A few weeks ago, Toronto-based four-piece band The Beaches (Jordan Miller, Kylie Miller, Leandra Earl and Eliza Enman-McDaniel) released the first half of their latest album, The Professional. (The five guitar-driven tracks are highly infectious, so you’re gonna wanna grab a copy if you haven’t already.) I was able to hop on the phone to Jordan earlier this week to talk about the new songs, as well as about their tight-knit dynamic and what it was like to receive a call saying the band would be opening for The Rolling Stones later this month, so internet-eavesdrop on our full conversation below:
Brightest Young Things: So it sounds like June is going to be an amazing month for you, ‘cause you’re opening for The Stones, right?
Jordan Miller: I know, it’s so crazy! I’m so excited.
BYT: That’s absolutely bonkers. How’d you find out that that was going to happen?
JM: Our manager called us when we were on tour with Passion Pit, I think when we were in Minneapolis-Saint Paul, and just let us know while we were getting ready to do an all-night drive to Chicago. We just totally flipped out. I called my mom and woke her up, and she was really high on cold medication. [Laughs] I had to sort of repeat that we were opening for The Rolling Stones three times before she was able to process it. We all had a good scream, though. It was really crazy.
BYT: That’s amazing. Well congrats on that, that should be super fun! How’s it been to play some of these newer songs live so far?
JM: So we actually produced the three songs that had been released right before we left for our Passion Pit tour, so we’re just learning them now. [Laughs] We’re doing two of them now. But “Snake Tongue” and “Fascination” have been going over really, really well when we’ve played them live.
BYT: I bet! I love “Snake Tongue” so much. This might sound like a weird question, because obviously sexism and catcalling exist everywhere (unfortunately), but I think people who aren’t from Canada have this very idyllic picture of what it’s like to live there, which I would be more than willing to bet is a total exaggeration and not accurate. That being said, do you notice things like catcalling are amplified in other cities you visit? Like did you notice anything more when you were here in the US than what’s considered normal at home?
JM: Umm…not specifically. I mean, when we were in New York I was wearing a pretty skimpy dress out downtown, and apparently…I didn’t notice this, but the girls like, “Wow, the guys are being so much creepier to you here than they are in Canada!” I don’t know, I think it’s a problem that sort of exists everywhere, no matter where you are.
BYT: Absolutely. And now that we’ve kind of dipped our toes into things that are annoying about being a woman, I know you guys get asked a lot of stuff pertaining to being an all-girl band, and some of the interviews I was reading to get ready for this…like, some of the questions are things that would just never be asked to dudes, you know? So I was curious to know what the most annoying question you’ve gotten in that regard is, and whether or not you think those sorts of questions have gotten to be less as time has gone on. I know I’ve personally noticed improvements in that area, but it’s like, a snail’s pace.
JM: Yeah, I mean, a lot of times people would ask things like, “What’s it like being an all-girl band?” And I’d never know how to answer that, because I don’t know what it would be like to be a boy in an all-boy band, you know? I’m cool to bring it up, because I know the subject matter is important to discuss, and it’s important to talk about some of the issues that females have in this industry, especially the lack of representation in general, in all aspects of the industry, whether it’s sound guys or crew members or people that work at the label – there’s just a lack of girls. I think that’s going to be aided by more women getting into music.
BYT: Totally. Now, what I’m personally interested to know about the people that comprise your band is what the dynamic is like working with a sibling and friends. A lot of the time you’ll see bands that are just family, or just friends, but I think it’s an interesting crossover that you guys have a mix. How does that play out?
JM: It’s really good! I always say that that’s how all bands should be. A band is supposed to work as a unit; you’re supposed to create songs and music together, and when you’re sort of put together by the industry or by a label or by a manager… feel like bands who start out that way generally lack the connection and vibe that you get from other bands that started organically. But being in a band with four girls who respect each other and like hanging out with each other is really awesome.
BYT: And you’ve also been pretty vocal about the fact that you guys are okay with saying no to things, or that it’s something that’s gotten easier for you over time. I think that’s super important for anybody to keep in mind!
JM: It’s still not always the easiest thing – I feel like I’m a naturally accommodating person, and I don’t know if that’s because I’m Canadian or a woman or a young woman, but it’s been a struggle for me to put my foot down and say no when I don’t want to do things. But we got some really good advice from Emily Haines when she was producing our last record; she said something along the lines of “If people are telling you to do something or put something out because they’re promising you more popularity or more success or more money or more fame, but you don’t feel comfortable releasing it, you have to stick to your guns. Because at the end of the day, you’re the one whose name is attached to it, and you’re the one that has to perform that song live. So learn early to trust your gut feeling and always stick to your gut.”
BYT: Totally, and it does take practice. I think you’re right, I think it does (a lot of the time) have something inherently to do, even subconsciously, with being a woman. At least that’s been my own experience in terms of navigating conflict. I think there’s a stereotype that people are raised with that we should be quieter, or more accommodating like you said, or whatever else.
JM: Yeah, it could be a Canadian thing, too, because we’re always taught to be polite and to solve problems instead of being confrontational. I think Canadians (and even more so women) generally have to find compromises, which isn’t always a bad thing, but when you have to make decisions for your career, sometimes you have to be a bit of a bitch.
BYT: Completely. Alright, let’s talk about your creative process and what that shapes up to be in a band with four people. Do you have set roles for what each of you brings to the table, or do you find it changes and is more organic than that?
JM: It’s sort of evolved over time. I generally do most of the lyrics and the melodies, but over time, Leandra and Kylie have sort of been more involved in that process. Sometimes when we’re writing a song I’ll come up with an idea and bring it to the girls and we’ll just jam on it, or they’ll have a really cool guitar hook or a drum beat and we’ll just forge the song that way, and the lyrics will come afterwards. Regardless of how a song is started, though, it’s always really important to us to make sure that it’s a collaborative process and that everyone’s identity is sort of forged into the song. Because that’s what being in a band is; it’s all working together to create music.
BYT: So for you, specifically, what’s been the most off the wall source of inspiration, either like, a physical place where inspiration has hit you, or a crazy idea or maybe even dream you had that led to a song?
JM: The one song that sticks out to me is “Highway 6”, which was on our last album. I had this weird dream about driving down a highway with this really attractive faceless man, and I sort of turned that dream into a love song. [Laughs] That’s the strangest experience I’ve ever written about. But generally what I’ve been trying to do more often, rather than writing about weird dreams or visions, or just things I see, is I try to write about my own personal experiences. As a writer, the more personal you get, the more relatable your music becomes. Even if you’re writing about a very specific experience that only you’ve had, I think that when you write that way on a focused point or experience, the song becomes more relatable, even though that doesn’t necessarily make sense.
BYT: Yeah, and that’s such a nice thing, because A. the audience gets to have this shared experience of feeling like, “Oh, I’m not the only one,” if they’re able to find meaning and project their own stuff onto a song, and B. you as a songwriter also get to see that this is more universal than you might have previously thought. Now, when it comes to writing these personal songs, I know you’re super close with your bandmates, but have there been times where you’ve been hesitant to share things because they’re so personal?
JM: Oh, totally. There’s a really old song we used to play that I wrote about my first real heartbreak, and it was one of my first attempts at writing about my own personal experience with my own personal loss. And singing it, for me, became really difficult; I felt like I didn’t really want to share that. And I figured out after the fact that I didn’t really want to share that experience anymore, because it was like, “I don’t want to talk about this person anymore, I hate feeling sad.” But the girls were like, “Yo, it’s a really good song, and even though you went through this, people probably want to share this experience with you. That’s sort of your job, to be vulnerable and to share your life, your music, with your fans.”
BYT: Sort of on that note, has your personal relationship changed to some of the older songs you’ve got in the catalog? Like either they’ve gained a deeper meaning for you with time, or maybe you don’t relate to some of them anymore?
JM: Yeah, it depends. A lot of the time when it’s a specific personal song, like “Loner” or the song I was talking about, the heartbreak song, I think the more time you spend away from it, the more nostalgic the song becomes, and then it’s easier to perform. But as for a song’s meaning evolving over time, the only example I can think of with our music is our song “Gold”; when I started writing it I really didn’t know what it was about, and I sort of lived with it for two years, and it developed meaning over time – it became this weird song where I saw a vision of a dystopian future, and then wrote a really weird verse about it. When I finally came up with a chorus for it, it became a song about longing for there to be a revival of rock music, like real rock artists like David Bowie or Prince or Alice Cooper. I just don’t think there’s a person like that out there anymore who’s sort of embodying that kind of music.
BYT: Isn’t it weird to think about that? How there just aren’t those kinds of figures anymore? I guess there could theoretically still be someone who emerges down the line, but different times, man. Alright, so looking at your summer schedule, it seems fairly light on shows. What’s the plan aside from those dates?
JM: So we’ve got a few festivals and one-offs this summer, and then we’re also working on the second half of our album. We’re releasing our album in halves, so the first half of The Professional was released a few weeks ago, and we just have to finish writing and recording, which I think we’re going to do in July.
BYT: Was there any specific reason you decided to release it in halves?
JM: It was the label’s idea, and I thought it was smart. When you’re releasing new music internationally, like in America or the UK, you’re helped exponentially if you have something to push, whether it’s an EP or a single. It helps, if you’re pushing a single, if there’s a full body of work attached to it, and because albums have such a short life, we thought it’d be smarter to do a single push and then half of an EP, and then six months later do it again so that you’re constantly going back to those markets.
BYT: I completely agree. That’s just the reality of how we consume music now, and it kind of infuriates me when a band puts out a great record and it falls of the map after a few weeks, so that’s super smart.
JM: Yeah, a lot of people are doing it now. At first I was kind of uncomfortable with the idea, just because I come from kind of a rock background, and generally you listen to an album as a full twelve track vinyl or whatever. But I really like the idea of being able to let the work have more attention and have more of a life.
BYT: Totally. Alright, last question! We’ve got a little over two-thirds of 2019 left, so I’ll ask you what you hope the rest of the year will bring, either for you personally or for the world or for etc.
JM: I hope all war ends, and everyone finds peace and happiness. I hope I get to keep playing with my band, and get to keep having fun playing rock music.
Featured photo by Felice Trinidad