Culture

The Toronto quartet on breaking through and reinventing rock.

Meet The Beaches, the Loud-and-Proud Summer Band You’ve Been Searching For

Hot off their very first headlining tour, Toronto rock band The Beaches are sitting pretty up on the rooftop patio of the Drake Hotel, basking in the early summer sun and their recent dual Breakthrough awards.1 Their debut album, Late Show, produced by Metric’s Emily Haines and James Shaw, sounds like it could have been made by some decades-spanning supergroup containing bits of The Strokes, Nirvana, Blondie, The Rolling Stones, and The Beatles. The Beaches have a crunchy, devil-may-care sound that is best experienced with the volume cranked to your speakers’ absolute limit. “We’re a loud band!” says guitarist Kylie Miller.

This isn’t a new designation either. They have been loud for a long time. Sisters Kylie (guitar, vocals) and Jordan Miller (bass, lead vocals) and Eliza Enman-McDaniel (drums) formed the pop-punk band Done With Dolls in their early teens. Eventually, they added keyboardist Leandra Earl and changed their name to the neighbourhood they grew up in.

I talked to The Beaches about what it’s like to “breakout” after being in a band from the time you’re 10, wielding their instruments like weapons, and leaving behind the Family Channel to reinvent rock ‘n’ roll.

TITLE: You just finished your first headlining tour. What’s the difference between headlining versus touring as an opening act?

KYLIE MILLER: I think the big difference is that on our last tour, with Death From Above, people really knew “Money” because that was the main single that was getting featured on the radio a lot. But on this tour, they knew pretty much every song.

LEANDRA EARL: And the most popular was “Turn Me On,” which is deep in the album.

Do you get a lot of sing-a-longs?

ELIZA ENMAN-MCDANIEL: It’s interesting because you have some expectations. You’re like “Yeah, people would really like this song live” but then maybe they didn’t  and maybe they went crazy for a song you didn’t even know anyone had listened to. Like “Turn Me On”: it was a huge surprise to see people really screaming that song every night. It was consistent every single night.

You’ve just won your second Breakout Award at Canadian Music Week. You also won that at the Junos this year. What’s going through your mind when that gets announced?

KM: We’ve been a band for five years now, and three of us have been playing together for ten. Now we’re winning a lot of awards that are like “breakthrough” or “new artist,” which is so crazy because we are not a new band by any means. But it definitely feels like this year a lot has changed. It is a bit of a breakthrough year for us.

After so long it must be so gratifying to have that kind of recognition.

LE: We’ve worked hard and it’s cool to think back to our first shows in Kensington Market to like 2 people that were your dad, and my dad, and your dad…a lot of dads there.

KM: Just dads.

What was really striking when I visited your website is that your visual aesthetic is really nicely encapsulated: ’60s/’70s bell bottoms, straight hair, big sunglasses kind of thing. How does that inform your music?

JORDAN MILLER: It’s the other way around. A lot of our favourite music influences come from late ’60s, ’70s rock ‘n’ roll, ’70s glam rock, and then ’90s guitar music like Oasis or early 2000s like The Strokes. We feel it’s very important for our fashion and our look to be in line with our musical references. And we also love those styles.

Is that consistent throughout your live performances as well?

KM: We try to just elevate ourselves in a way. Dressing up and looking like we’re from the ’70s and ’60s is one way we do that — it’s how we set ourselves apart from other bands.

JM: We’re a rock ‘n’ roll band. I feel like the term “rock ‘n’ roll” has a negative connotation, where it’s become sort of this old white man’s game. I feel like rock ‘n’ roll is just about rebellion and it’s about fun and it’s about live instruments blaring at you — and that’s what we do. And I feel like more and more young bands are taking up the reins of rock ‘n’ roll and reinventing it for themselves. We’re really excited to be a part of that movement as well.

Why is rock ‘n’ roll so important to you?

JM: That’s always been at the heart of our love for music. I think you’re supposed to write what you know as a songwriter, and being a young woman the stories that we’ve experienced fit best with rock ‘n’ roll. Holding a guitar makes you feel powerful — it’s like a weapon — and sharing your stories is a bit more vulnerable, so when you have a guitar and you have your band behind you, you feel more powerful sharing.

LE: Or a keyboard. Super powerful. Super sexy up there.

Do you find that sense of your instruments as weapons and using them to wield your vulnerability has evolved as you’ve gotten older?

JM: Yeah. You get more honest with yourself as you get older and reveal more “bad” aspects about yourself. People get to know you, and as you become more successful, they want to know more about you and your messy life. And as you get older you get more comfortable sharing those sides of yourself.

KM: I still get incredibly uncomfortable without my guitar. If I were to just sing, even though I am a singer, I would find it painfully uncomfortable to be without my guitar. I need it with me because I’m a guitar player first before a singer. It’s just a way for me to feel safe, even though I don’t play like it’s a safe thing. At all.

EE: Same. I love being able to hide behind my drums, but I also feel the most myself when I’m behind my kit. Walking out on stage, I’m like “Don’t look at me,” but once I sit down at my kit… Being behind my kit in front of that crowd at the Opera House2 the other night, I felt more comfortable than I am in this situation. But being up on stage, performing in front of a bunch of people…

KM: No problems.

JM: Super chill.

So tell me about the Family Channel theme song. How did that happen?

KM: Our old band was called Done with Dolls, and it was featured on Family Channel. In between shows they featured music videos, and our songs were featured in those little music video clips. Then, they were putting together this show about about the making of a reality show, Really Me, and they needed a theme song. Our band was put forward and…

LE: It’s pretty great, I don’t know if you’ve seen it.

KM: It’s very big in Taiwan and [throughout] Asia.

JM: And in Germany too, actually.

KM: It’s crossed over.

Do you think you’ll have fans in Berlin come out because you’re the Really Me theme song band?

LE: I hope so! That’s my dream.

KM: It’s honestly kind of shocking because there are people who come to our shows now who say that they been our fans…

JM: …Since Done with Dolls. Someone said we were a “nostalgic band,” and I’m like “Bitch, I’m 20.”

KM: You’re 21!

LE: You’re 22, stupid!

JM: Actually, I’m 22. But it happened when I was 20. Which is crazy, to be nostalgic when you’re 20.

Photo: Maya Fuhr

References   [ + ]

1. Via the 2018 editions of the Junos and Canadian Music Week.
2. Where they played to a sold-out house to close their tour.