BeatRoute Magazine is a monthly arts and entertainment paper with a predominant focus on music – local, independent or otherwise. The paper started in June 2004 and continues to provide a healthy dose of perversity while exercising rock ‘n’ roll ethics.
MIESHA & the Spanks 26 | MARCH 2018 • BEATROUTE ROCKPILE
Girls Girls Girls BY B. SIMM What a vision! It could be a boatload of bikini-clad woman. There was a movie made about that starring Elvis. Girls were wild about him, and he was wild about them and sang lots of girl-crazy songs. Motley Crue were wild about girls too. They wrote a song and made a racy video with motorbikes and exotic dancers to celebrate their obsession. The Crue and Elvis had similar interests, but different styles, a different vision, a different statement. Miesha Louie is wild about girls too. And has something different to say. Her thing for girls is being female, having a female frame of mind, a female voice, having female fun and being part of a “girl-pack”. The photo on the front of her new album, Girls Girls Girls, is littered with familiar faces of women who make up a large part of Calgary’s music community. “I got a bunch of my favourite girls from Calgary. We got together in front of the cymbal wall (behind the stage) at Vern’s, and kind of made and afternoon of it. We just got silly and ran with the title, Girls, Girls, Girls. It’s sort of a snapshot of the music scene.” Bold, brash, bursting with bravado, oozing with emotion, Louie and Sean Hamilton, who are the 2-piece nucleus of Miesha and the Spanks, switch on the high-octane that flows throughout the record. In “Motorin’” they add a little kick-start my heart Motley charm with Louie tossing down a definitive ‘If you want it, then bring it on’ proposal. You waitin’ on this heart? You think you wanna part? Think you can make it start! Well try to and turn it on, turn it on, turn it on, turn it on Come on! The song is a rip-roaring piece of pure joy. When he first heard the chords, Hamilton said, “Holy shit, this is my bread and butter! I can’t wait to play this.” Louie is also anxious to produce a video for “Motorin’” where she envisions her niece and a friend’s daughter “riding in go-carts, at an arcade with pinball lights flashing. I’ve had that concept for a while, and would like to do it for that.” A lot of Girls, Girls Girls is talking ‘bout love. Sticking to her heartfelt instincts, Louie pushes to break down the barriers in “Come Undone” asking her beau to cast off the fear and let the romance unfold... “So if you want to please me/Just come undone, just come undone, we’ll come undone!” Strong, powerful with dynamics mixing an intense, rock ‘n’ roll urgency with melodic, sexy, girl-group sensibility, her voice is front and center all across Girls Girls Girls making it the Spanks’ most focused recording to date. Hamilton explains that was largely the approach going into the studio with British producer Danny Farrant, a skilled multi-instrumentalist who also drums for The Buzzcocks. “Everything was created around Miesha to sing. That’s one of things Danny picked up on right away. He said., ‘I want to do pop with you, but I want to do this kind of pop, this garage and this rock.’ It was a conscious choice of singing styles. That was definitely his idea. And ‘If we’re going to do it clean, we’re going to do it clean and cool!’” Louie meet Farrant when The Buzzcocks played Sled Island in 2011. Farrant busted her for drinking his band’s beer backstage, but thought she probably knew where the best festival parties were. Indeed. Louie became the tour guide, they kept in touch, developed a working relationship where she was paid 100 English pounds to sing on each track that Farrant and his recording partner, Paul Rawson, produced promo material for. Some of the TV series they’ve provided promos for includes Sons of Anarchy and The Vampire Diaries. Louie then began a long-distant collaboration with Farrant and Rawson on new songs for the Spanks’ Stranger EP, released late 2016, where they mixed “Motorin’” and “Stranger” which also appear on Girls, Girls, Girls. Those tracks revealed a definite maturity to the Spanks’ sound giving it a solid pop-punk-feelgood foundation that has all the benefits of high-fidelity but retains the rough and ready romantics that Louie and Hamilton lock down so well. Following the Stranger release, the two scrapped together every bit of cash they had and could get support for to record at Farrant’s studio located in Brighton. The 10 day excursion became an intense whirlwind rotation between recording all day, heading to The Goose – a local pub – to unwind, then hit their Airbnb for a few hours before Louie was up at the crack of dawn “recalculating” lyrics and preparing arrangements for another long stretch of laying down tracks. You keep me here in the atmosphere Ooooooh, Oooooooh We been up all night! You keep me up all night! I’m sure I’m not the only one Who thinks she’s having too much fun We gotta keep it down low Nobody gets to know What we do when we’re alone Ain’t no one’s business but our own – Atmosphere “We eat and drank at The Goose every night, except for maybe one,” says Hamilton. “I now know what it is about the UK and their pubs. It’s not just a place to get drunk. It’s your place for dinner, it’s people knowing each other, your community centre, an environment you work things out, where you generate ideas.” Laughing, Hamilton adds, “I think we utilized The Goose to its fullest extent. But it really was a big part of our lives there. Like our anchor, with just Miesha and I. We’d be talking, drinking, debriefing about things done and what to do in this strange, new place of our own.” They also took full advantage of the opportunity in the studio with Farrant and Rawson at the helm. With her the vocals riding out front, Louie’s catchy chords and hooks jump right in behind giving the songs much more texture, depth and swing. Coupled with Hamilton’s tight and tailored in-sync drumming, the Spank’s tsunami of sound comes alive – a fierce and frisky 2-piece, with a voice of its own. “I write pretty simple guitar parts. But Paul (Rawson), who’s more the guitar player of the two, would say, ‘Play it this way,’ helping me expand those parts and make more out of the same thing. They knew what I was going for, and how to pull it out of me.” Hamilton was thoroughly impressed with Louie’s learning curve. “I’ve never seen a guitar player level up like that while in the studio. They were like, ‘Here’s an idea, can you do this?’, and Miesha came up with riffs she sang over, in time with the drum beat that’s built specifically for that riff… crazy, difficult stuff.” Straight-forward punk weaned on The Ramones’ rule of 1-2-3-4 Let’s Go!, often relies on melodic patterns that are fun but unfortunately all too predictable. The Spanks avoided that pitfall, making the album fresh, moving from one adventure to another, but still exploding with The Donnas’ kind of pleasure. “That was a huge focus,” confirms Hamilton, with Louie in full agreement. “Not to do exactly not what you think would happen. We weren’t going to write, ‘Oh, it should be like this.’ Instead, ‘What else can we do?” Louie, however, did place some limitations on how far Farrant and Rawson could tinker and colour up with her songs and sound. The extent of experimentation sometimes felt a bit overwhelming. “The crazy ideas would always be sonic,” recalls Hamilton while joking about what their producers would suggest. “Wouldn’t it be cool if we had six guitars doing solos here, here and here, and a shaker coming down from above?” Obviously an exaggeration, although Louie notes they added various layers of instrumentation including horns on one song, all of which she initially entertained. “They kept adding all this stuff. I said I’d try it, but when I got the first mix back it was so full of all this shit. I thought about it for a while, looking from the outside, not as a musician. Eventually I lost it, and told them, ‘Take everything out you added. Take it all out!’ Then I was happy with it.” While Louie stood to ensure the recording reflects who she is, who the Spanks are, she is also quick to point out that Farrant and Rawson “gave way more to that album than stuff I had to say no to.” Although there’s lots of fun-filled moments associated with the record, Louie’s songs aren’t just about good times and running with a gang of girls. The track “Lost Boy” opens with hard-pounding drums, a repeating, haunting singular guitar note that echoes across a darker landscape – there’s no party going on, only the lonely roam here. “Lost Boy” is a foray into alienation, an unkind space. “I tried to write that song so it was relatable on different levels, everyone has been lost at some time. But specifically I was looking at my Aboriginal family history, and the way people get left behind. You get these handouts and resources, but if you aren’t able to catch up, join in and enjoy the level white people are at, then you get left behind, seated at the kid’s table. It’s like, ‘You still fit here, but you’re not going to move forward with the rest of us.’ And that leaves a ‘Where in the world do I fit in?’ feeling. Then having a ‘fighting for nothing, living for nothing,’ complacent existence.” Louie reveals she doesn’t often write material that probes into areas that are “too political,” but hopes the song will come across having different meaning for different people. Hamilton is quick to agree and feels the lyrics can easily apply to many other situations. “For me, the most relatable line in the song is, ‘You are a lost boy/ You aren’t the only one.’” As for girls... they want to have fun. And sometimes keep it close and hush-hush, just let it float somewhere in the atmosphere. ROCKPILE BEATROUTE • MARCH 2018 | 27