From the outset, sisters Jordan Miller on lead vocals and bass and Kylie Miller on lead guitar, together with Leandra Earl on keys and guitar and Eliza Enman McDaniel on drums, had one explicit goal since they first starting making waves a few years ago, and that was to create a no-nonsense guitar record. It’s fair to say they have achieved their goal, a wonderful debut album that showcases their influences a blend of classic rock, garage, punk and pop – produced by Emily Haines and Jimmy Shaw from Metric.
For those unfamiliar with these four amazing young women, they are known as The Beaches. They first got their start in music very early apparently raiding their parents record collections for inspiration and in the process also making musical discoveries of their own. Guitar lessons as young girls turned eventually into dreams of becoming a burgeoning rock act by their teens. Now, as young women, they stand to conquer modern rock with their electrifying sound, humour and enthusiasm.
Of the back of recently winning the 2018 Breakthrough Group of the Year at Canada’s premier Juno Awards and their current tour commitments, the Toronto-based quartet all found time to speak to me. Here’s some of what we talked about.
Firstly, congratulations on your recent Juno Award for Breakthrough Group of the Year. I caught most of the Awards show (online) and Kylie you were very gracious in your acceptance speech on the bands behalf. How does it feel to be recognised like that? And now that you have had some time to reflect on it since the awards night did you forget to thank anyone?
Kylie: Ha thank you, I appreciate that. It was such an honour to be recognized as Breakthrough Group of the Year, especially in a room full of our musical heroes and mentors. I did forget to thank probably the most important person – James Quinn. He was both mine and Jordan’s guitar teacher when we started learning at the ages of 6 and 7 years old and we’ve been working together ever since. His relationship with the band has transitioned from a collaborator to our tour manager and musical director. He has dedicated his whole life to our band, and we owe honestly every bit of our success to him.
You hear stories about how producers want to change the dynamics and often the sound of a band all the time. I understand The Beaches resisted being led down a path you necessarily didn’t want to go musically. Taking the reigns of control of your own sound just like you did last year prior to recording was a godsend. It just makes sense not to mess with a winning formula. How empowering is that feeling being your own boss? And why?
Kylie: Yeah totally, and as a young band it’s easy to often get persuaded by those who are older or who have “more experience” as producers and writers. For a while we went through a period like that, but we got tired of it. We want to make sure that everything we release is 100% authentically us, because what’s the point in faking it? Being in a band is a lot of work, and it doesn’t make sense to work so hard for something that you aren’t super proud of. So we started calling all the shots, which was kind of scary at first, but it became super empowering. When that all started to pay off, the result was honestly so unbelievably rewarding.
I’ve been a long time fan of Emily Haines and her band Metric. When I heard she helped co-produce your debut album, I thought wow there is no way that this could go wrong. She has a great ear and knack for understanding what you want. Can you tell me something surprising about your working relationship with her?
Jordan: Emily is really funny. I’m not sure how many people know that about her. She would make savage jokes with us while we were in the studio together. On a day when I was scheduled to track vocals with her, I showed up wearing an all white Victorian dress (as you do), and she mocked me hard for it. I’d finish a track and she’d be like “where’s Jordan?”, “is there a ghost in the booth?”.
For your records here is what I wore that day…
I read a quote last year Jordan where you explained there is this sort of absence of guitar rock at the moment being played by young bands. That said, The Beaches and a few other bands I love like Wolf Alice are definitely trying to address that balance. In fact, I am a big fan of Ellie Rowsell (from Wolf Alice) and her activism and open encouragement to see more girls and young woman to pick up guitars. Do you hope to see more young women follow in your footsteps? And what are your hopes for guitar rock?
Jordan: Yes! I’d love to see both more young women and more young men getting into rock! I want to see them reshape and modify the genre so that it reflects their world view and ideas. Rock and Roll has for so long been an old white man’s genre – I think it’s ready for some new voices. It’s a really weird time right now to be a young person, I think there’s a lot of frustration and a lot of energy being emoted – things that for me epitomize what rock and roll is.
Across your new album, Late Show, on tracks like Walk Like That, Sweet Life, Let Me Touch and Money there is an interesting range of influences and sounds. I love the rush of guitars and in particular Eliza’s infectious drum work. Who are some of the artists or bands that have inspired you in making this album? And can you elaborate on one?
Kylie: Our goal with Late Show was to make a no-nonsense guitar rock record, all the while still paying attention to the songwriting. We pulled inspiration from those who’ve done this exact thing – rock bands with killer songs. We were really inspired by 70’s classic rock – David Bowie, The Rolling Stones and Iggy Pop. We also were heavily influenced by 90’s Brit pop and alternative like Blur and The Strokes.
I’m a big fan of bass players. One of my all time favourite bass-fronted singer songwriters is Melissa Auf der Maur. Funny enough Melissa is also Canadian! Nonetheless, If I could, I’d like to ask you Jordan about your bass work? My question, what is your approach Jordan to writing your basslines? The interplay you have with the lead guitars is incredible.
Jordan: Thank you so much! I can’t take credit for writing all the bass lines. A lot of them are written by Kylie or Leandra. As to why they may sound unique, or work together well with the guitar parts, it may be because Kylie and I write all of our instrumental hooks as singers. We don’t have any formal music training, everything we write comes from our head first, then we sing it out, then we play it on our instruments.
The Beaches also use some amazing key sounds across the album. How much of that is through keyboard effects?
Leandra: For the most part I just played piano and organ and sent the organ through some of Jimmy’s pedals, but I did sprinkle some of his vintage analog synths in some of the tracks like Highway 6 and Gold.
What’s the excitement like amongst the group about performing your new album live? How’s it been received?
Eliza: We’ve had some of these songs for some time now and it’s taken us a while, years even to release them. It’s the best feeling when they are received well and you can see the crowd really enjoying them. It’s the best and most rewarding feeling.
I recently saw Veruca Salt live here in Melbourne. They are so much louder than their records and they are also happy to improvise where it suits them. Does your live show differ from what we hear on the album? Are you open to improv?
Eliza: We definitely like to improvise and surprise our audience as much as we can. Sometimes we will introduce a musical interlude, a cover, really anything to surprise our audience and keep them on their toes! They can listen to the album any time they want, but that’s why a live show is so special, it’s a whole new level of experiencing a band.
Which one song from the album gives you goose bumps when you play it? Can you elaborate a little as to why it resonates with you so much?
Leandra: Highway 6 – the mood is so different from any other song on our album and we actually just started playing it live. It’s a bit darker, but also sexy and it just showcases Jordan’s vocals really well. It started out as a spacey, synth-heavy demo for our friend’s movie, but Emily and Jimmy (our producers) helped arrange it into the sparse, moody tune that it is now and our fans have just been loving it.
Finally, what’s the rest of the year like shaping up for The Beaches?
Leandra: We finish up our first ever headlining tour in our hometown (Toronto) on May 11th and then embark on a little trip to the UK. While over there, we’ll be playing The Great Escape in Brighton, a headlining show in London, and our first European show in Berlin! A super busy May. For the rest of the year, we have some festivals lined up like Osheaga and Riverfest Elora, and then we’ll try to hop on a North American tour in the Fall!
Thanks so much!
The Beaches debut album Late Show is available here to purchase online. Listen on Spotify. You can connect with The Beaches via their Facebook page or twitter feed @thebeaches. You can also visit or contact The Beaches via their website. Follow them on instagram. Watch them on You Tube.
Thanks for the intro. Great interview and now I have a new band to check out.
A fine interview as always Robert. I must take issue though with Jordan’s comment there’s a “sort of absence of guitar rock at the moment being played by young bands.” Every day I discover at least one new (to me) young band that’s making guitar-driven rock. I’ve reviewed a lot of them, as you may have noticed. A lot of them just aren’t being heard outside their own little geographic region.