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The best kept secret in music


"Music Notes"

With the beginning of another school year a flood of students return to the area, and while academics should be their prime concern there are many who will find other pursuits. While the individual members of Charlemagne hail from Toronto, Mississauga, Guelph and London, their return to studies also includes a return to the band they fleshed out this past year at McMaster. “Mike and I met during welcome week last year at Mac, and I was desperately looking to start a band,” recalls Charlemagne lead singer and guitarist Max Kerman on his meeting guitarist and vocalist Mike DeAngelis. “That was one of the main reasons I wanted to go to school— to start a band. I was asking everybody that I met what sort of music they liked, and when Mike told me he liked The Weakerthans, I slapped him in the face. “The Weakerthans are a big influence of mine, and I was real happy to meet another person who could play guitar and had a similar taste in music. I met Nick (Dika, bassist) later that week when he introduced himself after he noticed that I was wearing a Sam Roberts t–shirt. When he told me he played bass, I immediately told him he was in the band.” The trio played drummerless their first semester, but finally found Ev Rooke in January. Rooke not only completed the foursome, but offered up the somewhat meaningful moniker. “After we talked to Ev for a bit, he mentioned that he was a distant relative of King Charlemagne, the king of the Francs in the 8th century. Generally speaking, the band doesn’t really care too much for the Monarchy, but we were pretty impressed that Ev had some royal blood in him.” With the final pieces finishing their musical puzzle, Charlemagne hit the local stages. While their geographical connections afford them opportunities across Southern Ontario, we’re lucky enough to get the brunt of their attention here. “I found it was a huge relief to come to Hamilton and find the Underground was an all–ages venue,” muses Kerman. “I’m from downtown Toronto and the majority of the shows are 19–plus events. The Toronto scene obviously has great music coming out, and I’m a huge fan of so many bands from the Toronto area. That was the reason I needed a fake I.D. in high school. “But we’re pretty new on the Hamilton music scene, and though we’ve played a number of shows at various venues around the city, the bills have been with a lot of touring bands that do not have much of a draw,” adds the singer. “This summer we all went back home to work, and it was a bit difficult to pick up any steam for the band. Now that we’re all back at school, we expect to play a lot of really good shows.” With some live recordings and a four–song demo afloat, Charlemagne offer up a mix of indie rock influences à la GBV and Pavement, but are set to forge their own sound. Though one of the newer bands in the area, and one of the young ones to boot, if the recordings are any indication some minor vocals strains aside can’t fault a definitely determined effort and some immediately affecting songs showcasing great songcraft. “In terms of writing a songs, the band really focuses on the dynamics,” explains Kerman on the more mature process Charlemagne has adapted. “Some younger bands play their tunes at the same volume the whole way through, and we try to stay away from that. Crescendos, loud parts, quiet parts, are all really important. We definitely never want to write the same song twice and because we have so many different influences, there are no excuses for writing the same song. “My favorite songwriters—Ben Folds, John K. Sampson, Joel Plaskett, Bry Webb from The Cons—are all amazing in their own right when coming up with lyrical ideas. My lyrics are nowhere near the quality of the above– mentioned, but they are heartfelt and they all mean something to me. And for now, that’s probably all I can do. That’s what is important, I guess. Hopefully the songs are poppy enough to catch your ear, but do not wear off too fast. I find that a lot of my favorite albums have taken weeks to grow on me until I really appreciate and understand the song. “But right now we are by no means ready to do something like make a full– length record. We’re still learning about our own music and if we do make a full– length, it’s got to take over the world. With all that said, we’re not expecting anything to happen over-night. We know it’s a lot of hard work, but we like that. Right now, everything is exciting for us—and our live show certainly has a lot more balls than the demo recordings.” - Stompin' Ric Taylor, the View Magazine - View Magazine

"Charlemagne Reign Supreme in Hamilton Indie Scene"

Wow, Hamilton is one of the richest musical cities in Canada. We
surely have it good here, well, at least musically. Every week I hear
of a new CD release, a compilation of sorts, either live or
recorded, that pushes the boundaries of popular music, be it
rock, hip hop, electro, jazz, blues or an amalgamation of the lot.
Furthermore, the Hamilton Music Awards is becoming an
institution of sorts, with the winners as competitive as any other
award winner across the country. Colour me proud of Hamilton,
and all apologies for this verbal gush, but all in all, we do well
musically. Believe it or not.
So what sparked this trail of acclaim directed toward our
entertaining, but economically depressed metropolis? Well, in
actuality, a whole slew of CDs incited the tidal wave of praise, as
new, local music seems to be piling up on my desk faster than I
can listen. Yet one specific collection struck me intensely, a low
budget EP created by a group of McMaster students who
begrudgingly call themselves Charlemagne, despite knowing that
four other established bands own the same moniker in different
parts of the world. This brand new EP, titled Deadlines and slated
for release on January 15 in celebratory fashion at the Casbah, is
one of the more impressive collections of simplistic, fearsome
songwriting I have come across in months. Dashes of
Springsteen, Neil Young and The Constantines ebb and flow
throughout Deadlines’ melodic structure, exemplifying a richly
mature sound that, if all the cards are played right, could add
another notch to Hamilton’s national stature for birthing some of
the best Canadian music.
“We chose the name Charlemagne because the King of
Hearts in a deck of cards is actually based on King Charlemagne,
so it just made sense at the time,” explains vocalist and guitarist
Max Kerman. “It’s a really silly name. We were totally unaware that
there are a billion other bands named Charlemagne. For example,
last year around this time we got an angry email from one of
them who is based in Wisconsin and is probably the most famous
Charlemagne, telling us he was going to send a cease and desist
letter if we did not change our name. We don’t like getting bullied
around by anyone, so we decided not to change it on principle.
Worst comes to worst we’ll change it to Love Doctor
Charlemagne. Besides, we are really too lazy to conjure up a new
band name. It’s such a hassle. We also think we’re a lot bigger
than we actually are, and we are afraid of losing our brand
recognition around Hamilton.”
Joking aside, Deadlines is a fantastic crack at the inaugural
recording whip. Each song builds on a theme that gusts with loss,
the inebriated pride of the downtrodden and the troubles that the
opposite sex often unfurls without notice, from the obviously
relationship fuelled “Tragic Flaw” to the Springsteen–charged,
throaty “The Boss is Coming.” Furthermore, all the tunes fit
amicably with one another, forming a cohesive whole,
exemplifying a group of lads confident in what they have to offer
without innately offering too much at first. A wildly impressive
slop and sludge through rock, blues, alternative country and its
demonic muses, no doubt.
“The record is called Deadlines because it is the name of one
of the songs on the EP, and sort of represents what a lot of what
the band is going through,” replies Kerman. “We have been
plugging away for a couple years now and we really wanted to get
down to business and have something to show to people. A lot of
the songs are also work–related and our general fear of having a
real job. It’s so much fun playing the songs now when you know
that every part of the tune is sounding the way you want it to, and
finally, we are at the point where we can finally show our friends something that we are proud of and have no reservations about.”
With the band mostly graduating from McMaster in the
spring, Kerman and company Charlemagne, featuring Nick Dika
on bass, Mike DeAngelis on guitar and vocals, Tim Oxford
manning the drums and jack of all trades Dan Griffin on
keyboards, guitar and vocals, are setting their sights on expanded
touring and networking in hopes of finding a permanent home to
release a forthcoming LP that is on their minds. In addition,
extensive Ontario touring will continue throughout essays and
exams. Plus, special sexy surprises are set for their CD release
party as Kerman will only hint that Springsteen and his ’70s
swagger will serve as a thematic emcee to the proceedings. “The
live show is going to be inspired from Born in the USA era
Springsteen. This means we’re all heading to the gym and getting
huge. It will definitely be a rock and roll show; the music is
accessible yet quirky, so the live show will probably resemble
So another up–and–coming Hamilton band will release
original music to the hometown crowd, once again proving the
breadth and depth existing in our strong, local sc - View Magazine

"Work Hard For Your Money"

A wise man once authored a great saying that has been passed down through generations and across cultural and political divides, finally coming to rest in the hearts of thousands. History records that when Phil Lynott of Thin Lizzy told a crowd of Irish working class music fans that the “Boys Are Back in Town”, he was being self-referential—said “boys” back in town he was referring to were in fact, he and his band mates. The matter is generally not discussed, and the self aggrandizement of The Lizz generally accepted. But maybe, just maybe, he meant something more. That song, covered by everyone from Everclear to Full House’s Uncle Jesse has been enshrined in the hallowed halls of pop-rock. It was a rallying cry for everyone who didn’t believe that rock could only focus on the deficit and PBS programming. Maybe rock could be about fast women and the inability to drive 55. The celebratory euphoria of pop-rock might be derided by the Pitchfork-stapo, but it’s been thirty years, and the biggest band on Mac’s campus started out singing about fake IDs. Take that Oberst. Simply put, the music you get drunk to is about to have another entry in its storied past. They’ve just finished they’re first professional EP, and they’re ready to rock. The boys from Charlemagne are back in town.

Another prophet of the Rocking Out Gospel once astutely pointed out that it is a long way to the top if you want to rock and roll. Last Monday night, after everybody had gone home, Max Kerman and Mike DeAngelis were postering the campus in the freezing rain. A hookup at the MSU got them stamp approval, but the hundreds of posters weren’t going to post themselves, just like five hundred CD’s weren’t going to press themselves. You might be surprised to find out the most popular band on campus by far still has trouble breaking even most nights. Frontman Kerman and Guitarist DeAngelis, two fifths of Charlemagne, won’t ever complain though. Over cold Chicken Wings and flat Pepsi, The duo talks passionately about energetic shows and energetic music. Any reference to setbacks are instantaneously met with a simple fact; they love playing music. The first professional recording is a milestone for any band. It’s a line drawn in the sand that brings you one step further away from the garage and one closer to the big time. The new EP Deadlines is that milestone for Charlemagne. At 6 songs, the Ryan Mills produced EP perches itself right on top of the gate the boys are walking through. Made up of songs half new and half drawn from the bands two year history, the disk breaks free of the pop rock bar band limitations some placed on Charlemagne. While Kerman himself defines Charlemagne as pop rock, the lyrics cover everything from job related stress (Deadlines) to the barren no mans land on the battlefield of class warfare (He’s No Champagne Socialist.)

Like the CD, the band itself is rocking the old and new. Bassist Nick Dika, along with Kerman and DeAngelis has been with the band since the beginning, but with the addition of Drummer Tim Oxford and Dan Griffin on keys (who played with Kerman and DeAngelis in the now legendary Surly Young Bucks) fresh faces and new blood has given the band the momentum to tackle this virgin new year with an unbridled tenacity. “Before we did this recording we weren’t really in a position to pursue anything.” says Kerman. “We weren’t even in the position where we sounded good. We achieved a lot, all things considered, but now were at the point where we have a real recording, a real CD, and members that are really committed.” This year, Charlemagne plans to continue showing love for the Golden Horseshoe and McMaster, but as they turn their sights further away, there’s one thing Kerman thinks the band needs. “We could really use a van” he says, “playing shows gets kind of expensive when you’re taking two cars, especially when you can’t guarantee enough money for gas.” The band plans on intensive touring this summer, auditioning for festivals like Hillside in Guelph and even thinking as big as the East Coast. “There’re a lot of popular bands out East with a similar pop rock sound as us” Kerman explains, “So we think we would do pretty well out there.”

This Monday the 15th, Charlemagne releases their first professional CD at the Casbah. With support from another Hamilton band, The Front Runners, Charlemagne will deliver what is sure to be a fantastic show. The music: loud, the crowd: excited, the beer: cheap. “We made sure our show was going to be on cheap Steamwhistle night” pointed out Kerman. It’s just further proof that while they may only be two years old, Charlemagne knows their way around the music industry. They’ve got the knowledge, but now its time to put it to use. DeAngelis sums it up as eloquently as anyone could want. “We have something that we’re really proud of, and now there are no excuses.”

• Adam Owen - Andy Magazine- McMaster Sil

"Champagne For Charlemagne"

September busloads of fresh faces arrive at McMaster in search of an education.

At least, that's what the parents think as they wave goodbye; they don't know their children's ulterior motives.

Some come to party. Some come to experience life on their own. Some, like Nick Dika, Max Kerman and Mike DeAngelis, come to rock.

OK, they didn't come to rock per se. From the first day of school, however, they had their eyes peeled for fellow musicians.

"I was asking anyone I met what kind of music they liked, because I really wanted to play in a band," laughs Kerman.

It didn't take long before the like-minded musicians came together. Soon they had recruited other players and were rehearsing and playing shows on campus. Their first EP, Deadlines, illustrates their alt-rock leanings, inspired by groups such as the Weakerthans and the Constantines.

Often, bands at McMaster are considered "Mac bands." The term suggests that somehow they are less interesting and/or simply not part of the larger Hamilton music scene. This is certainly untrue for Charlemagne, which has found a following on the city's indie circuit.

They have also seen major changes, enlisting new drummer Tim Oxford and teaming up with songwriter Dan Griffin, with whom they played in the Charlemagne side project, the Surly Young Bucks.

Ultimately the changes have been for the better, as both Kerman and DeAngelis agree Charlemagne has reached a new level.

"These six songs (on the EP) have probably gotten more response than anything we've done in the last year and a half," says Kerman

ames Tennant is a local writer and program director at 93.3 CFMU. - Hamilton Spectator


Deadlines EP 2007


Feeling a bit camera shy


Steeped in a thick fug of sweat socks, beautifully humble boy-crush insecurity and summer job stress, the debut EP from Hamilton's Charlemagne has an awesome muscular quality that sets it apart from the output of so many of their sad-sack indie rock peers. Like the Constantines reared on power pop instead of Fugazi, Charlemagne careen along, driven by rough Springsteenesque vocals, aggressive, dense guitar riffs and spiky synths but still cheerily embrace bright, heartfelt melodies. Though the collective dude vocals can be a bit too evocative of generic bar rock bands, the quintet's engaging lyrics – portraits of nervous guys thrilled that their girlfriends are veiling hotness in tracksuits, jobs as mundane as their elevator muzak soundtrack, and the complexity of family histories – suggest these guys have potential to burn. " By Sarah Liss, NOW magazine