8 July 2018

Photos, Interview & Text: Martin Hufnagel

The Pack A. D., a duo from Vancouver, Canada plays a fearless Franken-blend of heavy psychpop/garage-rock. You have to see them live or watch their music videos and read their lyrics. Over the past 10 years, they've released 7 LPs and 2 EPs, the latest being Dollhouse, an emotional, bleak but still somehow optimistic record.
I met with Maya and Becky before their concert in Hamburg to talk about songs that make you dance, their music videos, and books. 

The band members of The Pack A.D., Maya (drums) and Becky (guitar, vocals), went to the same high school, but only really got to know each other later when they were introduced to each other by mutual friends. Since then, they’ve played thousands of concerts. While their first gigs were a 'hot drunk mess', they have evolved without losing even a tiny bit of their energy.

I saw on Spotify that you published a 'dance' playlist. What's your favourite track on the dance floor at the moment?

Maya: I’m really into Cardi B right now. And I’m pretty sure, on fleek on there. The fun part of making this playlist is, basically, I just decide that everybody can handle a lot of things. To have one type of music is boring, there are different ways to dance.

Becky: I could always get down with Daft Punk.

What made you want to learn an instrument in the first place?

Becky: Well, I started playing the guitar when I was a teenager, I was kind of into it. But it was just a casual hobby and when we became friends, we started a band because we thought it would be fun, so she started drumming.

Maya: I learned drums for the band.

Because you wanted to be in a band?

Becky: We were a 4 piece band, that didn’t last very long. And 10 years from there… here we are.

Maya: She wasn’t even singing in the first band.

The Pack A.D., 'Haunt You' from the LP Unpersons (2011)

Was it a conscious decision to stay a duo?

Becky: We had a few moments where we thought we should get a bass player, or we should try and extend into a group. But then we didn’t do that. I can’t really remember why.

Maya: I really can’t remember why either. I don’t think it was like, 'There can only be 2.' I just think we were lazy or it was just…

Becky: We’re just hard to get along with.

Maya: Yeah, that’s it.

How did you guys meet? Did you go to the same school?

Maya: We did actually go to the same school, but we met through mutual friends. The east band is very small though. Everyone knows everyone.

Since the very beginning, The Pack A.D. always had brilliant music videos with cool concepts. Do you come up with the ideas?

Becky: Most of them…not all of them. Just the best ones.

Maya: I’m just trying to think which ones weren’t our ideas. Sirens, Battering Ram, B.C. Is on Fire… Mostly, we tend to work with the same directors over several videos. We bring a concept, and they find ways to expand it, or add something ...

Becky: ... or find ways to get it done as cheap as possible.

Maya: We’re always like, 'What’s the most cost effective way to make a video?' 

I was introduced to The Pack A.D. through the Funeral Mixtape. We listened to it at work when doing the visuals in the early morning or late at night. From that point on, I explored the rest of your discography. I noticed that you've evolved without losing your signature sound. How have you evolved as musicians?

Becky: Just by playing a lot of shows. We just gigged all over the world for a decade. Because when we started we were not necessarily musicians, we were beginners. Now I guess, we’re professionals.

Maya: Oh yes, we’re so professional. (both laugh) Well, I think it’s funny because when we did start, within months, we had someone offering to record us, and we got asked to play a show and we were like, 'OK'.

Becky: People always responded very well.

Maya: So, we both just said yes. We both came from theatre. There's a game in theatre, where you just go 'yes' to whatever is proposed. And I think that’s what happened.

Becky: We played a lot more like sort of blues music, and you just get bored of the same thing. You don’t want to listen to the same record over and over again, you want to listen to all kind of records all over the place. The same thing is with writing music. You want to write music that includes more than just one thing.

Maya: But in the end, we sound like ourselves… I think we still sound like us regardless of the changes.

I see a lot of bands repeating themselves because they don’t want to lose their fan base.

Maya: We’re starting to have divided fans, like Radiohead, where there are early and later Radiohead fans. We started to have that with our band, seriously. Some people drove up to our show last night and they were like, 'But you didn’t play "Big Anvil" or "8".' And we never play 'Big Anvil' live, and I feel bad about that. Because like you said, you discovered us through the Funeral Mixtape, which is vastly different from what we’re doing now. 

But the listener evolves as well. That’s why it is so cool to see a band change the direction but you can still identify with pieces of it.

Becky: You can’t really expect things to remain stagnant, everything is gonna change. 

To me, the new album of The Pack A.D. is a combination of a lot of sounds. I sensed a little bit of a new side, too, with 'You Tried' and 'Because of You', both being really great songs. Did you think long before making those songs?

Becky: We wrote the whole record in like a month. We wrote those songs, we recorded those songs.

Maya: We don’t have any b-sides! That’s every single song we recorded. Every other album, we came in and recorded at least 5 extra songs that didn’t get released. So, we can choose and thin down, but with this, we were just like, 'Let’s come up with the amount of songs. Let’s believe in every song', and that’s what happened. Those 2 songs are almost throwbacks to when we started. So, in a way it’s new but also sort of revisiting. They’re fun to play, because it feels different now.

Has your recording process also changed over the years?

Becky: Not too much. I guess, the only thing is Clicktrack. Not in every recording, but in some. It helps with somebody’s tempo.

Maya: She’s talking about me.

Becky: We’ve been working with the same engineer for almost every album.

Maya: In a way, he’s involved as well. We kind of grown together how we interpret things. I like to think when we’re in recording he’s almost like the unseen third member of the band in terms of getting what we want to do…

Becky: …but really doesn’t at the same time try to change it. It just enhances what's already there. I suppose that’s the art of production.

I guess you’re also paying a lot of attention to lyrics. A lot of fans love The Pack A.D. for the lyrics, I think. Where do you get the ideas for your lyrics? Is there a main source of inspiration?

Both: Books.

Becky: A lot of literary references. Everyone also assumes that I write the lyrics because I'm the singer, but we share the lyrics.

Maya: I used to write even more than you did. But now it’s basically half and half. We also bring in pieces of a song and then the other finishes it. There are very rare songs that are from start to finish by one of us, at this point. For example, our latest album, Becky wrote the lyrics for 'Woke up Weird', then I wrote one verse, and I wrote the lyric 'Woke up Weird'.

Becky: Our lyrics are open to interpretation, like everything I write probably is.

Maya: I think that’s what makes people relate to music more, when they have something invested, whatever lyric is speaking to them. It could mean so many things.

Do you have any favourite authors?

Becky: Ursula K Le Guin, probably my favorite.

Maya: For me right now, it’s Patricia Highsmith. Also another dead person, because Le Guin just died. Patricia died a number of years ago… 2005 or something.

Right now I’m reading John Steinbeck's East of Eden, such a timeless story.

Maya: Steinbeck is great. That was the last book of him that I read. I like Grapes of Wrath, that’s my favorite one.

Becky: Tortilla Flat is great as well.

The Pack A.D., 'So What' from the LP Positive Thinking (2016)

What are your next plans for The Pack A.D.?

Maya: This year is just touring this album, Dollhouse. Europe, we’re going back, then we’re touring the states and more of Canada, more of the States and more of Europe. And then… that’s it. Then we’re done forever.

Does your fan base differ from country to country?

Maya: Yeah, I think so. But I’m not sure how to really tell the difference. I think people are different from city to city, no matter where you’ll go and how they’re going to react. We have really good fans, genuinely nice people from all different walks of life. That’s pretty constant.

Do you get a chance to see something of the city when you’re touring? Or is it just club to club?

Maya: It depends. This tour we’re getting to spend 2 days in Paris, which is rare. Sometimes we don’t see anything except the venue, which is too bad.

Becky: Gas station, highway, hotels, venue, and people are like, 'Did you see this? Did you see that?' And we’re like, 'No… saw a bunch of these.' (points at her beer)

What country has the best beer?

Both: Germany.

If you were at the airport and you had a free flight, where would you go and why?

Maya: I would go to Morocco. I’ve never been there.

Becky: Oh, yeah, like Tangier, that would be cool. I like to relax, though. So I think I would just go to Hawaii. 

Thank you, Maya and Becky, for being part of wasted hour.

See more of The Pack A.D. here:
The Wasted Hour View featuring Maya