The Professional, the newest four song EP from Toronto band The Beaches, is rooted in the alternative rock stylings influenced by the California setting it was recorded in. There was a particular catalyst in one of the most powerful songs from the project, ‘Snake Tongue.’
Unfortunately, in a story that’s all to familiar with women in society, lead singer/bassist Jordan Miller was catcalled on the way to a studio session. From there, the band was able to use that experience as a catalyst to create a powerful statement, not only musically, but visually as a running commentary on the reality that women face on a daily basis and how it’s not ok. The Beaches have something to say and it’s time for everyone to listen.
We spoke to guitarist Kylie Miller on how this project came about, the interworking on each of the songs, working with producer Jacknife Lee, and more.
The band had mentioned that Jacknife Lee was a “dream producer” to work with. How did it feel getting him to work on a full project?
We actually did some work with Jacknife Lee a couple years ago. We did a trial session with him when we were in this developmental phase with our U.S. record label. Immediately, we knew that this was the producer we wanted to work with. I’ve never met and worked with someone who is so creative and can get the craziest sounds out of my guitar. It was such a cool experience. So, finally able to lock in time with him was exciting and we were really thrilled by the entire experience.
It was also really cool because we got to travel to Los Angeles this time around. Normally we do most of our recording in Toronto. We actually got to work in his studio in his home and got to use all of his gear which was amazing. I really think that he brought something special to this sound. He was able to elevate the demos we brought to him. I’m just really happy with the final product.
Just picking up when you refer to the change of scenery. When I listen to The Professional, I get a more California vibe. How was it switching stations from Toronto to California? Was there a creative jolt?
It was kind of weird at first. Usually the way we write, it’s always in a studio and then we bring our finished songs to a producer and record them. This experience was a lot more collaborative because we didn’t actually record in a live room. On Late Show we recorded everything live together, which is rare for bands to do. We just found that we play the best together. It just seemed right for us to do it that way, but this time, we went a little bit out of our element.
Working at Jacknife’s studio, he doesn’t have a live room. I’m sure we could have made one. We recorded everything piece by piece and were able to collaborate a lot more individually and together. It was definitely a new experience recording, but it paid off because we were all able to help each other improve our parts. Eliza could recommend some guitar stuff or one of us could recommend some drum things. It was just a really collaborative, positive experience.
I wanted to segue into one of the more powerful songs on the EP, “Snake Tongue.” It’s a very much needed musical statement especially with everything that’s going on in society now. We are becoming more conscious to women’s experiences in their everyday lives and relearning what is right and what is not. I have an appreciate for the band confronting these issues head on.
Yeah, thank you, first of all. That song came together naturally. The “Snake Tongue” demo that we had was actually called something else and fully a different song. When we brought it to Jacknife, he didn’t think the words…I don’t know, we all kind of felt that the message behind the song was really not that important. We wanted to change the direction that it was leading in.
On our way to the studio, when we had no idea what the song was going to be about, somebody catcalled Jordan. So, immediately she said, “I want to write a song about this because I’m so tired of this happening.” She couldn’t think about anything else so she wrote a song about feeling that way and about unwanted attention. I’m really glad that she was able to take that negative experience and turn it into something positive and empowering.
So, the video also has some powerful imagery. Burning roses. A burning ironing board. A burning heel. How did this video treatment come about because watching it, I feel that it definitely elevate the message of the song with the symbolism?
That was a collaborative idea with the director Ally Pankiw. She’s a really cool director from Canada. It was Ally’s vision mixed with Jordan’s as well. I think they were really focusing on images that people consider really feminine and distort and alter those images. Being able to take control of what’s feminine and what femininity means to us. Also, destroying articles of love. Burning teddy bears and roses. Tearing down these visuals of what would be considered gifts.
It was a really cool idea. We started out taking about images. Then the whole thing came together. Beating up the car was purely bad ass. That glass was actually so hard to break.
I’m thankful that I’m getting a guitarist’s perspective on a project. How was your personal journey musically as the band developed the EP?
Well, usually I would just use my own gear. When we did Late Show, I used my own amp and a lot of my own pedals. We wanted it to be rooted in 70’s rock, so we didn’t use a lot of pedals and a lot of added stuff. We made sure the things we used were actually from that time period. We went straight direct into amps and turned them up super loud, so you can get natural distortion.
With Jacknife, he had some many cool pedals and amps that we were able to play around with. It was super fun for me because I’m not a super crazy, gear heavy person. I love my pedals. I typically use a lot of my delays and reverbs. Then I have a really weird octave sound. There were so many pedals, honestly, it could fill my entire bedroom. Just being able to play and work out sounds and create a lot of interesting tones that way was a really cool experience.
He also has a really direct idea of how he wants something to sound like and is really good at finding that sound. I have a a little harder time at what I want something to sound like. For instance, the rift on “Desdemona,: that I play as a post-chorus rift, I had no idea what I wanted the tone to be like. I knew that I wanted it to have some trem. He ended up putting in a phaser and doubling that on a couple synths. It really helped that rift stand out.
“Want What You Got” definitely is a commentary on imposer syndrome. We always have things, but we may feel that it maybe inadequate to what someone else has.
Originally, that was another song that we were really collaborative with Jacknife with. The song was first called “Everybody Loves Complaining.” Jacknife had an interesting perspective. “Everybody loves complaining, but we also complain.” We brought social media a lot into it. This whole Instagram culture of posting photos.
I think being a young person in this age is so weird because a lot of it is purely image based. You can find that meeting people out and about in Toronto. Everything is so dependent on image. It just kind of feels fake, but also, we are all guilty of this. Wanting something’s jacket, shoes, or even boyfriend. I think Instagram plays a big part in this. It’s a weird jealousy. It’s good to recognize that you’re guilty of this instead of denying it.
Jordan was able to get across this message that is fun and playful, but also touching on those weird issues of being a young person today.
I like “Lame” and how most of the song is sung from a mocking way. It’s a really fun way to end the EP. Was that the last song the band completed?
That song is actually really old. When we did that trial session with Jacknife, that’s when we did lame. So, we had that made “Lame,” and we had that idea for about four years now. We already really loved it and just didn’t know when we were going to release it. It’s just been on the back burned for a really long time.
How it started, Jacknife pulled up this really weird acoustic guitar. I just ended up strumming a couple chords and he recorded this little rift that I was playing which is the intro of the song on his phone. That was the basis of the entire song. We recorded it on an iPhone. A really shitty child’s acoustic guitar of me playing these two chords. It ended up turning into this massive, Bowie-esque kind of anthem. We had the bones of it from four years ago, so we were able to be super playful when we came back to L.A.. We finished that song up on the last day.