The Pack A.D. – Interview
by Jade Sperry
Becky Black and Maya Miller are The Pack A.D. and they are a FORCE to be reckoned with. But not from Star Wars. Playing to their hometown crowd in Vancouver BC at The Biltmore Cabaret, I attended their show on Friday April 23, and it was INSANE. The Angry Dragons from Manitoba opened the show and they were a good warm up to the next band, Vancouver’s Sex With Strangers. Although Sex With Strangers have completely different music than the other 2 bands, they fit in well because of the intensity of their live show. They were in fine form for this show and Hatch, frontman for Sex With Strangers, told of a funny story of being in Texas a few months back and getting the girls from The Pack completely drunk before their shows at SXSW, and of seeing beaver dams in Louisiana. After that crazy show, you could feel the energy from the crowd rising to a peak when The Pack took the stage and killed everyone and everything. I must admit that I have never seen Becky and Maya live, and I loved every second of their show. Opening with “Cobra Matte” from their newest offering we kill computers, they whipped the crowd into a full blown frenzy in less than 10 seconds. Headbanging, screaming, pounding drums, slide guitar, moshing, stage diving and intense playing on Becky and Maya’s part, this show had it all. The Pack played for just over 90 minutes and Maya let us know that this was their longest set ever. The crowd went insane for that bit of news, and in the final moments of the show, Becky took her guitar and lept into the crowd for a bit of surfing on the hands of the people while Maya beat the hell out of her kit. All songs were played well, in time and in tune. They had all the new tunes as well as most of their material from their past releases.
Out of all the shows that I’ve seen in the last 10 years, this show is my 2nd favorite right behind Pearl Jam (in 1998 Pearl Jam played 2 shows in Seattle over a weekend that blew my mind.) The energy and music that Becky and Maya deliver in a performance is amazing, and because they know each others’ playing style so well, it looked effortless but was in fact a physically demanding show.
The Pack A.D. are currently in the midst of touring, but Becky and Maya were kind enough to take time out to answer some questions about the new CD, we kill computers, the current tour and playing their hometown of Vancouver after a short break in the schedule. This interview is done in a Q&A format.
Jade: On your current tour, you’ve been playing the new songs from we kill computers and I’m just wondering what are you personal favorites to play live, and what songs have been crowd favorites ?
Becky: My favorite songs we play live generally are the ones the audience digs the most. Obviously it’s much more fun to play a song the crowd is into than one that bombs. Right now I’d have to say “Deer” and “Cobra Matte” usually go over pretty well.
Maya: I’m gonna have to agree with Becky on this one. Any song we play is ultimately only as enjoyable as the audience makes it. On that note, I agree that “Deer” and “Cobra Matte” go over well as does “Raise Her”, “1880” and “Catch”.
Jade: What was the best part of making the songs for the new CD? Any memories you’d care to share with the fans?
Becky: The best part was ordering Indian takeout on the last day of mixing at the studio. Ha! We like food….Another good part was discovering that Maya can’t tambo for shit so I did all the tambourine in the recordings. I can’t play the drums but I can shake a ring with metal discs like nobody’s business.
Maya: The best part was finally admitting that I can’t tambo for shit. And it felt so good to just admit it, you know? I also enjoyed drinking endless cups of coffee, writing lyrics and making comments on the days where I didn’t have to physically do anything. Good times!
Jade: What’s the best venue you’ve played on your current tour in terms of the new songs, crowd reactions and the sound in that particular venue?
Becky: It actually seems, more often than not, that the shows at really nice venues with good sound have the worst tunout, and the shows we play at dive bars where we set up on the floor are the ones that are packed, rowdy and crazy! Our last shows in Missoula MT at Badlanders and in Spokane WA at the Sunset Junction were my favorites – based purely on the energy of the crowd on both those nights.
Maya: Yeah, sometimes the sound for the audience can be amazing but the sound is really not good for us on the stage – like the monitors aren’t balanced out right or the room just sucks everything away from us so the venue can be quite deceiving. We also had great shows in London ON at Moon Over Marin and at Phog Lounge in Windsor ON. I have a personal favorite show that we played in Richmond VA – we played on the floor and the people are always nuts there and I spilled all my drinks which is usually a good sign.
Jade: Is there any differences on this tour in terms of production than the last two tours?
Becky: Not so much. Same old, same old.
Maya: Well, we did have those lavish can-can girl outfits that went over super well in Texas! Other than that…..
Jade: Because you’ve toured in Canada, the US and in Europe and the UK, what differences do you find in the audiences that come to see your shows? Are they any differences that you see when you’re onstage?
Becky: I wouldn’t say there’s much difference playing shows in any one country or continent other than the occasional language barriers at soundcheck. The audiences usually differ depending on the types of bands on the bill.
Maya: Hmm, yeah, see, at first I was agreeing with Becky and finding I had nothing to say but then I thought about it and I would point out unabashed enthusiasm levels. I think that does go up and down depending on the cities and countries. In some places the crowds are through the roof like we’re Metallica or something….I say Metallica because Metal Is huge in Bogota and we’ve played in Bogota and so….Bogota is on my mind.
Jade: Were you writing songs for we kill computers while you were on tour in 2009 or did the songs come about in that two week period locked away in a rehearsal space in East Vancouver?
Becky: We write some lyrics in our van on tour but all of the songs for the album were essentially “written” at our practice space before we went into recording. And I say “written” because we don’t technically write out any sheet music or tabs or such things for our songs – we just play them and hopefully remember them. Sometimes we write sections of the song down on a piece of paper with a sharpie (pen) like “verse, gah!, boom part, verse, chorus” etc. There’s a little hint of that in the we kill computers album artwork….
Maya: Wow, so this is what happens when Becky gets to the questions first – hot damn, she’s stealing all the best answers! I’ve heard tales of bands creating whole albums in their vans while on tour and I don’t even know how they do that….oh wait, they must write things down….see I can’t even get started here. Becky covered that. Well, so yeah, I write lyrics away from the bandspace. Well at least I think I had one new thing to say. Glarp!
Jade: What drives the two of you to tour extensively every year?
Becky: We decided to quit our day jobs and play music full time which basically means when we’re not on tour we’re losing money. So we tour every single chance we get. The only time we take extensive breaks from touring is when the weather conditions are too poor to drive in.
Maya: PASSION. Maya and Becky are passionate people. They cannot begin to stop themselves from the playing of the music….PASSIONATELY.
Jade: You’re in the middle of this current tour and you’ve got a break before your show on April 23 (@ the Biltmore Cabaret with guests Sex With Strangers and The Angry Dragons) here in your hometown of Vancouver. Are you excited to play your hometown knowing your CD will soon arrive in the shops? Anything special you’re planning in terms of the show itself?
Becky: For our upcoming show in Vancovuer, we’ve both made a pact to remain mostly sober until after we’ve played. For some reason we end up….boozing a lot more during hometown shows which means by the time we’re on stage we’re like “durrr…..hic…” The idea of being able to play a solid show in town is exciting. I think it’s been a while and hopefully some people will come out.
Maya: Special wise, we have the new CD and LP (being released on Gatefold!) and two new T-Shirt designs and a Tour Zine. The CD is on for a low price that one night only. In terms of the show itself, I’m agreeing with Becky. I don’t know if “nervous” is the right word but playing our hometown is definitely different.
Jade: What bands have opened for you on this tour that you’ve really liked? And why? Are there any funny stories with other bands that you’d like to share?
Becky: For the second time in a row, our New York show has been with Cherie Lilly. She wears a body suit and sings about aerobics. It’s actually pretty amazing. And a nice change of pace.
Maya: We also played with a band called Belt of Vapor in Spokane WA. One of the best bands I’ve seen in a while and they barely ever tour which is bizarre. We also got to play again with Grand Analog while we were at SXSW – what a charmer!
Jade: When you’re on a break from the tour and come home to Vancouver, what do you find yourselves doing to relax from the road?
Becky: I like to shut myself away in a room and put on some records and just lie on my bed for a while. My bed is heaven after weeks of crappy motels and van sleeps.
Maya: I like to watch crappy action movies and eat triscuits. Though on this break, I managed to set up my stereo, and now I’m addicted to listening to Samuel Locke-Ward (from Iowa and amazing), Thee Oh Sees and Anti-Pop Consortium while playing Spider Solitaire on the computer and drinking coffee. I read a lot on tour so I’ve made a bargain with myself to not read anything longer than a paragraph during my break.
Jade: Is there anything else you’d like to share on the new CD that you’d like people to know that I haven’t asked?
Becky: The LP is coming out on Gatefold. I pushed for it because Gatefold is sweet! That’s all I can think of right now.
Maya: The center piece on the album is scratch and sniff, dill pickle. Okay, it’s not. But maybe it is…..
*Author note: this is also a featured spotlight story on NXEW!