The concept of an “all-girl band” is typically accompanied by images of synchronized dance routines, packaged pop singles, and PG-13 sexiness that would make mama’s cheeks burn a deep crimson red. The good news is it’s #2017 and music is doing its best to remedy what it actually means to be a bunch of badass women with guitars and drumsticks in hand. The even “gooder” news? THE BEACHES are already showing the world what it’s all about.
On their debut album Late Show (out now via Universal), the Toronto quartet teamed up with Metric’s Emily Haines and Jimmy Shaw to drive themselves in an edgier direction, and it worked. Their quirky synth rock has been dropped for a grittier, eclectic mix of era-bending anthems and slow burners that are more glamorous, poignant, and rooted in the ’70s and ’90s phases of New York rock ‘n’ roll. As they put it, it’s a “clusterfuck” of influences but it’s a massive step forward for a relatively new band.
We recently grabbed some beers with the girls at Get Well Bar to discuss their tour run with Death From Above (see dates), “demo-itis”, and how they’ve developed a solid all-girl group that can hold their own next to “a bunch of old men”.
How did you guys meet? And when did you decide music was actually something you wanted to pursue?
Jordan Miller: Well, Kylie and I are sisters from the same womb. We met Eliza in elementary school and met Leandra in high school. I guess we all have our own stories of how and when we decided we wanted to get into music. For me, I just always liked singing and I always liked coming up with melodies. I was a young girl in a bathtub when I heard Kid Rock and Sheryl Crow’s “Picture” and my mom was like, “She plays guitar; maybe you’d be interested in that?”. I thought that would be great but then she told me “You’d have to practice everyday if we get you a guitar and get you lessons”.
Eliza Enman-McDaniel: And then she played the bass (laughs).
Jordan: You can tell it didn’t really go well from there because I started playing the bass. That’s my long spiel though.
Eliza: My dad was a huge influence for me. He always had old school music playing in our house and I was always listening to something super loud. So, I ended up wanting to get into it and it just naturally came together.
Kylie Miller: I started playing guitar because Jordan started playing guitar and as sisters, I just kind of copied everything she did.
While borrowing her clothes and what not.
Kylie: Exactly. 100%.
Jordan: We borrow each others clothes now, it’s much more even.
Leandra Earl: I went through the whole Royal Conservatory route with piano, so since I was six or seven I was taking piano lessons. I was going to go to school, like after high school, for piano and then a spot opened in their band. I was practicing for an audition at York [University] and Kylie had asked, “Can I phone you? I have a good opportunity for you”. I was like, “Kylie, I’m practicing”.
Kylie: Give me ten minutes (laughs).
Leandra: I talked to her a bit later and she told me to come audition for the band. So I did that and I felt like this is what I really wanted to do — like take a break from school and see where it goes.
Kylie: And she’s been doing it ever since (laughs).
Leandra: It’s really been the dream career that we all wanted to take on.
Did you all hit that point where you realized the band was a better and more serious opportunity than going to school?
Jordan: For me, I had the opportunity to go to school but we also got signed to a major record label and I figured this was more fun and no one else is doing this.
Eliza: You definitely need to have a united front. If you want something to go somewhere, you have to fully and wholeheartedly commit to it. Everyone has to be on the same page.
Jordan: Which I think we did, you know? We could have gone to school but this is a once in a lifetime chance to do something special and cool.
Kylie: Speaking personally, I didn’t really want that university experience of going away to a university town and what not. Not that there’s anything wrong with that but I mean it just wasn’t for me.
How would you describe your sound on Late Show?
Eliza: Rock ‘n’ roll. Really rock ‘n’ roll. We had a lot of vintage inspiration
Kylie: A lot of it is back to basics. Our last EP was kind of like a synth-rock record which was really cool but we realized there’s a lot of guitar rock bands missing these days, so we wanted to fill that void. We wanted to release a guitar rock record that was really ’70s glam inspired. But we also took influences from The Strokes and that whole ’90s, early 2000s’ scene. It’s kind of like a…
Eliza: A clusterfuck (laughs).
Kylie: Yeah! A mishmash of all of our favourite bands.
You mentioned The Strokes; are there any other artists in particular that influenced your overall sound or vibe during the creation process for the album?
Jordan: Tom Petty, Lou Reed, Rolling Stones. There’s some references in there to older bands as in one song, “Walk Like That”, I reference old girl groups like The Ronettes and The Supremes.
Kylie: There’s also some Blondie and some Pretenders when it comes to the vocal stylings. The guitars are influenced by The Strokes.
Leandra: I changed over from “synth world” to organs so The Doors were an influence as well. We had to bring it back to ’70s rock and there were all these wacky synths and guitars and organs and electric sounds.
Jordan: When we were discussing how we were going to pursue this album, one of the discussions we had was that there was an absence of classic rock riffs. We wanted to make sure that Late Show sounded very live and very authentic and very rounded. So a lot of the sounds and progressions we chose leaned on that idea. Like keeping it very classic.
What was it like working with Metric’s Emily Haines and James Shaw on the production side of things? How did you guys link up?
Kylie: They were honestly the best collaborators we’ve ever had because they didn’t want to change and overtake the songs. They helped us make sense of them and helped organize them in a way where they could be the most listenable and just make the most sense.
Jordan: They acted as producers rather than co-writers.
Kylie: Which was awesome because before we were in a developmental deal with our record label, which meant we were working with different songwriters in Los Angeles for a couple of months at a time. That was an awesome experience because we got to grow a lot as writers but a lot of the time those songs just weren’t feeling like us because they weren’t wholeheartedly our ideas. Emily and Jimmy took our ideas but they brought them to another place.
What was the most challenging moment you faced while making Late Show?
Eliza: Editing songs was hard, but we’ve been working on a lot of these songs for like maybe five years? Some of them at least. The hardest part for me, was just having it take 10 years essentially to get a full album out. It took a long fucking time. It was really hard to deal with but it feels that much better now that it’s finally going to be out there.
Jordan: To Eliza’s point, because you’ve been working on some of these songs for so long you definitely get attached to certain versions of them. So when you have a professional producer or co-writer try to improve on the song and change it and alter it in different ways, it’s difficult because you get so attached. Editing is always the hardest part for me.
Eliza: We call it “demo-itis”.
Jordan: Especially as a writer too, you’re always like “This line is the best!” and “How does everyone not get this?”.
Eliza: And then you hear it another way and you’re like, “That’s not my song”.
Jordan: You just have to break away from your own ego and hear it another way.
Leandra: An example of that would be “Highway Six”. We wrote it as a weird, galactic thing…
Jordan: My friend was making a movie and Leandra and I were joking around and being like “Let’s write the cheesiest song ever”.
Leandra: But then it became one of our favourites. And then Emily and Jimmy wanted to see how it would sound with organs instead of all those synths, like more stripped back. Now, it’s…
Jordan: It’s definitely a favourite on the album.
Leandra: It did kind of hurt when they didn’t get it.
Jordan: Yeah. Like “How dare you not understand my song!”.
Kylie: It’s weird because for a song that means so much to you, after you have written it and had it for so long and it gets cut like that, it’s crazy. Like a song that you’ve had and played for three years now, doesn’t even make it. Like “Kinkade” is one of our massive songs that we thought for sure was going to be on the record. But then last minute, it just didn’t add up.
You’ll be on the road with Death From Above for a few months. How did that tour come to be?
Leandra: They followed us on Twitter and we were like, “What’s going on here?”. They were favouriting our really stupid tweets and we were excited that they got our humor but also confused because we’ve been longtime fans.
Kylie: I actually met Jesse [F. Keeler] backstage at an Eagles of Death Metal show that we played with them in 2016. It was awesome and I fan-girled. I asked him about his bass tones and it was super unprofessional and creepy. Anyways, he ended up following us on Twitter and I don’t think it was from that but he followed us like a year later or something. I think they just got into the band and heard about us through Metric.
Seb is really good friends with Jimmy. So, they got in contact with us and we got a call from our manager after seeing that they had followed us on Twitter, and our manager told us about how they wanted us to open for them on their next tour. Then DFA ended up coming to our show in Quebec City and they stayed for the whole set, outside in the rain.
Leandra: We were worried they weren’t going to like us. Like they were going to leave halfway through our set, but we could see them and they were just loving it the whole time.
Kylie: Literally five minutes after we came off the stage, they were in our dressing room and they wanted to hang out and get a beer. We were like, “WOAH!”.
Jordan: We were out until 4 a.m. in the morning. I’m pretty sure they thought “These girls are too much fun, we have to take them out on tour”.
With that tour coming up, what would you say is the most difficult part about being in a Canadian band that’s trying to break into the general indie rock scene?
Kylie: Well, the U.S. radio market is really hard to break into… like for any band. Canadian or American, it’s like really tough down there.
Jordan: In Canada, it’s easy because every radio station has to implement the Canadian Broadcasting Act. So you are supported and it’s easy to get into those markets via radio.
Eliza: Let’s say you’ve made it on the radio in Canada — breaking into the States or the UK or Europe, it’s super hard. It’s very hard to jump out and go somewhere else. A lot of times you find bands that have made it in the UK or whatever and all of a sudden they’re big here, but they were big over there two years ago. It’s this really weird system that we are trying to figure out.
Leandra: It’s kind of like if you make it anywhere else other than Canada and the whole world is watching, they want to hear more. But if you make it in Canada no one is necessarily listening.
Eliza: There are obviously exceptions to that though with like Justin Bieber and The Weeknd.
Jordan: I think our strategy is that we are definitely a “live band”. So the more places we’re able to tour and appeal to a live audience, the more people we’ll attract. So it’s good we’re going on this hella long tour in the U.S. this year. Then it’s the world — we’re coming for you.
Are there any stops that you’re really excited to check out?
Jordan: Detroit. I have always wanted to visit Detroit as the music scene there — like the rock scene in particular — is incredible.
Eliza: Right now, it’s between Nashville and Portland. They’re both really cool music cities.
Kylie: I’m really excited for Seattle because of the seafood and the restaurants and stuff.
Leandra: Nashville, because we’re there for Halloween and we’ll have some fun. Also, San Diego because the skate culture is really cool there and I’ve always wanted to go.
Kylie: And San Fran!
Leandra: I’m bringing my skateboard so it’s gonna be fun!
In your opinion, does the band make the image or does the image make the band? And is having an image integral to a band’s success?
Jordan: The two have to go together, right? The image has to match the music and vice versa. If it doesn’t, it’s weird. A lot of the time, people were very stressed out with how to package us as a band. Like are The Beaches super sexy? Or are you guys tomboys? Especially because we are an all-girl band, there’s going to be a lot of ideas that are going to be associated around us and people will make a lot of assumptions about us.
My idea was to always keep it authentic and cool, because our music is very rooted in ’70s and ’90s rock and roll, and our image should follow suit. But our style icons are from those eras so that was a natural route for us to take. A part of the reason we are able to pull off bell-bottom pants or my Hillary Clinton power suit that I’m currently wearing is because our fashion matches our music, and we’re funny and we also don’t really give a shit. We like dressing up in ugly clothes because that’s what’s cool.
Eliza: Who are you going to be for Halloween? Jordan Miller!
Jordan: Yeah, they all dress up as me for Halloween.
Leandra: It’s because she has these trademark outfits. Like you’ll pick up a piece of clothing and you’ll know it’s Jordan’s.
Kylie: We went to an OCAD party once and everyone was like, “YOU GUYS LOOK AMAZING!” (laughs). Like “Thank you, it’s Jordan Miller 2013”.
Jordan: No, but onstage it is really important because you want to put on a show and you want to reflect the sounds that you are putting out there. You don’t want to look like you’re up there wearing sweatpants on stage.
Eliza: I wore sweatpants on stage once, it wasn’t that bad. They were Adidas sweatpants and it was fine.
Jordan: You’re a drummer though, no one sees your legs.
What’s been the biggest obstacle you’ve faced as a group so far?
Leandra: Periods (laughs).
Kylie: People ultimately associate certain things with us being an all-girl band, which has been a positive thing…
Jordan: Because of the negative connotation it’s always good to surprise people because that makes them remember you.
Kylie: Like when people think, “Oh I didn’t think they would be good because they’re all girls but they are amazing”.
Jordan: Because you’re a token, you do get an advantage and you will be more memorable. We’ve always had to sort of fight against the negativity that is associated with girl groups.
Kylie: I think a lot of the time people want to put us into a box and try to tell us we are only one thing. Like, “You’re a girl band, so you’re like The Runaways” or “You’re a girl band, so you’re like the Spice Girls” or “You’re HAIM”. We aren’t any of those things and for us, we have had to say no and really speak our mind and be strong in that sense. Like develop our own strong identity.
Eliza: We’ve had to prove ourselves.
Kylie: Not let people push us around and make us try to fit in one of these boxes that they want to put us in. It’s taken us a little longer as it’s taken a long time to get this record out and get it right but the time has allowed us to release an album that we are really proud of. It’s something that doesn’t go down a path that we don’t want to go down. It’s exactly what we want it to be — the images, the songs, the videos. All of the content is what we want. It’s taken a bit longer but it’s been really been worth it.
Since being an all-girl group is no easy feat in an over-saturated male-dominated industry, what would you say to a young female fan who wants to start an all-girl, no shit-taking band of her own?
Eliza: We’d tell her to do it and that she shouldn’t let anyone tell her she can’t.
Jordan: I’d tell her to practice.
Eliza: I’d tell her to find three or four or five more girls who don’t give a shit and want to be really cool, and who are really cool and just throw ‘em in a room together and see what happens.
Jordan: What someone once told me when we were just starting was there are always going to be negative associations with the fact that you’re an all-girl band. So you have to be better than a 40-year-old group of guys who play together. Which means you have to give up thousands of hours to play together, practice everyday, and make sure you sound better than a bunch old men.
Is there anything you hope to cross off your bucket list in 2018?
Jordan: We want to be the biggest band in the world.
Kylie: Okay, that and definitely tour and explore markets and places we haven’t been to before. It would be awesome to do a UK or European tour. A headlining tour or even just opening on one would be awesome. Just getting to share our music with as many people as possible.
Leandra: It’s time for rock and roll to make a comeback.