Calgary-based duo miesha & the spanks have been busy. Frontwoman (and singer + guitarist) Miesha Louie and drummer Sean Hamilton just returned from a West Coast tour, and they’ve been pounding the vinyl in the studio.
We caught up with Miesha, fresh off the tour van, and chatted about everything from her new partner in crime to a Mexican swim-up bar, her long-distance producers, Game of Thrones on tour, and much, much more.
Raz Mataz Magazine (RMM): Stranger EP is your first record with Sean Hamilton on drums. How did this arrangement come about? How has this change impacted your sound?
Miesha Louie (ML): Sean had started filling in at shows last September when my last drummer wasn’t available – he learned the songs really fast, and we had a lot of fun on stage together. He has so much energy.
It started happening more frequently, and when Emelia told me she was moving to B.C., me and Sean were in Mexico at a swim-up bar with some pals and the transition just felt super natural. It was like a wedding proposal, we had the whole pool cheers tequila when we made it official.
We have really good chemistry, and he has a great ear for songwriting – he’s also a singer/songwriter and plays drums/guitar for a million bands in Calgary. I used to bring a song to whoever was playing with me and they would play along, maybe some arrangements would change, but now we hammer a lot of the building blocks out together. We also have a lot of studio experience between the two of us, so we’re definitely making the most of our time spent there and coming up with some rad results.
RMM: The record also has a ‘50s vibe to it. What inspired that?
ML: I think that’s just the way I write ballads. I went over my back catalogue recently, and since Gods Of Love almost all of the “slow songs” I write have that feel. I guess that’s what I like to listen to – I grew up driving to the mountains every weekend with my family listening to either my dad’s Springsteen or my mom’s Motown mixes. Danny Farrant (Producer/Buzzcocks) heard the influence right away, and I think this is maybe the first time we really ran with it – especially on a song that isn’t exactly slow!
RMM: You worked with Pail Rawson and Danny Farrant from The Buzzcocks. How did that collaboration come about? Why did you want to work with them? What was that like? How did their involvement impact your sound?
ML: I met Danny backstage at Sled Island when I was helping myself to the Buzzcocks beer tub. Instead of calling me out he asked me to show him around Calgary and the festival and I became sort of like his tour guide.
Months later he e-mailed me asking if I would be into singing on some tracks he and Paul were working on. They do this whole music production thing where they write songs for TV shows. That was in 2011 and I’ve done maybe three songs a year for them since. My favourite songs were “I Dare You” which was in Vampire Diaries, and “Blood From My Veins” which was in Being Human. My engineer Josh Gwilliam would record my vocals and send them over to the guys, and kept suggesting I talk to them about doing a Spanks album. When I finally got the nerve, they were excited! Which was great.
Their being in the UK and us being in Calgary made things tricky. Everything takes a little longer if you aren’t all in the same room, sending files and ideas back forth over email. We did the first two songs that way, and released Stranger EP to hold us over after realizing how long a full record would take. We’ll keep doing demos like that until we head out to their neck of the woods in May, but I’m really looking forward to some of the magic that can only happen in the studio. Having someone look at your songs from the outside is invaluable, especially when they’re so good at seeing the potential in areas you maybe overlooked. It’s about making the best record we can, and working with people who share that vision.
RMM: This is also the second short EP in as many years. What do you like about this short format?
ML: The idea of Stranger EP being a precursor for the full album we’re still working on was the same idea for Summer Love EP. I didn’t anticipate the line-up change, or the delays in recording and releasing. With Summer Love EP only released digitally, I felt like we could push another EP on vinyl. But really it was out of necessity. I do like the idea of a promotional EP – fans get excited, and we get excited, because we see the fruits of our labour. Making a full length is a lot of work, and it’s going to be a while until we hear it finished, let alone see it on vinyl piled up on my doorstep. It’s nice to have a little guy to be proud of for a while.
RMM: You’re currently on a short tour: how’s that going? Do you prefer being in the studio or on stage, and why?
ML: Tour was fun! That’s another great thing about playing with Sean – we both love being on the road. And he came with this big old City of Calgary van converted for tour life- two bunks, gear lockbox, tv/video game consoles – which neither of us use because he’s always driving and I’m always navigating. But it’s nice the luxury is there. We listen to a LOT of Game Of Thrones podcasts. It’s all we talk about. I really love being on tour and being on stage, meeting new people and bands, but there’s something so cool about working on a record. The more I’ve done it, the more comfortable I am, and the more fun there is to be messing around and trying new ideas.
We’re lucky right now that we have a steady stream of both. Right when I’m getting tired of long drives, we’re home and in the studio. And when I start to get the tour itch and want back out there, it’s only a week away ’til a few more shows.
RMM: You’re also said your working on a new full length. How’s that going? What’s been inspiring that album? And when can we expect something?
ML: It’s slow! Every month we do two demos and send them over to Paul and Danny and wait for feedback. We make some changes and slip them into our live set sometimes to work the kinks out. We’ll be keeping that up until we’re over in Brighton in May. We’re shooting for a Fall release 2017, but in the meantime we still have music videos to release for both “Stranger” and “Motorin’” – and those will be on the full length as well! We’ve been really trying to push ourselves, and challenge our songwriting and technical ability. I think you can hear that on Stranger EP compared to older releases, and we want to keep that up as we move forward.
RMM: What’s next for miesha & the spanks?
ML: Lots of recording demos and lots of little tours are coming up immediately, then in April we get crazy with a big Eastern Canada tour, some festivals, and then over to the UK to record and play on the other side of the pond a bit. We’re still promoting Stranger EP all the while too, so expect some music videos – plus I still have one more tour blog video to upload from our Western Canada stint, so check out our website for those and the upcoming tour dates as we post them!
Get more miesha & the spanks online at www.mieshaandthespanks.net.