Calgary heavy rockers Miesha & The Spanks are back with their latest release entitled Singles EP. #CMIAE artist Miesha Louie spoke with CMI via email about the record’s origins, adapting from an ever touring live band to releasing music under lockdown, balancing creativity and new motherhood, and exploring what it means to be a “Mixed Blood Girl”.
Q: HOW DID THE SINGLES EP COME ABOUT?
A: The plan when we started (pre-pandemic) was to have 4-5 standalone singles, more like a compilation record than an album. But then we were interrupted, and suddenly there was this life-changing experience influencing the writing. When the EP should have been finished, more good songs kept popping out of us that fit together and we didn’t want to cut. So, we let more songs sneak on than maybe we would have otherwise, without the pandemic shifting things around.
We released Singles EP with a series of pre-released singles starting back in July. When we started, we really weren’t sure what was going to happen with touring and festivals or anything. We figured our best move was just to start moving music and getting it out there. When “Unstoppable” came out, we hadn’t even finished recording the EP. The campaign became about radio pitching and music videos instead of tour dates, and even now I don’t think we’ll be on tour for real until next year. It’s been a different release cycle for us!
Q: WHAT MAKES YOU FEEL “UNSTOPPABLE”?
A: I always feel unstoppable when I’m playing a really kick–butt super tour–tight set. About halfway through a tour, we like to challenge ourselves and play a game where we don’t stop between songs, and we just play the whole set in one go. When we pull that off, we are completely unstoppable.
Q: WHAT IS SOMETHING THAT YOU’VE LEARNED TO DO IN THE PANDEMIC WHEN YOU “WANNA FEEL GOOD”?
A: Throughout lockdown, I’ve really been enjoying walks with my dog down to the river. I live close to Bowmont Park (in Calgary), and down the rocky beach there’s this spot where the Bow River splits, and I don’t know what it is but there are some special vibes there. A lot of my voice memo song ideas come when we’re out there.
Q: IS THERE A PARTICULAR TRACK YOU’RE MOST PROUD OF ON THIS EP?
A: “Mixed Blood Girls” took a lot out of me and I’m happy with the music and the lyrics and the production. It’s also connected me with more of my community and that means so much to me and Steve Lamacq played it on BBC6! I had a clean version made, but because there was profanity, I didn’t really expect it to get much airtime. I was wrong! I’m proud that something I made is meaningful to other people while still getting some small critical acclaim.
I’ve always written personal music and shared mostly from real-life experience, except for this huge part of who I am and where I come from. I’ve always identified as Indigenous, but I’ve never shared what that meant to me, or what my life was like being mixed, or what my relationship was with my culture, community, and family. I guess it was always in the back of my head that I would eventually get there, but when I heard a poem called “Mixedblood Girls” by Rain Prud’Homme, it really inspired me to get writing. Because her poem hit me so hard, it finally resonated with me that maybe my story would connect with someone else as well.
Ida Maria is back with a track true to her indie rock roots, “I’m Busy.” It’s been a while, over ten years, since fans have gotten to see this side of Maria since the perfection that was Katla back in 2010. Taking a break to focus on gospel and collaborating with other artists like Andrew Green this latest track is full of the feminist rock dynamic that made fans fall in love with the Norwegian punk rocker. As always the track is full of empowerment, catchy melody, cheeky lyrics and is a must hear for anyone looking for new tunes for the summer.
After spending 2020 locked away in his creative space, Saint Idiot (Tomáš Andel) emerges from the incense smoke and potted plants with a new single, “Bubblewrap.” We met this Edmonton-based musician in the first virtual offering of our Artist Entrepreneur program last summer. To celebrate his latest release, we caught up (virtually) to talk about creating in quarantine, personal growth and what to expect next.
Q: “BUBBLEWRAP” IS DESCRIBED AS A “SONG ABOUT HEALTHY ANGER, AND TRUST,” DOES THIS REPRESENT A PARTICULAR TIME IN YOUR LIFE?
Totally. I used to think I’m not an angry person for a lot of my life, as in, I didn’t express anger in outbursts or aggression, but instead, in this frozen, low-key anxiety that I wasn’t even aware was there; slow poison. I read “Anger: Wisdom for Cooling the Flames” by the Buddhist monk Thích Nhất Hạnh (it peered up at me from a thrift book store shelf at a totally synchronous moment), and it floored me to realize that it’s not that I didn’t get angry, I just wasn’t acknowledging or working with my anger. At the risk of sounding dramatic, this realization completely changed my life, and I’ve been incomparably happier since I decided to let anger into my life to work with it.
Anger is also a form of trust. You have to really trust the other person to see you, hear you, and consider whatever issue you’re raising, otherwise it just becomes either a volatile explosion of bad energy that doesn’t help anyone or do anything, or this hidden-away festering wound. So how you broach your anger is a real test of character and a real test of boundaries. It’s OK to get angry, it’s unavoidable—what we do with that anger matters more.
Q: HOW DID 2020 CHANGE YOUR OUTLOOK AS A MUSICIAN? AND IF IT DID, HOW IS THAT REFLECTED IN YOUR MUSIC?
For me 2020 was about slowing down, indulging in being a little idealistic for the sake of creativity, and taking time to imagine a more harmonious world—especially since it seems like the popular imagination is so fascinated with dystopias lately. A huge component of my album (Alternate Utopias from a Nostalgic Future) was world-making. I think when it’s all out, it’ll be worth it to lie down with it and listen on headphones, because a lot of it was deliberately crafted to transport you.
I’m already at my happiest when I’m spending endless nights shaping sounds in the studio. I love experimenting with colors, texture, and space, which has always been my favorite part of making music.
I do like playing live, but given that it’s still unclear when we’ll be able to do that again, I’ve actually been more than happy to double-down on going deeper into being a “studio first” musician.
Q: TELL US ABOUT SOME OF THE CREATIVES INVOLVED WITH YOUR PROJECT
My friend Doug Parth from The Den and With Dogs helped dial in the orchestral arrangements, and it was then mixed and iterated by Hill Kourkoutis, who added additional production, and carved this gorgeous lifeline through what was probably more of an enthusiastic muddle at that point. Kristian Montano breathed the final magic into it—his masters really deepened all the musical space.
All along though, I’ve had so much help from everyone around me. Kelsey McMillan, who has done my photos also helped me workshop lyrics, and has often weighed in on the music and the art direction, as has my friend Holly Pickering aka sodium light. Working on my roommate Anthony Goertz’s documentary really humbled me and inspired a lot of the directions I went exploring after, plus he’s a wonderful, bright mind to bounce ideas off of. A very, very cool Twitter-famous visual artist did the album artwork (the only non-Canadian involved), but I wanna save that for later!
I share my work in progress songs all the time, so I really see the final thing as an accomplishment shared with a pretty huge group of pals. I feel pretty lucky to be surrounded by so many wonderful, receptive people.
Hey all, I’ve started doing interviews for work so here is a sneak peak, check out the full read on canadasmusicincubator.com.
“With a new single out, Taigenz, a self-described “North American city boy with a unique African sound”, has utilized the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic to release new music and solidify his brand on social media while the world is at a halt. We caught up with the musician via email to talk about finding joy, inspiration, and the importance of having a sense of self while navigating social media as a musician (especially in quarantine).”
Q: HOW DOES IT FEEL TO RELEASE MUSIC DURING THE THIRD WAVE OF THE PANDEMIC, HOW ARE YOU CONNECTING WITH YOUR AUDIENCE?
A: It feels much better than 1st or 2nd wave. I’ve been connecting with my audience by being more diverse with my online content and developing new ways of relatability outside but still close to music. I didn’t really know where to go after my last project in 2019 (Life Ain’t Free). Add the fact that you can’t perform and everybody is fighting for everyone’s attention online, there was a feeling of “who’s really checking for me?”
Q: WHAT HAS CHANGED FOR YOU AS AN ARTIST DURING THIS PAST YEAR-AND-A-HALF AND HOW IS THAT REFLECTED IN THIS NEW SINGLE?
A: The confidence and self-assurance has been a positive change for me. Not saying I wasn’t confident before, but now it’s gotten at an even higher level thanks to all the new stuff I learned and people I’ve connected with online. And this confidence will be surely be reflected in my new single “Foolish Money”. I want people to hear me and be like “Yeah…that boy ready”.
Q: WHAT BRINGS YOU JOY AND HOW DO YOU INCORPORATE THAT INTO YOUR MUSIC AND BRAND?
A: What brings me joy is the part where inspiration hits me and I get on a creative wave that feels like a high. I don’t have to rush to write or record anything, I just let the idea, the concept, the weird rhymes, unfinished hooks, and simple melodies marinate in my head until I finally see what I need to see mentally and then go “iight, time to put it in writing”. And it’s also fun to think in a different language, cause that opens up a whole new box of punchlines, wordplay, rhyme schemes, etc. That’s what is mostly incorporated in my music and brand. My rhymes, like my content, can switch at any given time from English, to French, to Spanish, and even to pidgin (A West-African dialect).
The year I first saw Hockey Dad’s, Zach Stephenson, wail into a microphone with closed-eyes and a guitar across his torso, is lost on me, but it’s been an experience I’ve grown used to. Despite their Australian origin, Hockey Dad’s, Billy Fleming (drums) and Stephenson (vocals and guitar) steady stream of tours made them a recognizable name in Toronto’s music scene. It would be easy to credit their name to the Canadian success, but untrue. When they perform there is a charm uniquely their own, an easy fun to be had along with their music. The band has altered that experience with their latest release, Brain Candy. Gone are the youthful tributes to surf rock, instead, a new exploration of who Hockey Dad are as artists plays out over the album erasing any genre people may try to attach them to.
Last week, from two sides of the world, Zach, his new quarantine puppy, Margarita and I chatted about the band’s long awaited third album and what it has been like to release an album in quarantine. Check it out below.
T: How has 2020 and quarantine been on your creative side? Do you think that’s taken a toll or improved in any form?
Z: I’m not sure. I feel like I’ve definitely had a lot more time to think about writing. Mm hmm. I don’t know if it’s actually done a lot more writing itself. It’s been strange if we’ve been locked away and I mean, I don’t know, I guess being locked away and not being ever gotten sides still doesn’t really make the ideas pop in the header. Oh, focus powder on songs when I’m doing demos. And we’ve had more time to just to practice quietly on our own to kind of flesh songs out a bit more and get them a little more up to speed. Okay, I think it’s probably helped our writing a little bit for sure.
T: And how are you getting ready for the upcoming release in quarantine? What’s that experience like?
Z: It’s kind of the same as many releases really where we just focus on getting everything made, and getting everybody excited, but it is a little different now that we can’t. We haven’t really got any tours or anything to play so we can’t play these new songs live and get people excited that way. I guess we’re really just trying to push it online and get everyone kind of out of air.
T: Do you have any bittersweet feelings about releasing this album while in quarantine and not being able to tour?
Z: Yeah, I think it’s kind of frustrating. It’s a little disappointing cuz we really liked these new songs on the record, and we wrote a lot of them live as well. We were all really excited to just go straight out and play them live and just kind of really get to know them. Yeah, it’s a little disappointing to put the record out and then you know, it’s just there, but we can’t really do anything with it. I’m sure as soon as we can play live again we’ll be fine playing that thing back to front.
T: For this album you’ve said it has forced you to be creative, what shifted that focus?
Z: We just had a little more time writing and in the studio. We had the time to work on a song or start a song and then kind of taken in a few different directions and see where we want it to go. So I think to do that we got the chance to do that with a lot of songs on this record as compared to older songs on old records where we just write them maybe in a couple hours and that was kind of it was kind of finished. I really liked this album. I think it’s one of our best. So I’m excited for it to get out there and for everyone to hear all the tracks in one go.
If you’re curious about Hockey Dad’s new sound, here is their latest video Germaphobe, from Brain Candy, out today!
Declan McKenna – “The Key to Life on Earth.”
Everything McKenna writes is a beautifully dark take on society. It’s even more daunting and appealing coming from someone so young. The 21-year-old released an eerie video for the second single off of his upcoming album Zeros.
July Talk – “Governess Shadow”
The beloved Toronto-based July Talk are back. After four long years fans are treated to two singles “Pray for it” and “Governess Shadow” off of their upcoming album, suitably to be released in July. While the tracks are vastly different, each are lovely and compliment the other.
Dream Wife – “Hasta La Vista”
The trio have been busy prepping their latest album “So When you Gonna…”, beginning a podcast and pumping out singles. Their latest Hasta La Vista is frighteningly from their energy infused first self titled album. That doesn’t mean it’s not wildly lovely.
Dizzy – “The Magician”
The brilliant up and comers make nothing short of beautiful melodies and softly stunning vocals. Don’t let the bands slow nature fool you, each track in always infused with energy and emotion
“The Magician” is yet another beautiful track
Pretty Matty – “Why not Be Something that you Are?”
A rock infused track that makes you long to see live shows. It’s a track you want to enthral yourself in completely as memories of punk’s past pile on.