Thursday, 11 June 2009
A few weeks ago, I slung my rollerskates over my shoulder (this is a lie, they’re fucking heavy. I just carried them in my hands, like a dork) and hitched a ride to Sheffield (also a lie, my lift was carefully planned, as was the return ride home, sensible dork that I am) to see Mika Miko in Sheffield, with a bunch of others bands (notably Manhattan Love Suicides, the only other band on the bill I can remember) playing in a roller rink. Yes. A roller rink. Now, dancing to Mika Miko on skates is not any easy proposition but we braved it in the name of rock and ROLL.
Rollerpalooza was awesome, great crowd, good natured and on average, surprisingly adept at skating…
We left sweaty and drunk, eager to see Mika Miko again in Leeds (where I would be interviewing them), drawing up mental petitions to make skating compulsory at gigs. Mika Miko would be my new best friends. We would skate everywhere together, we would hang out and drink wine and at some point they’d probably ask me to join their band…
Of course, the reality is that when I actually met Mika Miko, we just chatted, somewhat awkwardly, whilst they chowed down on a post-soundcheck junk food feast, occasionally looking up at me as if I was speaking Greek (I could well have been) and then ending in a disarmingly impassioned interview crescendo when I asked them what they’re scared of. Note to self: Use the ‘what scares you’ question as an icebreaker next time. Dork.
Their set was, unsurprisingly, kick-ass. Unlike the crowd, who clearly needed to be herded into a roller rink. Or a hipster abbatoir. One of the two.
So, here’s the interview, or at least here are the bits that I could actually transcribe, given that my dictaphone favoured the rustling of takeaway wrappings over the sound of people talking.
Disclaimer: there’s a very strong chance that some of these quotes are attributed to the wrong member of Mika Miko, which is something they – quite rightly – told me they hate. I’ll await the weight of their wrath…
So, aside from two of you being sisters, what was it that attracted you all to each other and made you want to be in a band together?
Jenna: “Me and Jennifer met at high school together because we had the same birthday… we became really good friends and started playing music together. And Michelle we also met in high school, just from being the punk people at the high school I guess.”
M: “I met Seth in a parking lot of a show. He was skateboarding and I was trying to skateboard. About a year later, we started playing music together. We were playing music with other people for, what, like a month or something? And later on, we decided that Seth would be a great addition to our band. I think with Seth, it was the only time that it was, like, because of the music and not just from being friends.”
What is it about the friendships that makes the band work?
M: “I think that we’ve learned how to live with each other on tour. Like, everyone has their own little thing. You just have to learn to communicate and voice your opinion.”
I’m not gonna hang the interview on the whole boy/girl thing... but… I have a theory that men & women have a different innate sense of rhythm – having had boy and girl drummers, do you reckon there’s anything in that theory?
At this point, they all look at me like maybe their wondering if this is the first time I’ve ever left the house …
Jennifer: “When Seth drums, he doesn’t sound at all like when Kate drums.”
Some non-committal muttering ensues…
Do the drums lead the rhythm of the songs when you write them, or do the drums get added in when the song’s complete?
Seth: “I think with some of the older songs, that were already written, I guess the drums came in later. But the songs that we all wrote, that we all wrote together, all the instruments kinda go together, it’s not like one thing drives it…”
M: “Also, on our records, we have all the instruments at the same volume level, like showing the importance of it, or something. People say to us ‘oh, it’s weird that all your instruments are at the same level’ but we’re like ‘well, why would you turn someone down’?”
The Rollerpalooza gig the other day was pretty special – do you enjoy playing gigs that are a bit different?
Jenna : “I mean, I wouldn’t wanna play a roller skate rink every night, but … yeah, we’ve played a bowling alley. When we played at The Smell, we used to play in the middle of the room.”
Everyone chipping in: “We played in a ditch at The Smell, when they were building a back room (?). We like to play in a weird place, even if it’s a regular venue, if they’ll let us. We haven’t played that many weird places. We played a Masonic Centre, we played at a church, we played at a high school, we played at a homecoming party, or was it graduation? We played on a boat. I’m trying to think… there’s more… like, playing in a squat that’s getting torn down afterwards – hat’s kinda weird. Like directly afterwards – everybody ripped shit off the walls ‘cos everyone was getting kicked out.
At this point, I enthusiastically mention the Burn To ShineDVD series. My enthusiasm is rewarded with deathly silence. Possibly because they were disinterested. Possibly because I mentioned a band that isn’t actually on the DVD… Unlike me, Mika Miko are eating. They have a purpose. I move on...
Has the atmosphere at The Smell changed since it started getting a load of media attention?
M: “Totally, completely, 100% per cent.”
S: “We were just talking about that.”
Jenna: “I think The Smell changes depending on who’s doing stuff at it and who’s going there. I know it was different before we started going there and it was different with our levels of participation. When different people go, the tone changes with what they’re bringing to it. That’s what’s cool about it.”
You guys all volunteer there as well?
Jenna: “We don’t really get to as much any more because we’re always at work, or on tour… I think it’s taken a little more seriously, actually, as a venue. Maybe there isn’t much weird stuff going on because, I mean town has changed a lot. There’s some really nice lofts around, it’s changing the tone of the area, too. I don’t know how long that’s going to last.
What kind of bands from LA do you feel an affinity with?
M: “From LA?”
Um. Yeah. Or anywhere else, I guess…
Conspiratorially, they all look up from their fodder at each other like I asked them something REAL BAD.
M: “I don’t wanna say in case I miss anyone out.”
Jennifer: “Probably any band that we played any more than three shows with.”
Somewhat generously, I leave a few moments silence, in case any of the other band members wish to contribute to this particular bottom-of-the-journo-barrel question…
OK! I’ll move on, for fear of offending a bunch of bands….
I shan’t transcribe the next part, where I ramble blindly about the sense of ‘inclusiveness’ that they ‘give off’ (they have probably left the interview thinking that ‘inclusiveness’=’bad stench’) when they play. I’m trying to pay them a compliment without sounding like a fangirl. It’s a victory for continuity if nothing else, because I just wind up sounding like a dork.
Jenna: “I think that probably whatever we give off is not on purpose, but it’s appreciated, for sure.”
Jennifer; “I know that feeling that you’re talking about and I didn’t know people felt that about us, but that makes sense. We feel that about other bands so that’s really cool.”
M: “But we don’t deliberately try to do that because we just do our own thing, you know.”
Do you try to connect with the audience, or do you just see it as getting on stage and doing your own thing?
Jennifer: “We definitely try to connect with the audience.”
Jenna: “Like, if I can’t see them, which happens a lot, you have to play differently, you have to look at each other and be more with each other. I mean, I like to know that everyone likes it.”
Do you speak to your fans after shows?
M: “I love to talk to people that live in places like Leeds and ask them what their city’s all about because I’m curious. You know it’s different here – totally different to LA and I’m fascinated by what people do in their lives every day.”
We have a brief discussion about Leeds and its universities… the effects of studentification on the local gig scene, etc etc. I floor them with my insight and charm, naturally.
So do you guys all have jobs back home?
Jess: “We all have weird jobs so we can do this.”
What do you all do?
Jennifer: “I sell on EBay.”
M: “I’m a barista at a coffee shop.”
Jess: “I work at a record store.”
These aren’t weird jobs… I used to work in a fucking butcher’s shop. That was weird.
Jenna: “I work in a movie theatre.”
That’s not weird. What kinda stuff do you sell on Ebay?
Jennifer: “I sell stuff that I get for free, and stuff from thrift stores.”
To Seth: And what do you do?
S: “I don’t have a job. I sorta sell stuff I get for free.”
Is the band a form of escapism for you?
Jenna: “I did the band when I didn’t have jobs so I think more of the band as, like, my bigger job. It’s getting money to do the band.”
M: “It’s like the child we’re all supporting. You get a job to support the child.”
There is mass agreement that this is a very good analogy and all members of the band agree not to drop the baby.
“we’re all raising the baby!”
How do you feel about the way that you’re represented in the press?
M: “I’m ok with it, except when we’re called ‘all-girl band’ or like, they make little mistakes about our band that should be known. Like saying that we’re teenagers, but we formed in 2003, like yeah, we were soooo young. Or when they say that someone said something that wasn’t said, or say the wrong person said it.”
“As long as the kids that come to our shows are, like, genuinely interested.”
Are the kids that come to your shows here different to in LA?
M: “Hmmmm, I dunno, it’s almost like their little alter egos.”
What else inspires you, other than music?
M: “Definitely our pets. I have a kitten that I got just before we left and I have another cat that’s not really my cat but it’s a house cat.
Jenna: “I have one dog but then I have two dogs that I … that I visit.”
The band indulge in mutual pet appreciation at this point. To summarise: they all like each others’ pets.
M: “I like to read but I can’t read when we’re driving so I try to read in between soundchecks. Other people inspire me as well, I think, like my friends.”
Jennifer: “I like watching weird videos on YouTube.”
This is also met with mass approval.
I need to ask what’s special about turkey sandwiches.
Jenna: “There’s nothing special about it, it’s just a name.”
M “It’s the standard sandwich, you know?’
S: “It’s always pretty good.”
Jennifer: “We were gonna have a turkey sandwich contest for a video we’re gonna do. Everyone has to make their own turkey sandwich. It can be vegan, or vegetarian, or not.
A vegetarian turkey sandwich?
I am briefly reminded of the time, when I worked in a soul-extraction factory, disguised as a catering outlet, an affluent student looked at me with her big, expensive eyes and asked me if the ‘honey-soy chicken’ was vegetarian… but that’s another story…
M: “We have this shit called ‘Tofurkey’.”
(I checked. It exists. My life as a vegetarian has been somewhat sheltered, clearly)…
Ok, so the last question I need to ask is – What scares you and why?
M: “Sharks scare me. A lot.”
Jess: “Spiders. Their legs, you know?”
M: “Was it the movie Arachnophobia?”
Jess: “No, it was at work, I opened up a CD case and all these insects came out of them and then even more came out and they were all over the table…”
Jennifer: “I get scared when I’m sleeping at night and there’s like, a mirror and a window and it’s creating a reflection that makes a porthole for ghosts to travel through.”
Jenna: “She’s afraid of ghosts or, like strangers being at her house when she’s away. And you come back and you check…”
Jennifer: “Under my bed and in my closet. But then, sometimes I’m afraid of ghosts and sometimes I’m not. Sometimes they seem really cool, like OK, if I see a ghost, I will speak to it and stuff.”
Have you ever seen a ghost then?
Jennifer: “No, but I’ve heard people’s ghost stories.”
I’ve seen a ghost.
Jennifer: “Cool, you can tell me about it later.”
It wasn’t scary, I didn’t really realise it was a ghost until I remembered that none of my step family (whose house I was in) wore big bad-ass black Victorian dresses and shit.
In unison: “Cooool!”
M: “Did you talk to it?”
No, I thought it was one of my step-family and I generally tried not to talk to them.
Jenna: “Well, I’m afraid of getting yelled at, or being in trouble with someone. Especially someone I do not know. I’m messed up to the point that I always read the rules…”
So, you’re, like, the obedient one?
Jenna: “I don’t have a problem with doing anything wrong, I just don’t wanna get yelled at by anyone with a uniform on.”
Jennifer: “But, like, last night, you were the troublemaker!”
Jenna: “When I spit on that guy? Well, I was like, what does he have over me? He doesn’t have anything.”
Why did you spit on him?
Jenna: “Because he opened up a bottle and it went all over Jessie and she was like ‘ohhh’ and I was like, ‘don’t worry about it’ and I got him back.”
M: “And then he was going to fight her.”
Jenna: “Yeah but people pulled him back and I had to turn away like I didn’t see it. But with that guy, no one was watching, if there’d been, like a cop, or the owner or manager of the place…”
What about you Seth?
S: “Um, I’m scared of snakes.”
Do you get a lot of snakes in LA?
S: “There’s a lot of rattlesnakes.”
M: “Sharks have dead eyes. They’re dead inside.”
S: “Sharks are pretty scary too.”
M: “They’re totally, like, into our fucking climate. Warm water. There’s thing called a shark tunnel and you go down and there’s water and sharks. All round you. And I’m scared there’s going to be a little crack in the glass and al of a sudden all this water’s going to flow in and like, all these sharks are going to eat me. It’s okay, guys, it’s an irrational fear. I know this.”
I impart my little theory that if you can’t see your feet in the water, you don’t go in, thus limiting the potential for being attacked by an unseen shark. It’s hardly rocket science but it seems to reassure them.
Jess: “I just recently started developing a fear of heights.”
Fear of heights isn’t really a fear of heights, it’s a fear of throwing yourself off, to see what it feels like. Boy, I’m full of insights tonight…
Jennifer: “I’m scared of someone robbing my house…”
Jenna: “They don’t normally wanna kill anybody but maybe now! Once I parked my car downtown and they broke into it. I had so much crap in my car, the only thing I had was a coat, like, a Planet of the Apes coat. I always looked out for someone wearing that jacket but I never saw it.
So you don’t have any scary crazy stalker fans then?
M: “I was stalked by this guy in high school. He was like a Mexican gardener. He showed up to a party – do you guys remember that? He’d try to meet me from school. Everyone would come round my house and laugh out my window.”
Jenna: “Jennifer had a guy go round her house when we were away and slept in her bed.”
M: “ Seth had a stalker girl, that stalked him on MySpace and came to our shows, right?”
S: “Yeah, she wasn’t a serious stalker.”
M: “ Mild stalking.”
Not wanting to upgrade my own status to ‘mild stalker’, I thanked the band at this point, bade them farewell and headed outside to see if I can find my decent interview questions at the bottom of a pint of warm beer, limply promising to tell Jennifer some more ghost stories one day.
Posted by The Iron Wagon at 15:02