The Pack A.D. is a two-woman show that derives it’s musical prowess from decapitating desert nomads and playing tennis. The blues-rock meets garage-rock meets “punk-pop thing” has undercurrents of the Dum Dum Girls, Band of Skulls, but not Jack White. No, definitely not Jack White (thanks a lot, Spotify.) Fresh off their tour with Alice in Chains, vocalist/guitarist Becky Black and drummer Maya Miller are going to hit the road again with Man or Astro-man? and play Brooklyn Bowl on September 10, Mercury Lounge on September 11 and Black Cat on September 14. We talked to Maya last week, who loves playing songs from their 2014 release Do Not Engage (one of two albums that she says, “actually counts,”) and munching on celery sticks.
Brightest Young Things: How has touring with Alice in Chains been? Any ghostly Layne Staley encounters?
Maya Miller: It’s been super actually. You know it’s always really fantastic when you have a band that’s super nice, and they’re just super nice guys and the crew is great and we’ve just been treated like gold. The other night they tried to pay us like two bucks to play extra long and we said no, so that’s the only true story I have. Other than that it’s been fantastic. And that was a joke as well.
BYT: Really? No crazy stories from this tour?
MM: Not so far. Crazy-wise it’s all been normal, you know, as normal as these things are. In fact these shows have been really early shows. They’re arena shows, so they end at 11:00 every night and we’re done with our part by 7:30 every night. I wish I could tell you that something was really wacky and crazy but it’s just been fun and really chill.
BYT: What do you guys like to do post-show? Netflix?
MM: Yeah we just hang out and have a couple drinks and munch some celery sticks, I don’t know. We watch the other bands, and it’s been really different. This is the first time we’ve played arenas, like hockey arenas, so, it’s a different animal, it’s pretty fun though.
BYT: What’s your favorite city to play in? I know you guys are Canadian so probably one of those Canadian places.
MM: Umm, no actually I like a lot of American cities to be honest. I like playing in Chicago, actually DC (they played DC9 last spring) we had a super show last time. And there’s Los Angeles, I like LA.
BYT: Speaking to the Canadian side of you, do you know Michael Moore?
MM: I know a Michael Moore but I don’t know Michael Moore.
BYT: How does this new album compare sound-wise to your older releases?
MM: I don’t even count our first couple of albums because to my way of thinking we were a completely different band back then, so I only count our last few. I think our last few have been a sort of natural progression to where we are right now which is kind of this rock, punk-pop thing, uh you know, we’re still a little loosey goosey but I don’t think that’s ever going to go away we’re not very much, we’re not a math band, that’s for sure. This one [album] was kind of a pretty natural extension from our previous album and we just kind of kept going in that direction, and I think if anything, we’ve just gotten even more chorusey than we used to be. When we first started out we couldn’t write a chorus to save our lives, so now it’s like the first thing that happens. And that’s all Becky.
BYT: Is it just experience that’s made you evolve? What’s happened that’s brought on this progression?
MM: Yeah, a lot of it is just experience touring. We’ve done a lot of tours with a pretty great punk-rock band, uh math rock, I don’t even know what you’d call them, called Nomeansno. I don’t know if you know them, but they’re just awesome. Touring with other bands has definitely rubbed off on our sound but also just our interests, especially for Becky. She’s been really into older psych-rock as of now and it’s definitely made it’s way on to this album. After a certain amount of time, you know, you start to figure out what you like playing. You just come up with stuff that you start to like playing. We’re less inclined to be like, ‘Oh we wrote a song, but we don’t like it, but let’s play it anyway.’ We’re no longer willing to keep going along with something we don’t like.
BYT: I just watched your video for “Rocket” and it’s pretty crazy, I mean it’s hysterical. Where’d you get the idea for that post-apocalyptic desert nomad thing?
MM: It was one of those rare moments where the director had the idea. It was his lifelong dream to make a Mad Max type of video. It turned out great. The guy, Jimi Cuell who directed this one, he did a couple videos for us in the past like for our song Crazy and Needles, he’s just super to work with, and he wanted to do this post-apocalyptic thing and it turned out to be pretty great. Obviously those are not us on the dirt bikes, we did have stand-ins. They remarkably look kind of like us so it worked out.
BYT: It fooled me.
MM: I just ruined the illusion. Becky just told me not to ruined the illusion. No!
BYT: It was actually you decapitating that guy though, right?
MM: Yeah, yeah, Becky gets to do that. She kills my whole crew! It’s really upsetting to me clearly.
BYT: Do you guys have a favorite song to play live?
MM: “Rocket” is a favorite to play live, also “Creeping Jenny” is my favorite to play live too, off the new album. Well and “Animal” too, but no! I’m going to go with “Creeping Jenny” today, that’s the one.
BYT: I feel I have to ask this, even though it’s annoying. You guys sound a lot like Jack White on “Unpersons.” Is it just a coincidence in the realm of bluesy rock that you have a similar sound, or is he an influence on you?
MM: I guess that’s more a question for Becky since she’s the singer, but she’s gone. Do you mean vocally?
MM: Oh, well I don’t know. Definitely he’s not any kind of influence on our band, umm, you know. White Stripes are done. I’m not really sure what to say about it. I don’t personally hear that but, fair enough.
BYT: The reason I ask about Jack White is because everywhere I read, people were comparing you guys to Black Keys, White Stripes, those types of bands. What would you say your influences are?
MM: Hmm, influences. I don’t know because, I can’t speak for Becky, but for me, I don’t know, the Police? That’s my favorite band. I don’t know, it’s really hard for me to say, because neither of us go into anything saying, ‘We really want it to sound like this, so let’s do something like that.’ We try to come up with whatever and I think the influences are there but I think they’re really hard to pin-point if you’re not actually in it doing it. I know there are some bands that get together and go, ‘Oh we totally want to do a Blink-182 thing,’ I’m not sure why Blink-182 is the example, but anyway umm, I know that that happens, but it doesn’t happen with us. It would be really hard for us to name any kind of influence.
BYT: Are you guys playing anything new right now? What are you working on that’s new?
MM: We have a couple of new songs that we’re going to be recording when we finish the tour with Man or Astro-man? One of them we’re playing live already and it’s really enjoyable so I think we’ll record and see what goes on with it.
BYT: How’d you two meet?
MM: We met years ago. We were in a band with some friends. We made a band and that kind of sucked so we made our own band just the two of us and we just kept going from there.
BYT: In a two-piece operation, is there more room for tension to sort of bounce off each other or do you guys think that you’re more tight because of it?
MM: If we weren’t as good of friends as we are I think we wouldn’t be here right now and I wouldn’t be on the phone with you because we would have totally stopped doing this years ago, but we really lucked out. We get along, you know, I’m in a band with my best friend so I’m not complaining there. We tend to be able to sort things out, and that’s part of the reason too why the other band didn’t continue. The more people you get the greater chance that something is going to go ary, and the same can be said for two people that you can’t always make two people get along. but we’re pretty fortunate in that aspect.
BYT: You guys excited about the November tour with Tokyo Police Club?
MM: Yeah, that’s going to be awesome! It’s kind of a dream Canadian tour going across Canada. It’s also a pretty good combo, so it should be great.
BYT: Do you enjoy playing at home? Do you have a lot of friends that come to see you?
MM: Every way to play is a good way to play, and you know, some of my favorite shows have been at really small bars and some of them have been these arena-sizers. It runs the gamut, but the important thing is that we get to play and it’s all about the show.
BYT: Are you guys sick of touring yet? Does it suck to live in hotels and on the road, or is this the dream?
MM: It becomes a dream until it’s a nightmare! No, I don’t know. Sometimes touring is great and other times you just want to be at home and it changes every single day. We had time-off last year and we’ve had months off with this tour right now, but everything in moderation. If I’m home too long I get sick of that, if I’m on tour too long I get sick of that. It’s just being human.
BYT: When you’re at home what are you mainly doing?
MM: Right now I’m obsessed with playing tennis as much as possible, before the weather gets crappy again. I only just picked it up last year, I quit smoking last year, and I feel great about that, and now I’m just focused on tennis and I love the game. I got Becky to play too. And seeing friends and hanging out with family, enjoying life and of course coming up with more songs.