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The Pack AD
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Running With The Pack A.D.

Becky Black and Maya Miller are hitting the road with a new album, a new label and the same old van.

By Shelley Gummeson

Be neat and orderly in your life like a bourgeois.  So you may be violent and creative in your work” – Gustave Flaubert

When Becky Black is asked if that quote applies to The Pack A.D. she laughs wryly. No, not the first part, she says, but the second part does.

In the early days The Pack A.D. had a raw blues/rock sound.  Maya Miller smashed the air with her drum kit and singer Becky Black pulverized the remains with a gritty guitar. Conventional musical boundaries were elastic and rules didn’t necessarily apply.  That was four albums ago.  “We’ve moved on,” says Becky. “It kind of gets boring doing the same thing.”

Today the musical evolution of The Pack A.D. has culminated in their fifth album Do Not Engage.  It’s their debut on the Nettwerk record label; with the album being produced by Jim Diamond (White Stripes, Dirtbombs).  Miller says Jim’s instincts are very much in line with theirs.

The bluesy kick has been replaced with a focused, hard edge. Miller is still a free spirit behind the kit. Black’s guitar wails like a banshee and her ‘don’t mess with me’ voice is darker and more melodic, hinting at layers of emotion.  They continue to retain the guitar, drums, vocals set up.  When Becky was asked how they stay creative within that format she explains, “It can be limiting but because there’s only two things going on and there are no other guitar players I have to compete with. I feel that we can write songs pretty quickly. Sometimes it’s not always a good thing because we come up with a lot of stinkers,” she laughs. “You can’t really make it complicated. It forces you to keep things simple and I’ve always been a fan of just straight up raw music.”  

I’ve always been a fan of just straight up raw music

It sounds like the title Do Not Engage has an element of danger or a desire for solitude.  “Maya came up with that.  I liked the sound of it,” says Becky.  “I think part of it came more from the whole Internet thing where someone would make a comment, someone would disagree, someone else would jump in and there would be these arguments.  It was the idea of not engaging people when you can’t see their face.”

With a new album comes a new tour and the schedule is relentless.  Though they are veterans of the road, Becky admittedly says she’s a bit of a homebody and gets at little anxious at the beginning. Once they get rolling it’s okay.  “There’s something about touring that has a bit of consistency, yet everyday is different.”   How has touring changed for the Pack A.D.?  Becky recalls, “In the beginning we were trying to be as cheap as possible so we never got hotel rooms and we didn’t eat very much.  I guess we could have but then we would have gone into debt.  We lost some weight and not in a good way.”  Laughingly Becky says, “Now we can afford hotel rooms and food, so it’s changed in that way.  We’ve still got the dirty old van though.

Do Not Engage
Do Not Engage

A day in the life of The Pack A.D. on tour consists of getting up, driving eight to ten hours if in Canada, maybe read a bit, get to the venue, load in, sound check, wait around, do the show, go drinking afterwards and go to sleep.  Then do it all over again the next day.  Though it appears to have Groundhog Day consistency, things do happen and Becky shares a tour tale.
“Recently we were down in L.A. doing a show at a festival.  “I don’t really do it anymore because Maya has a very expensive drum kit, but I’ve jumped off her drums multiple times.  This time though I bailed off the side of the stage and hit my neck and head.  I had to go to the hospital.  Seven hours in a downtown hospital in L.A. was very interesting.  It all worked out.  I had a pinched nerve but I’m fine now.”

When did Becky realize she was a professional musician?  “I don’t know.  I don’t know if I’ve ever felt like a professional musician.  When people ask what I do for a living and I say I’m a musician it’s like ‘oh yeah, I guess I am’.  It’s not a bad job to have for sure.”   She’s a professional today, but if Becky Black could go back in time what does she wish she had known about music or the business of music?  “Well if I could go back in time, I wish I would have been where I’m at now in terms of ability.  I had been playing guitar for a while, since I was a teenager, but I never really committed.  I guess I wished I had perfected my ability a bit more.” 

There is absolutely no ambiguity about the commitment of Becky Black and Maya Miller.  Their fan base is growing like crazy and one only has to listen to hear they are all in, giving everything they’ve got on the stage. 

Becky was asked if there was anything she’d like to tell people about The Pack A.D.  “Ah…no,” was the simple reply.  “I don’t even really have stage banter,” she says.   Becky Black prefers to let the music speak for her and the music is loud and clear and fierce.

The tour starts in Seattle, WA on January 31 and lands back in Spokane, WA before playing Vancouver, BC at the Rickshaw Theatre on February 21.  Then it’s heading back east for more dates.  The schedule is available on their website www.thepackad.com

 
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