No place like home: Arcana Kings stay true to Sask. roots with new single for upcoming album

Submitted photo. Saskatchewan rock band Arcana Kings are releasing a new single and accompanying music video called Kinistino. L-R: Allan Morrison, Kevin Kyle, John McCuaig, Graham Templeman, James Picton.

The Arcana Kings have released a new rock single called Kinistino as they launch a fundraising effort to complete the full upcoming album.

Greg Harder, Regina Leader-Post

The Arcana Kings enjoy touring major cities in North America and exotic locales across the pond, but they always circle back to familiar ground.

“We know where we come from,” says lead singer Johnny McCuaig, a former Moose Jaw resident who now lives in Nelson, B.C.

“To represent Canada and Saskatchewan when we’re abroad is really cool. I talk to a lot of people (on the road) and the first question is: ‘Where are you from?’ When you say we’re from Saskatchewan, everybody perks up: ‘Those are the nicest people!’”

No argument here.

“I’m in B.C. right now but I lived in Saskatchewan for a few years and I miss it,” he continues. “My wife is from Saskatchewan. My family is over there … and the rest of the band is from there. Saskatchewan has been great and we love it there. We love to represent Saskatchewan and Canada when we go places.”

The Arcana Kings unveiled a Sask-centric anthem and accompanying music video on Friday to tease their upcoming sophomore album, Hardwired For Rock N’ Roll, which is due out later this year.

The new single, Kinistino, is named after a rural community in north-central Saskatchewan — population 700.

The song is about a hard-working indie rock band that rolls into town for a Wednesday night gig and ends up having one of the most memorable experiences of its career despite playing in front of just five people.

The Arcana Kings have never actually performed in Kinistino, but their appreciation for the small-town experience couldn’t be more authentic.

“Anybody who has played in a band and did any touring will totally relate,” says McCuaig. “There are times when you play in front of two people in the middle of nowhere and then the next night you’re playing in front of 5,000 people or 10,000 people in a bigger centre or a festival setting. But sometimes those two or three people and the bar staff have such a good time (that you don’t forget it). That’s what the song is about.”

The Arcana Kings have performed for some huge crowds over the years, including annual visits to the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota and the Freemont Street Experience in Las Vegas.

However, the band always feels at home when returning to its Saskatchewan roots.

“This is us; this is as grassroots as it gets,” says McCuaig. “We will play just about anywhere for anybody. We’ve done the small-town stuff and we continue to do it because it’s a good time, especially in small-town Saskatchewan. Sometimes those are the greatest parties of all and the greatest way to get your music out there. (It’s about) the people and the good times and everybody is right into it.”

Although McCuaig and guitarist James Picton reside in B.C., the band has maintained a strong Saskatchewan presence thanks to drummer Graham Templeman (Saskatoon) guitarist/vocalist Allan Morrison (Davidson) and bassist Kevin Kyle (Regina).

The new single was written when they got together on Templeman’s farm, not far from Kinistino.

“We actually tried to get ahold of the town and say, ‘Hey, we want to shoot a video there,’ but they said no,” McCuaig says with a laugh. “We didn’t really push the envelope. They might have thought it was something stupid or something crazy. You just never know.

“As funny as that is, when we were in Vegas last year, somebody introduced himself saying ‘I’m from Kinistino!’ It was amazing. We were just starting to play it (for audiences). The next thing you know, we’re having beers (with a guy from Kinistino).”

Since their new single is now complete, the Arcana Kings are looking to put the final touches on the rest of the album.

The band is thrilled to be collaborating with Vancouver’s Mike Fraser, a high-profile producer/engineer/mixer who has worked with some of the biggest names in rock, including AC/DC, Aerosmith, Metallica, Motley Crue, Led Zeppelin, and Van Halen, just to name a few.

Now he wants to work with the Arcana Kings.

“He contacted us,” says McCuaig. “We were like, ‘What? Are you serious?’

“That’s as big as it gets for us. When a guy of that calibre says he wants to work with you, you pay attention. You save up your empties, you beg, borrow and steal and do what you gotta do.”

To that end, the band has already created a public donations page on They’re asking for help to raise around $35,000 to cover expenses for a springtime recording session in Vancouver.

“You never know who is out there and willing to donate,” says McCuaig, who’s optimistic about the generosity and giving nature of their loyal fans. “The majority of the band is in Saskatchewan so it’s like, ‘Hey, can we rally the troops? Can we get some people from Saskatchewan behind us and help send this over the top?’”

Meanwhile, the Arcana Kings are headed back on the road this spring, including a sold-out gig as the opener for Everclear on April 11 at the Casino Regina Show Lounge.

A subsequent North American tour is already being planned to promote the new album and they’d also like to head overseas for the first time since before the pandemic.

Although support for the band continues to grow and momentum is on their side, finances are always a factor.

“We all have day jobs; we all have to work and take time off to go touring,” adds McCuaig, who remains passionate about the business despite some inherent challenges. “I’m a sucker for the music. I’m a sucker for performing and writing and playing and hanging out with the guys. We all get to do this together so it’s a really special thing.”