Twelve years ago I went to visit my cousin while he was away at McMaster University in Hamilton, ON. Upon my arrival, he told me the plan for that night was to go to an area of town called ‘Hess Village’ to see some ‘student band’. “Umm…a student band?” I said, with uncertainty and judgment in my voice. “Trust me,” he flatly replied. “You’re going to like these guys.” Against my better judgment, I went along. When we got to the bar, the place was absolutely packed: a horde of people standing shoulder to shoulder wrought with anticipation. The lights dimmed and the crowd erupted. The singer grabbed the microphone, swept the hair our of his face, and said with a smile: “it’s great to be home Hamilton! We’re called ARKELLS!”
Yes, that ‘student band’ I initially fought so hard to NOT see, would go on to become one of the most prolific and revered bands in all of Canada. And for the first time since their Juno Award win for ‘Rally Cry’; Arkells are back with a wickedly stylish music video for their latest single ‘Years in the Making’. Now if there’s one thing these Ontario locals know how to do and do well; it’s writing an anthem. The type of song that penetrates even the most reserved stoic, totally releasing them from their inhibitions. In classic Arkells fashion, ‘Years in the Making’ is a call to action. It conceptualizes the past and lights the way toward a bright future. The band draws influence from an expansive musical collective: everything from Big Band, Samba, to even Mariachi. It’s an ambitious undertaking; a bold statement not only for how far Arkells have come as musicians but producers as well.
In the video it appears that the main objective Arkells have set out to achieve is to break a world record for unique costume changes in under three and a half minutes. It’s a visceral onslaught depicting the highs and lows of past decades through the changes in fad and fashion. It asserts that any amount of success or happiness is also founded on a collection of failures. That life is to be taken in stride: the good with the bad. Everything you’ve ever known or experienced has been building toward this point, so you might as well enjoy it to the fullest. The pure and utter randomness of ‘Years In The Making’ is an expression of Arkells unfiltered individuality; a true testament to the power of self-love and appreciation. And it has bunnies – cute ones too.
Almost two and a half years ago now, the country of Canada lost its favorite and most precious musical son. Since that time, the country has been in mourning; uncertain and unsure if we will ever see the sun again. I’m here to say that the time for mourning is over. That we must honor the past by looking toward the future. And by reminding ourselves just how hard we can rock as a country. Arkells are not The Tragically Hip and they aren’t trying to be. No one will ever be able to replace Gord Downie or the impact his legacy had on an entire generation of Canadians. What the Arkells do represent, however, is the next closest thing. They are undeniably and intrinsically Canadian: a band wherein beats the heart of an entire nation.