Juno winning Arkells’ keyboardist remembers his Humber roots

by | Apr 6, 2019 | A&E, Headlines, Lakeshore

Clement Goh, Senior Reporter

Anthony Carone is always on the move.

The keyboardist constantly tours with the Hamilton-based band Arkells, but one of their biggest stops was in London, Ont., when the group performed at the 2019 Juno Awards and won Rock Album of the Year.

On the Juno stage, Carone’s fingers glided across the keys of a grand piano. However, his chair remained cold.

“It would be nice to sit a couple of times” said Carone, who developed a signature of standing while playing the piano.

This was one of the traits he picked up when he joined Humber’s Music program in 2002. Ironically, Carone remembered a teacher told him to “never take a gig where you’re standing.”

“Quite literally every gig I’ve taken, I stood for,” he said.

Arkells’ keyboardist Anthony Carone, left, as the band wins Group of the Year at the 2019 Juno Awards in London, Ont., March 17. His road success began at Lakeshore campus. (REUTERS/Mark Blinch)

But Carone’s road to The Forest City to collect the Juno began with many commutes to Humber’s Lakeshore campus from Mississauga, where he grew up. 

He recalls his first day when he carried a backpack while students roamed the halls with instruments.

“It was just wild,” Carone said. “You get in the hallway the first day, and everyone’s walking around with guitars, trumpets and saxophones and drumsticks. 

“Every class that you look in, somebody’s playing something,” he said.

Jazz was the main genre of music for students. It also challenged Carone to meet expectations. He slowly found confidence by finding ways to adapt while developing his own interest in blues and swing.

“You’re playing all the time, and you’re playing with so many different people. It’s so valuable,” said Carone, who encourages students to lend their sound to others.

“If you get out of that practice room by yourself and just go and meet people and play for singers, they will let you stay and jam,” he said.

Carone’s adventures outside of class eventually lead him to meet Arkells’ drummer Tim Oxford in 2011. 

He took on the role of keyboardist after original member Dan Griffin left for law school  following the release of the band’s second album, Michigan Left.

“You never know who you’re going to meet, and that’s why it’s super important to keep those horizons broad,” he said.

Since then, Humber’s learning comes back to Carone by habit. He writes horn and string arrangements for the band, an ability he honed from one of his classes.

“You don’t think you’re going to use it,” Carone said, laughing. “Trumpets sit in a certain spot. Saxophones sit in a certain spot. Baritone saxophones sit in a certain spot. To figure out how to arrange them, a lot of that stems from learning at Humber.”

In the accompaniment class, Humber music teacher Anthony Panacci gave Carone another important value.

“It really taught me how to play under people, and to not always want to be the forefront, because there is a place and a time,” said Carone, who believes it keeps him in sync with Arkells’ frontman Max Kerman.

“His class was very good at discipline, listening to the singer and holding your meter,” he said. 

The Juno Awards felt like a school reunion for Carone. He was surprised to meet other Humber alumni backstage.

Despite already knowing him, Carone was starstruck when he saw fellow grad and Juno nominee Larnell Lewis.

“I know Canada has a very small community of musicians and it’s a tightly-knit industry here,” he said. “But how rad is it that a bunch of players that went to Humber College and studied there are on this national stage and being part of these events?” 

Carone couldn’t catch a break after performing and speaking to press about their win at the Junos. The Arkells went back on tour.

“There are days where I get a little bit fatigued, and I’m literally watching my son grow up on Facebook which is very difficult,” said Carone, whose son is now 10 months old.

Despite a “very bizarre lifestyle,” on the road, he looks forward to seeing his family again after Arkells finish its latest Rally Cry Tour across North America.

When Carone returns to Toronto, he said he plans on rearranging the apartment and taking his son to infant swimming lessons.