Today our Spotlight – Miesha & The Spanks. We sit down with Miesha and Sean to talk about their newest release Mixed Blood Girls. This talented duo brings some amazing sounds and even better stories. Check out what they had to say right now.
You have been playing together for a while now. What got you started in music individually, and how did you meet?
Miesha – I was always interested in performing music in some capacity. As a small kid I wanted to sing and dance in musicals. Then I discovered Salt-N-Pepa in grade 3, and I wrote and played bad rap songs with my keyboard beats for my older sister and her teenage friends, even at some talent shows. I wrote moody pre-teen acoustic songs in my pre-teens and then in my teens graduated to punk rock. We used to throw our own shows at the community hall in my hometown, Invermere BC, so I met a lot of bands touring through – most of them from Calgary. That new network of bands and buds really opened my eyes to what else I could do and I’ve been pushing myself forward into a career in music ever since.
Sean – For me, when I was 23 I slept walked off a 4 story building and almost died. Early in my recovery a friend asked, well what would you do if you only had a year left to live? And I said I’d really take a shot at music. And so I did! It was a few years more until I connected with Miesha, but the seriousness that she approached playing and touring was what attracted to me to playing with her. Plus it was tons of fun.
Miesha – We didn’t meet until we were both playing a Canadian Music Week showcase in Toronto in 2013. Sean was playing with his band Jenny and I had a different Spanks drummer back then, but once we met it seemed like we were both everywhere and we became fast friends. He started filling in the odd show on drums until I needed someone full time and the rest is history!
Who were some of your major influences growing up, and subsequently who are some contemporary artists you admire? I’ve been describing you as The Breeders meets Sleater Kinney, so I’d love to know your genesis?
Miesha – I love that description! Part of my descent into punk rock was the 90s riot grrrl movement which definitely included both of those bands. Breeders came a little later for me. I was heavy into 7 Year Bitch, L7, Sleater-Kinney, Bikini Kill, Babes in Toyland, Hole, Bratmobile… all of it. Salt-N-Pepa was probably formative too. Very Necessary is an incredible album and I wore that cassette out. Right now I’m still hooked on The OBGMs new record The Ends, and PROJECTOR from the UK. Both bands are making some really interesting music with killer songwriting.
Sean – I think we bring different influences to the table and that’s what makes something unique. I’ve always liked drummers who go a little extra and love to perform. I’ve always been a huge Dave Grohl fan but more recently Metz has been a big drumming influence. I always admired bands from the Canadian punk rock scene because they just love to tour. There’s no radio support, very little song placement, they just survive by playing non stop.
You are currently based in Calgary, AB but grew up in the East Kootenays region. Was there a culture shock when you moved, and what was it like growing up in the East Kootenays?
Miesha – It definitely took a little getting used to life in the city. My hometown population was 3000, but the Calgary music scene felt sort of like a small town. I already knew quite a few kids from bands touring through my hometown, and my high school band playing some all ages show here. Invermere is three hours away, so it was the closest city and I was at least a little familiar with it.
Growing up there was great in a lot of ways. I loved my childhood in the bush and the mountains with my family, camping, swimming. I lived in the lake in the summer. But being a teen in a small-town isn’t so easy. I was so stoked to meet some like-minded kids playing in bands. We had this great all ages show circuit between Invermere, Cranbrook, and Golden. Together our gang of punks and art weirdos wasn’t so small. I loved those days.
Your album Girls Girls Girls really skyrocketed the 2 of you to fame. What was it like writing and recording the album?
Miesha – We recorded in the middle of a cross Canada tour. We were flying from Montreal to the UK when we were halfway through. So a lot of the songs we had been dialing in on the road. When we went to record, Danny and Paul re-worked a lot of the structures! Trying to re-learn our songs in the middle of tour was wild, but it was really fun to be recording with such great songwriters while completely removed from anything else. We really immersed ourselves in the creation of Girls Girls Girls, and I think a lot of the environment and UK influence made its way onto the record.
Sean – GGG was such a fun experience to record but definitely the most challenging studio work we’ve ever done. Our producers Danny and Paul are highly capable drummers and guitar players and neither one of us got a pass on anything. I remember going home and having to learn to play something beyond my ability for the next day. Stressful but we always made time for dinner at our local pub and snuck in a few walks down the beaches of Brighton.
We’ll get into your new music in a moment. I’d be mad if I didn’t ask what it was like touring and opening for some of the folks you’ve worked with. Any standout performances that you cherish?
Miesha – Opening for Queens Of The Stone Age was a really intense one. It was obviously sold out and when I got the email asking us to do it I wasn’t sure it was real. They needed a two piece and asked around to local promoters. I guess we were on everyone’s list of suggestions, so we got the offer. We didn’t see them around anywhere before we played so we were a little bummed and figured they wouldn’t come down until after we played. Maybe halfway through the set I could see them side stage watching and rocking out to the songs. Unreal! They were super nice too, and shared their whiskey and talked shop with us afterwards.
Sean – Touring is why I got into music and it’s some of my fondest memories with the spanks. Highlights include us playing Blizzard Fest in Rossland for many years. Lots of great bands through there but I’m a sucker for that ski town vibe of a small packed club and everyone going crazy. Also Canada House in the UK where I lost my drumsticks. We asked the audience for some and a bunch just started flying through the air at me!
Miesha, you took time off to have your twins. Was it a difficult decision to make the choice of halting for family? Sean, what were you up to during the hiatus?
Miesha – The whole thing was pretty planned out. I was committed to performing up to 6 months pregnant, so every month that we weren’t pregnant yet I added some more shows. It worked out perfectly because the last thing we did was play Great Escape and Focus Wales in the UK. I knew we wanted a family so the decision wasn’t difficult, it was just a matter of making it the least disruptive as possible. We were lucky to get pregnant so quickly or else it could have been much more complicated.
Sean – I’ll shoot you straight, there wasn’t really any time off. We had obligations pretty close up to their birth, and 3 weeks after we opened for Propagandhi. It was slower than our usual pace, but I play in 5 other bands when I’m home in Calgary so I sunk my teeth deeper into those projects then.
The main reason we are here is the new single – “Mixed Blood Girls” just dropped, and it is super awesome. It is a very emotionally heavy song about the racism Miesha has experienced. Can you tell us about the catharsis that goes into a song like this?
Miesha – It took a lot out of me to write it it, and it took a long time from when I felt inspired to when I finished, and I really only shared some pieces of my experience. I can’t speak for every mixed person out there, but a lot of what held me back from sharing was feeling that my experience was irrelevant or not very important. Being “white-passing” or even not looking obviously NDN comes with a lot of privilege, and the subtle racism I face is a lot different compared to some of my cousins. Putting it out there felt like a weight was lifted but also made me feel very vulnerable, and until it was actually released and I started feeling the support from people who heard it I was really on edge about the whole thing.
The album comes out mid month, I was able to get a listen from your team and I am shaking. It is raw, yet it is sharp, it is very 90s grunge meets indie lo-fi, utterly amazing. Can you tell us a bit about it, and what are your personal standout tracks?
Miesha – It really turned into a mini-album. I wanted to try something different and have songs that weren’t connecting, just a collection of really good songs. But having recording interrupted by Covid sort of locked me into writing in an environment that has some influence on all of it. My favs are “Wanna Feel Good” for that really weird riff I’m just so proud of. I love a good two chord chorus because it gives me some room to rock out a little harder. And “Mixed Blood Girls” because as vulnerable as the content makes me, actually performing it feels very freeing and in that moment it’s incredible.
Sean – I think we have different fave tracks so this is good. My two are “I Want Fire” and “SOS”. Fire is just so fun to scream along with over a simple heavy rock beat. I’m always transported into the ether when we go for it on that song and that hunger for a raw powerful experience is satiated. In SOS I love the contrast. From a grooving floor Tom beat to this big Nirvana inspired half time beat in the chorus. Again, it’s just a lot of fun to play and I feel we can leave it all out there when we do that song live.
Obviously, the last year, live performances basically stop being a thing and you focused more on writing and recording. For the few online performances you did what was it like not being able to vibe with a crowd?
Miesha – I always thought it would make me feel better but it never did. Performing for just a webcam is not the same thing, and it’s really hard to give it the same. I also did a lot of those performances solo in the beginning and our songs just aren’t great for that anymore. I need Sean!
Sean – It’s been hard. We are very much a sweaty, loud, live band and we miss that very much. I’m really proud of how much we’ve filled this year with but I can’t wait to feel the electricity in the room again.
SPANKS WORLD! I‘m obsessed. Gives me just badass 90s MTV / Daria vibes. What inspired you to create Spanks World? And for those who haven’t seen it, please explain it.
Miesha – Spanks World is a four part mini-series, available on our Instagram and YouTube, where we perform and talk about each song from Singles EP. We weren’t feeling live streams but we knew we needed to do SOMETHING with some online performance aspect to it. We also wanted to talk about the songs and the making of the EP in the sort of way we get into it with people at the merch table on tour.
The title didn’t come up until we were recording the whole thing. I said it as a bad idea example, but we couldn’t un-hear it and it was really the best we had. Once we had the name, it definitely influenced the vibe of how we talked about the music. Also how I put it together in editing, and of course the theme song and animated graphic for the title. It became a lot less serious and a lot more fun.
With 2021 still somewhat up in the air for what we’ll be able to do this summer, do you have anything planned or at least tentatively planned?
Miesha – If there’s any opportunities to perform for real this summer we will be all over it! But I don’t really think that will happen. So we’re preparing for another season of Spanks World and some more music videos – for Mixed Blood Girls, Unstoppable, and I Don’t Care. We’re also going to start work on writing the next album. A lot of the festivals we were meant to play in 2020 have been moved a few times now, but looks like they’re finally ready to happen in September, so if nothing else goes wrong we are really looking forward to being in Europe and the UK this fall.
Growing up I did not hear a lot of Indigenous musicians, but over the last decade or so there have been some real standout artists, Tribe Called Red, Silla + Rise being some personal favourites. What has it been like for you to see a noticeable upswing in Indigenous voices finally being heard and appreciated?
Miesha – It’s amazing. And yeah as a kid, I barely had women in music to look up to, let alone Indigenous women. Definitely not in rock or punk. I didn’t see myself in the industry at all. This last decade has really brought Indigenous artists to the front, and I’m really proud to play a small part in it and be included in my community. Hopefully some mixed kid somewhere sees themselves in today’s music!
Living away from your community like many Indigenous youths are, what are some uplifting words of encouragement that you want to tell them?
Miesha – I want them to know that they are enough. I struggled with my identity a lot, knowing who and what I am but being disconnected from my community and not feeling NDN enough. You’re still Indigenous if you don’t live on the rez or speak your ancestral language, and it’s your right to own that. It wasn’t very long ago that the world tried to assimilate us and split us apart from our culture and identities. Don’t let anyone make you feel like you’re less than you are.
Now that you’ve done so many of these interviews, what is one thing you wish that people knew about you?
Miesha – I always just say we’re a Calgary band because that’s the simplest answer. I’ve really enjoyed sharing that I’m actually a small town bush kid who lived their life in the mountains and lakes of BC.
Lastly as our favorite independent and smaller businesses have been hit hard this Covid season. What are some of your local favorite places to hype up and give a shout out to?
Miesha – Broken City is a Calgary music scene staple. They’re really hanging in there without any live music or events. With the current restrictions, you could support them by grabbing a table on their wicked rooftop patio or ordering some pick-up. Great pub food with lots of vegan options. Pinbar is also one of my favourite places to play pinball with buds. Without the games right now they could definitely use some extra love. Their patio is dog friendly and the food is crazy good – real big sandwiches and awesome pizza.
Sean – Come support my job when I’m not on the road, Galaxie Diner! I’ve been living in Kensington this last few years and I need to keep a few places alive for all our sakes. Hot Wax Records is THE vinyl destination with my man Dan behind the desk most days. Ridley’s Bicycles is where I’ve been getting parts the last few years, a little local place that is so accommodating. Fair Trade Coffee is a perfect cup of joe and lastly Free House whenever they open their rooftop patio again.
Spotlight – Miesha & The Spanks is a wrap! Big thanks to Miesha and Sean for spending some time with us
Check out Mixed Blood Girls out now!
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