Evenings and Weekends in Hamilton's Music Scene: An Excerpt

Andrew Baulcomb's Evenings & Weekends: Five Years in Hamilton Music, 2006–2011 is the first and only book to document the rise of Juno Award winners and nominees Arkells, Junior Boys, Monster Truck, The Dirty Nil, and Caribou, along with many others. Featuring dozens of original interviews, as well as first-person reflections from the author, the book chronicles the explosion of a new cultural movement in Hamilton and the rebirth of the city's downtown core.

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Andrew Baulcomb 1

Max Kerman was all too eager to begin his career as a musician. Together with guitarist Mike DeAngelis, bassist Nick Dika and the band’s original drummer, a fellow student named Everett Rooke, he formed Charlemagne – an upbeat roots rock outfit born in the concrete corridors of the Brandon Hall student residence at McMaster. Still completely green, the four-piece wasted little time booking shows at west-end house parties and on-campus venues such as Quarters and the Phoenix, a popular graduate student pub. The fact that Charlemagne even existed at all was another happy accident. Dika, a native of quiet college town London, Ontario, describes the band’s formation as somewhat random.

“From my perspective, I really kind of walked into it,” he begins. “The first week of university, you have complete license to talk to whoever you want and nobody thinks it’s weird. Everybody’s just trying to meet everybody. [The band] ended up meeting, and I didn’t even have my stuff, my bass or my amp, in Hamilton. I was just hanging out with Max. He liked baseball, and he liked all the other things I did besides music . . . I wasn’t a player who was really serious and committed to being in a band, but [Max] knew Mike and was talking to him in the same way. We ended up just starting to play together in the basement of Mike’s residence. It came together fairly randomly.”

The first week of university, you have complete license to talk to whoever you want and nobody thinks it’s weird. Everybody’s just trying to meet everybody. [The band] ended up meeting, and I didn’t even have my stuff, my bass or my amp, in Hamilton.

“Max was just the kind of guy in residence who’d be, like, ‘hey I wrote some songs, you wanna check ’em out?’ It didn’t matter if it was me or some random girl,” Mike DeAngelis recalls. “Usually, it was super innocent. Max, especially in first year, was just the most rambunctious guy and a very social person.”

“Max was the first guy to really pick my brain about music. He wanted to know everything about the business, and had no problem asking questions,” offers the Rest’s Adam Bentley, a fellow undergraduate student at McMaster during the mid-2000s. “Before I had even seen his band, I felt like I had heard them. He was so enthusiastic. We ended up playing with Charlemagne quite a bit. In the early days, the band wasn’t quite what they became . . . I thought they had the potential to be a big, crossover type band. From day one, it seemed Max could be the same guy off and on stage. It made the band hugely relatable. They seemed like the obvious choice to take the next step.”

Many of Charlemagne’s earliest songs were derived from the kind of hard-driving, soul-infused rock music that trickled down from their parents’ 1960s-era record collections. Kerman’s father, born and raised in New York City and an alumnus of Wayne State University in Detroit, was known for spinning classic Motown and Beatles records while young Max was coming of age. “I brought in Abbey Road to play for my kindergarten class,” Kerman tells me, laughing.
This childhood influence, combined with a newfound love for the likes of Joel Plaskett, the Weakerthans, Constantines, Sam Roberts, Sloan and Cuff the Duke, helped shape the band’s early sound. Though Kerman was far from a confident songwriter. Not at first, anyway. During his formative years at Harbord Collegiate Institute in downtown Toronto, he spent more time on a basketball court than on stage. He also preferred smooth hip-hop and Top 40 R&B over Canadian indie rock, and didn’t truly hit his stride until linking up with his future bandmates at McMaster.

“I brought in Abbey Road to play for my kindergarten class,” Kerman tells me, laughing. This childhood influence, combined with a newfound love for the likes of Joel Plaskett, the Weakerthans, Constantines, Sam Roberts, Sloan and Cuff the Duke, helped shape the band’s early sound.

“I didn’t go to school with many suburban white kids that would be interested in playing in a band,” says Kerman, who ironically grew up on Major Street, not far from the rock and roll hotbed surrounding College and Spadina in downtown Toronto, and a few blocks from the legendary El Mocambo nightclub. “It wasn’t like there were a bunch of kids whose parents had listened to the Beatles.”

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From the book Evenings & Weekends: Five Years in Hamilton Music, 2006–2011 by Andrew Baulcomb. Published in 2016 by Wolsak & Wynn. Reprinted with permission of the publisher.

March 30, 2017
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