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Jordan Miller Interview


Last week I sat down for a conversation with Jordan Miller, the lead singer of The Beaches, and I like to think it was a good time despite my initial nerves. The Beaches are one of the most promising bands working today, after all, and have been since 2013! At this point in time, the Canadian rock band has gone from Family Channel child-stars to Juno Award winning openers for the Foo Fighters, Rolling Stones and Passion Pit. I just caught them at the tail-end of their first headlining tour in the US, and End of Summer--the band’s newest EP--has just come out. The future looks bright for Miller.


How was your Halloween?

It was very fun! I went to a wedding with two of my other bandmates and then I went to a couple parties and then an afterparty. So, yeah. A long one.


This was yesterday?

This was Saturday. Sorry, yesterday I didn’t do much. I just watched horror movies in bed.


Any favorites?

This year I watched The Exorcist. I was just playing in Washington this fall and passed by the stairs that the priest falls down at the end of the movie--sorry for the spoilers--and I remembered I hadn’t seen it in awhile.


So, I’d never been to one to one of your shows before, and I was surprised to see both young and old audiences! Did you seek to appeal to both demographics? A little something for everybody?

I don’t think when you’re a musician--or at least I’ve never found personally, that I intentionally try to appeal to any specific age group or any gender. I’m surprised by the variety of fans that we have, but like, I’m not super shocked by it. As a young woman, my songs probably appeal most to young women, queer women, young people… because they understand my perspective the most. But we also draw from so many 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s bands… so, I’m sure people that are older than us, or even like my parents’ age, find that we appeal to them as well because we remind them of the music that they listened to. There’s not necessarily a conscious effort, but I can totally see how we have such a varied group. You know, the most surprising group to this day are the frat boys who love my feminist songs! And I don’t know if it’s an ironic take or if it’s just a sign of the changing culture, but when I see a bunch of frat guys wearing my “Itty Bitty Titty Committee” shirts, it’s just a real surprise and a real thrill.


They’re wearing the shirts?!

Yeah, they love it! [laughs] They love it so much. They get absolutely excited.


That’s hilarious. Yeah, it’s very cool.


Do you have any especially funny concert-related stories? My first really big Toronto show that we played at the Danforth Music Hall. It was my first time playing there, and I was really nervous. I bought this beautiful set from Morocco in the sixties, and I do a lot of incredible dances onstage. I went to do a drop and my pants split open. I had to get my tour manager, who has been my guitar teacher since I was six-years-old, to literally tape my pants together--like tape down my asshole. So that was very funny.


That’s a very good story.

Yeah!


So, to talk about your clothes, I know you wear a lot of fun outfits on stage, and I’ve read you’ve designed some of this stuff?

Do you mean “design” or “style”?


I may have read this wrong.

I haven’t designed anything, but we’ve been styling ourselves. We style ourselves every once in a while. Style is a really important facet to us, because we feel like it’s something that’s often overlooked. Particularly in rock music, and particularly--no offense to the boys that I see sometimes--but I personally find it very irritating when I see guys wear jeans and t-shirts onstage and think that that’s good enough for a performance!


They’re stuck in a rut!

Well, yeah! I’m of the belief that you should never wear clothes that you wear before a show onstage. I think you should try to elevate what you’re doing. I’m not a big fan of the grunge scene for that reason. [laughs]


So you and your sister, Kylie have been playing together forever, basically.

All our lives.


But I didn’t realize for ages that the history of The Beaches goes back to a band previously on the band on the Family Channel in Canada.

Mm-hmm!


My big question, I guess, is were you discovered there? I know you wrote a theme song for a show on the network too. Did you write the song for that show?

Essentially what happened is, Kylie and I started playing guitar and bass together for about two or three years, and we decided to start writing some songs together. Our guitar-teacher, James--who eventually became our tour manager and musical director--thought our songs were really good, and decided to record them on set in his studio--just really on the cheap--and my father was just really proud of it. So yeah, just like homemade CDs or whatever--a lot of kids would do that, or at least those I knew of--and my dad used to just give them to everyone. And coincidentally, one day he handed it to a guy he knew at a hot dog stand where he worked in Toronto, and that happened to be a friend of Rain Maida of the Family Channel. I think Rain listened to it as a favor to his friend, and he thought we were really good! So it was through Rain and his wife, Chantal, that we got a deal at the Family Channel. We were very lucky, but again, we worked really hard and… we’re talented! I think with anyone who does well today, it has to be with all three of those things. Luck, talent, and hard work and tenacity.


Do you have any artists you really enjoy right now who might not be getting the popularity you think they deserve?

I’m a terrible music fan in that I don’t listen to a lot of new music honestly [laughs]. I’m a really large fan of live music and going to see people that, like, surprise me. Whenever I play music festivals I try to wander around because my real appreciation of music comes from live performances. My sister’s really the one who’s good about going past streaming services and looking at indie sites for the best new music out there. She’d be the one to ask about that. There’s a band in my city called Goodbye Honolulu, and I’m not sure if they’re together anymore but they were a fantastic band. [laughs] I’m sorry! I can’t think of any more off the top of my head. I’m a podcast listener. When your job is really just writing music all day and setting up and performing shows, I kind of value a break from music once in a while.


Oh, I can imagine!

Yeah.


As for writing, your music seems to be taken from real life experiences. Not necessarily heartbreak, but generally being kind of pissed-off, really.

I wouldn’t say “pissed off.” It’s like I’m an observer and I’m perplexed, I guess. Not angry, just more puzzled.


How often do those songs… “T-Shirt,” “Let’s Go,” and “Walk Like That,” specifically… how often are those songs based on real experiences and how often are you just channeling feelings?

Right. I used to write a lot of songs that weren’t from my perspective. Like, I used to write songs about the end of the world, or these really surreal sort of things, and then when I started doing the first album with The Beaches, a lot of people were like, we need to know what you guys are. With your first album, it’s basically a diary entry. People need to understand who you are. You have to be able to showcase a sort of “zeitgeist statement” through your lyrics. So I got really into trying to write diary entries in the form of songs, and since then I’ve been trying to do more of that. It doesn’t always come natural to me, because I’m not the best at talking about myself [laughs]. But then I realized that I could do it in this fun, funny, or sort of Carrie Bradshaw-ish way, where I can be kind of funny about it, or you know, tell stories about one night stands that went wrong, or how I can be a bit of a dirtbag, and I don’t have to feel super vulnerable or uncomfortable. I can use comedy in my lyrics to get my stories across. I think that’s essentially what The Beaches’ lyrics are. They’re really honest, but also kind of humorous and real.


What lyric are you most proud of having written?

Oh, that’s really tricky! I’m really proud of “Blow Up,” just because of the amount of lyrics that are in there. It’s almost like a rap song, the way the words flow together, and it’s also a little mournful. And then recently, there’s a song I wrote recently about my breakup that I’m very proud of. I’m probably most proud of that, but it hasn’t come out yet--it’s coming soon. And then I also really love “Orpheus” too, which is off of our newest EP. I got to combine a bunch of my favorite loves in that song. Greek poems, songs about my past and past loves… and yeah. I’m just really just proud of that one.


And you do it in such a smart way in that song! It’s almost kind of played out at this point, just referencing either The Bible or Greek Myths. But it’s done so creatively, just kind of how it’s contemporary as well--or that myth, anyway.

Well yeah, that’s what I think I really like about those old stories is that they’re universal. You can always re-contextuaize them and sort of flip the switch a little bit. For me, what I really liked about the Orpheus legend, and thought would be an interesting way of looking at it, would be from the perspective of Eurydice--and she’s the female lover of the story. We always talk about Orpheus’ perspective, but we never look at the woman’s perspective in that legend. I thought it would be interesting not only to look at the story through her eyes, but also set it in a modern time.


And, as for this new EP? This is a new EP coming out?

Yeah! We released three singles over the past fall and the summer--“Grow Up Tomorrow,” “Orpheus,” and “My People”--and we’re releasing it as an EP. I think EP’s are a great sort of way to pinpoint where your albums are going. So we’re really excited about our next album that’s coming out, but this EP has some more Beaches music before our album is ready to be released. We hope everyone enjoys it.


And I noticed with this EP you’re going a little more poppy!

Well, that’s right! You have this EP which is sort of like going in this direction, so like, yeah. Get excited for what’s coming!


Are there any influences there?

Not really. I think, like all musicians, we kind of swing on a pendulum. So our first EP was really natural rock, like Strokes-y, very simple chord structures; and then more experimental with our second--more like a dance rock album. Then, the pendulum is sort of swinging the other way now. We’re going more simple, more pop sort of lyric-structures, with also a bit more of a natural vibe. So yeah, pretty excited about that.


And it’s all very Beaches.

Yes [laughs].


And when you’re not writing music and listening to podcasts, how do you spend your free time?

Love to party, dude.


I should have guessed that.

[laughs] Well, I love seeing my friends, I love reading, I love going to movies, I love walking around. Just an average young woman having fun!


Now, I’m kind of scared to ask this next question because I got the designing clothes question wrong, but I read somewhere that you have a massive fear of fruit?

That is true. That is true.


Tell me about that!

I just get really freaked out by it. I don’t like it. It’s a real thing, it’s called “fructophobia”, and I’ve actually met a couple of other people that have the same fear. When I was a little kid, my grandfather fed me a piece of expired fruit in my porridge and it’s one of my earliest memories. Every time I see a fruit now, regardless of what it is--and I know they all have different textures--I sort of have that gross memory of a rotten grape bursting in my mouth. That’s how I feel about all fruits. Like, clementine season’s coming up, and I know I’m going to find a bunch of clementine peels in the snow. That always makes me want to yack. Yeah… I don’t like them.


Wow!

Yeah! It’s a real fear! We’re out there, but yeah. I know it’s strange, but that is true about me.


Wow. Well, I won’t say it’s funny…

[laughs] It is funny. It’s objectively funny.


What is your most controversial take?

Hmm. I guess I don’t really care for the Kardashians. I’m sure a lot of women won’t come after me for that. [laughs] Yeah. Not a big fan of them.


That’s a pretty universal opinion down here. I think you’re safe with that one.

Oh! I also think Nicolas Cage is the best actor in the world. I don’t know if that’s a serious take, but… it might be controversial.


Ah. Well, that’s because you have taste.

Thank you.


He’s on the comeback trail, that guy.

Oh yeah!


What would you like to see more of in the music industry?

Specifically within the rock industry I’d like to see more diversity. Obviously I’m a woman, so I’d like to see more females--and not just as performers, but female DJ’s! Female sound-engineers, female roadies! Then I’d also like to see more people of color or queer people represented in rock groups. I think rock music is all about the outsider-perspective. That’s really, to me, what rock music is as an identity. And I think that’s why it’s sort of lost its relevance is it’s really only focused on the identities of single, white, bad-guys. So I think it’s in need of some new life, and that should come from a bit more diversity. Now, whether that come from the queer community, or through people of color or, like, women too.


And then, my last question is--and this is just me being curious--it seems like some of your new music seems to have this rally-cry of repeating vowels. On “Bad Behavior” and “Blow Up” specifically. I was wondering how this came about.

Well, on “Bad Behavior,” that’s me spelling my friend’s name. The song is about my friend, Ania. She’s Russian, and I’m spelling her name as “A-N-I-A, not A-N-A”. So, yeah. I’m just spelling her name and I’m saying “It’s A-N-I-A, not A-N-A!” [laughs] That’s just a bit of fun. Then “Blow Up,” that was just Jackknife, my producer’s idea. He just really likes increasing vowels and sounds rather than specific lyrics he really likes. His focus is always on “how things should sound” vs. “things specifically making sense.” So those are two sorts of things that he’s really into. He’s not really into bridges that have specific meanings, he’s just like “Let’s have a little bit of fun here!”




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