Miesha and the Spanks leading the way for next generation girls in rock

Photo credit: Richard Macfarlane

Calgary-based Miesha & The Spanks recently released their new LP, Girl Girls Girls.  Guitarist Miesha Louie and drummer Sean Hamilton are a guitar-and-drum duo who perform ferocious driving punk-tinged rock and roll. Their new 10-track LP was produced by Paul Rawson and Danny Farrant (of The Buzzcocks). Miesha is also a strong supporter of girls in rock and has been a major force with the Calgary Girls Rock Camp since 2011.

Ottawa Life Magazine had a chat with Miesha ahead of their upcoming Ottawa gig at Bar Robo set for Friday March 23.

Ottawa Life: Girls Girls Girls is a great high energy album. How amazing that you had the opportunity to work with Danny Farrant from the UK punk pioneer band, the Buzzcocks.  How much of an influence does a personality like that play into the creation of an album?

Miesha Louie: Working with Danny Farrant was an amazing experience and we definitely kept a punk feel to the album, for sure. Making this album with him was the most collaborative experience I’ve had with a producer. My drummer, Sean Hamilton and I brought half-written songs to the table and together we worked on them to fill them out. Danny and his co-producer, Paul Rawson had a really good ear for finding the right kind of song we were trying to write. So they ended up playing a really big role in actualizing the vision that we had for the whole album.

Did you have to reach out to Danny or was it happenstance that you met him?

I met him at the Sled Island music festival in Calgary in 2011. I was his tour guide for the weekend and we became friends right away. He went back to the UK and I got an email from him a few months later to record some vocals for him for some projects he was doing for television. For the past 7 years, I’ve been working for him on vocals so it was a natural evolution to doing an album together.

That sounds like a great way to generate income making a living with music.  You also worked with Ian Blurton in the past as well, right?

Yes, that was my first experience working with a producer so it helped me to get ready for this one. Ian’s great and so cool to work with. In 2013, we went to a cabin my family owns in Lower Kananaskis in the middle of the mountains on a lake. We just spent 10 days there working on the Girls, Like Wolves album. It was a great time.

Tell me a little more about the band or “The Spanks”!

Well, it’s just two of us making all that noise! Sean Hamilton on drums and me on guitar. We are pretty loud. Live, I play guitar through a bass amp that fills out the sound a bit. And Sean is a juggernaut on the drums!

With a title like Girls Girls Girls, I’m getting a sense that you are into Grrrrl Power. So it’s nice that Sean is there with you supporting the whole girls-can-rock movement.

Yeah, I don’t feel like I have to play with a girl to get behind the whole girl power movement. He’s a strong supporter and helps the Girls Rock camp all the time. We have a great chemistry. I’m definitely involved in pushing for more female performers and women supporting women in rock.

Tell us more about your involvement with the Girls Rock Camp in Calgary

We started it in 2013 so this is our 5th year. My friend had organized the whole event but needed help to run it. So we’ve been working together on it since then. There are other rock camps around the country. It’s a very grassroots movement. They’re all over the country.

It’s a very compact week-long program where participating girls are put into bands and they have to write songs and then record them. So we coach them all along the process. By the end of the week, they’ve recorded a song in a professional studio in Calgary. We arrange to have their songs played on a local radio station, do an interview and even play live on air if they’re ready. They perform at a music venue in Calgary on the Saturday and it’s always packed. It’s a very intense week of learning a lot of music and getting industry pro tips as well.

Is there a specific age group for these girls and do they have to audition?

The age range is from 10 to 16, but the majority are 13-14 years old. They don’t have to audition. We take everyone in to try to get as many girls playing music as possible.

Why is it so important to help the girls in this industry?

For a long time, certainly in my experience, there were few of us women rocking in music because we didn’t have anyone to look up to that was real. There’d be one big rock star maybe – but never the girl down the street that can play. It’s important to show young girls that girls can do this. When I was a kid, there was no one to show me how to play guitar or to ask questions about song writing or performing. There was no one around that seemed real. Once I was in a band, back then, we’d be the only token female band or artist on a bill. But now there are so many women in rock and more women to look up to. I feel that it’s important to lead by example!

Good for you for giving back. Tell us more about the album, Girls Girls Girls

I started the Girls Girls Girls concept back when I did have a girl playing drums with me. We had a whole promo campaign lined-up with hashtags and everything, but then she had to leave. But I have to say that as we were building this thing, I became aware of all the amazing girl musicians in my community. So this album is holler out to all of them. It’s a cheer for all the women out there supporting other women and building a solid foundation for future generations.

You are on tour now, and will be in Ottawa March 23 at Bar Robo.

Yes, we’re looking forward to our stop in Ottawa. After that, we’ll be going out to the east coast and Maritimes, then back to Calgary and then out to the west coast. It’s a big country and involves lots of driving! Next step, we’re heading to UK, probably in the Fall.