Laughs.] They had one guy on their team that was a real ringer. And he was sort of the X factor. But the referee was, too—I hit two 3s that were called as 2-pointers because my foot was on the line, which was debatable.
It’s like the Montreal screwjob all over again.
Kerman: Yeah, that's right! That’s exactly right. The refs were out to get me. And that team we played, they helped run the tournament. So they did pay the refs. Literally.
Do you guys still keep in touch with Drake’s dad? You had that song about meeting him a few years ago.
Kerman: Haven't dropped him a line lately. I can't say I have. But do I follow him on Instagram. He keeps busy, that Dennis.
We just ran into him on a trip and then the song was sort of about the trip. It wasn't specifically about Dennis, but he was sort of a character in it. And we were like, “Ah, let's just call this song ‘Drake Dad!’” because there's a lyric about him and that kind of was a funny title. And then we asked him if he'd be in the video and he was like, "Alright!"
Aw, he’s a good sport. Which other rapper’s dad do you wanna collaborate with next?
Kerman: Hmm. Which other rappers’ dad...
DeAngelis: Who else is a famous rapper-dad?
Kerman: Yeah, like are we talking like a famous rapper now? Maybe Post Malone's dad...
DeAngelis: I want Master P, so I would say Lil’ Bow Wow's dad. Wasn't his son Lil’ Bow Wow?
Kerman: Lil’ Romeo.
DeAngelis: Lil’ Romeo! So Lil' Romeo's dad. That's kind of cheating, though.
Kerman: Yeah, or I would go with Ice Cube's kid, who's an actor. So, his dad. It would be cool to hang with Ice Cube.
Max Kerman’s Top 5 Sneakers of All Time
Nike Shox BB4
“I like the ones Vince wore. These picks are all going to be pretty Vince-centric, by the way.”
AND1 Tai Chi
“These are the dual color AND1s that Vince wore at the Dunk Contest, as we all recall.”
“I would go with the Iversons. Like the very first Iversons, the one that have the different colours on the toeboxes. I definitely had those.”
“You can’t really find them anywhere, but I’d go with the first-season Vince Carter Pumas, which I looked all around the city of Toronto for when I was like 12 years old. They didn't sell them anywhere. That's probably why he switched brands, to be honest, because they weren't available anywhere.”
Nike Air Zoom Flight The Glove
“These were the Gary Paytons with the zip-up—they zipped at the front and they’re all covered up. It was literally like a glove over the shoe. They were pretty sleek.”
Mike DeAngelis’ Top 5 Sneakers of All Time
Converse Chuck Taylor All Star “White”
“Just the classic white Chucks. Max picked all cool old basketball shoes, but my picks will all be very basic.”
Nike Killshot 2
“I like them because they’re just super simple: white, blue swoosh, gum sole.”
New Balance 998
“I just really like that silhouette. I got a pair and honestly, they're just so comfortable. They're just like the most comfortable walking shoes. I didn't think that I would get so into them, but now I kinda love them.”
Adidas Samba OG
“They’re just a classic.”
Vans Authentic “True White”
“The Damn Daniels. The Damn Daniel classics. The Daniel signatures. Love those. Although I'd get the high-tops; might as well.”
Escape the city while listening to some Arkells this winter in Mercedes' new GLA SUV.