On the Road with Arkells, Lights, Bad Child and More Canadian Musicians

What can happen when great Canadian musicians hit the road? Absolutely anything.

The members of Arkells pose amongst their sound equipment
   Photo: Matt Barnes

Arkells Frontman Max Kerman has a Heritage Minutes in Pyeongchang Arkells flew to South Korea for the 2018 Olympic Winter Games to perform for Team Canada. It was my first time in Asia, and I was excited to explore PyeongChang. After our performance at Canada Olympic House, we went out to a karaoke bar with the athletes and sang and danced late into the night. On the way back to the hotel I decided to get some late-night food at a local restaurant. When it was time to pay the bill, my credit card wasn’t working… and I didn’t have any cash. I also couldn’t speak the language. As much as I tried to let the staff know that I was very sorry and planned to return in the morning, they did not seem impressed.

The following morning I looked at my receipt with the intention of walking back to the restaurant to pay up, but quickly realized that I couldn’t read any of the information. Retracing my steps wasn’t an option because it had been late and dark and I was jet-lagged. I had no clue where the place was in the light of day.

So I tweeted the receipt and asked for help.

Lucky for me, a Canadian teaching in Korea saw the tweet and offered to help. In the Olympic spirit, he promptly went over to the restaurant himself and paid the bill, and had a picture to prove it. Truly, a Canadian Heritage Minutes moment.

Arkells are currently touring in support of their highly acclaimed fifth studio album Rally Cry. For all dates visit arkellsmusic.com.

August 15, 2019
Lights leaning against a fence in a crop top with bright red hair
   Photo: Lindsey Blane

Lights gets Knighted by Canadian Music Royalty The day after the 2016 JUNO Awards I found myself in Calgary International Airport bright and early. This was no ordinary YYC experience since many musicians and public figures lingered among the bustling (hungover) crowds in the wake of the awards. One of them – the lovely artist SonReal – got chatting with me about life and music, when suddenly out of the corner of our eyes we saw the man, the myth, the legend: Bryan Adams, in line at Starbucks. We are both big fans of his, and had never met the man.

After some deliberation, we decided to “vortex” him – which is our cool speak for "fan girl." Neither of us ever really do this (or so we claim) but we thought it best to approach him together, as the power of two B musicians might add up to a worthy Bryan Adams vortex. Let me tell you, he is not much of a talker – at least not when he’s being vortexed by two B musicians lingering in the airport. So SonReal and I began spewing unsolicited (and false) information about how we are in a band together and we too, make music.

Somehow in the chaos he came to understand that our band was called “SonReal." I figured after a few pressed-lips smiles and patient nods it was time to bail so I bowed (yep), shook his hand and said, “nice meeting you, my name is Lights.” He smiled cordially. As we stumbled backward and he took his coffee, he turned around and said “the band name should be Lights.” That was the day, years into my career, I felt officially knighted.

Lights is currently on the Skin&Earth Acoustic tour.

Portrait of Bad Child dressed in black
   Photo: Paul Mérelle / @slon.3

Bad Child Wanders but is Not Lost I have been on over 20 flights so far this year, seeing the world and bringing my music to new people. From Glastonbury in the United Kingdom to Lollapalooza in Chicago, it’s been a whirlwind year.

Seeing wild horses running past cartel houses across the border in Mexico at dusk. Meeting a group of fans after a show in Brighton and finding out they flew from Finland to see me. Eating fish ’n’ chips at 3 a.m. at a hole-in-the-wall restaurant in England. Singing Tom Waits with a group of strangers in an alley in Vegas...

Making unlikely friends in strange new places is at the heart of what touring has been for me.

Self-taught musician Bad Child’s eccentric music and unique vision has landed him an impressive list of festival appearances this summer. His debut album, SIGN UP, is out August 16.

The members of the music band, Valley, sit in the grass together
   Photo: Becca Hamel

Valley Tries to Catch a Thief Gone. All our stuff is gone.

We arrive at our van after getting late-night food while on tour in Portland, Oregon to discover a smashed window. Passports, iPads, laptops, headphones, hard drives, wallets, notebooks, etc.: all stolen. Luckily, Alex (our bassist) has a data plan on his iPad, so we use the “Find My iPhone” app to track the crook. We clean the glass out of the van and take off, following the location of Alex’s stolen phone.

We chase the thief, who is always 60 metres ahead, through the whole city until the iPad stops moving. He arrives at his house and doesn’t realize we are tracking him. We call the police and go to his house with them, but the police are not allowed to enter because they do not have a warrant.

We wait near the apartment complex until 3 a.m. and decide to go home after exhausting all our options. We get the van window fixed, file a police report and still make it to our show in Seattle the next day. When we arrive at the venue, the team is there to greet us and help us load onto the stage with only 15 minutes to spare before our set. It turns out to be the best show we play on the whole tour.

Valley, a rising alternative pop foursome from Oakville, Ontario, recently released their debut LP MAYBE with Universal Music Canada.

The Northern Pikes stand in front of a river for a group shot

The Northern Pikes’ Bassist Jay Semko Always Delivers It was May 1987 and we were about to release our first single “Teenland” to Canadian radio. At that time, long before the Internet, vinyl 45 singles were sent by courier – all the Canadian stations received them the same day.

It was that “pre-album release” time frame for the band, and I was working on the maintenance crew at a golf course in Saskatoon. I was cutting grass the morning of release day in a howling wind, and someone drove out to tell me I needed to immediately call the Virgin Records office in Toronto (there were also no cellphones back then). When I did, I was informed that a delivery error had occurred and I needed to physically deliver two singles, which I had at home, to stations in Regina and Saskatoon.

Virgin had booked a plane ticket for me, and I grabbed the singles and zoomed to the airport, barely making the flight to Regina. It was the wildest flight I’ve ever had – it felt like we were six metres above the ground in a wind tunnel/blender the whole trip.

I arrived in Regina, cabbed to the station, dropped off “Teenland,” and immediately returned to the airport. After another bouncy flight I was back in Saskatoon, where I dropped off the other single and finished my cutting for the day. “Teenland” became our first hit song. Just a little taste of Canadian-style rock ’n’ roll...

The legacy of Canadian rockers the Northern Pikes continues in 2019 with the release of their brand new ninth studio album, Forest of Love, the first new music from the band in 16 years.

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