The Hamilton-based band Arkells have shot to prominence over the last few years, including winning Group of the Year at the 2012 Junos, and football's been a part of their rise; the band played the halftime show at the 2008 Vanier Cup and performed pre-game at the 2011 Grey Cup. They've continued those football connections this week with Thursday's release of an official Hamilton Tiger-Cats' anthem, Ticats Are Hummin; the song can be heard on the Arkells' site here and downloaded through iTunes here, with the proceeds from iTunes downloads going to the Boys and Girls Clubs of Hamilton. Arkells' bassist Nick Dika took the time to talk with 55-Yard Line Wednesday about the song and how it came about. He said the franchise's long history has made them a crucial element of Hamilton, and they've come to be one of the things that defines the town, which made working with them appealing.
"The Tiger-Cats are such a big part of the community, we latched onto it quickly," Dika said. "It's something that really brings the community together."
For Dika, part of what makes the Tiger-Cats so interesting is the whole experience of attending a game at Ivor Wynne Stadium, a venue that's picked up plenty of history of its own since its 1928 construction.
"It's a really special thing to go to Ivor Wynne," Dika said. "Ivor Wynne's one of those classic stadiums."
He said Ticats' games have been one of his go-to destinations for friends visiting from out of town.
"When I was in university at McMaster and I had friends come to town, I'd bring them to the game," Dika said.
Flying out to perform at last year's Grey Cup worked out very well for Dika and his fellow band members, as they got into town Friday night and managed to watch their hometown McMaster Marauders win their Vanier Cup.
"We landed, we got to the hotel and we got to see Mac win," Dika said. "There were so many people from Hamilton and McMaster, and it was just a big party. It was awesome."
Dika said the Grey Cup experience overall was incredible, as it demonstrated how special the event is and how it draws people from across the country.
"Being there for the Grey Cup was a really interesting experience," he said. "It was a lot of fun seeing CFL fans from everywhere."
This Ticats' anthem came out of another road trip. The band was touring the U.S. from April to June, and the team reached out to them to see if they'd be interested in partnering up. Dika said it was a pretty low-pressure pitch, which appealed to the band.
"They just kind of left it with us if something came to mind."
The timing actually worked out well, as the pace of travel and soundchecks each night allowed the band to slowly pull together exactly what they wanted.
"Because we were on tour, we were able to try some stuff out in soundchecks," Dika said.
They actually recorded the first version of Ticats Are Hummin during a soundcheck one night and sent it to the team to see what they thought. Dika said they were a little concerned that the team might want to make a lot of changes, but the Tiger-Cats loved the song. That led to recording it in studio during some brief between-tours downtime (the band will be playing at the CNE in Toronto Aug. 29, then heading to Calgary Sept. 4 and then embarking on a European tour later in September with Billy Talent and Anti-Flag) in preparation for this week's release.
Dika said part of what appealed to the band about this project was the chance to raise some money for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Hamilton.
"It's definitely a cause we support," he said.
Dika said the Tiger-Cats are a key part of Hamilton, and they represent a lot of what makes the city special.
"They definitely embody the kind of character Hamilton sees in itself, the hard-nosed working-class town," he said.
That character of Hamilton's also something that's influenced the band's music over the years, according to Dika.
"It definitely shapes the kinds of music we make, consciously and subconsciously," he said.
Dika said the Tiger-Cats' uniqueness makes them mean more to the city than your average professional team.
"Being in Hamilton, it's not like Toronto or Vancouver," he said. "The CFL's the only game in town."