In 2003, Avril Lavigne debuted her fresh fearlessness to a new generation of listeners, many of whom were young girls. Whether or not you admit just how much you enjoyed "Complicated" or "Sk8r Boy" at the time—or now years later—she was important. Though they aren't that similar in the music they make, Toronto's The Beaches were still heavily influenced by what they saw in the muscle tank and neck-tie pop-punk singer. "I got into music because of all the different things she could do on stage," says Leandra Earl. There's an undeniable empowerment to completely owning such a distinct sound and persona in music no matter where it is derived.
I sat down with the burgeoning rock quartet at a quaint bar in Riverside on one of the few true summer days the city had to offer. They just wrapped up studio sessions and final meetings for their as yet named debut album. If you're unfamiliar with the Toronto group, The Beaches are comprised of sisters Jordan Miller on lead vocals and Kylie Miller on lead guitar, with Eliza Enman McDaniel on drums and Leandra Earl on keys and guitar. It has taken them a few years of bumps on the music industry road to to reach the feeling of real accomplishment they had that day when we spoke. Along the way they've received countless unwarranted, questionable opinions about pursuing music and what their sound should be—something that would, unfortunately, become very familiar to them. "People just love to tell you who they think you'd work well with," says Eliza Enman McDaniel.
For this debut full-length, out later this year, they chose to work with Canadian rockers Emily Haines and Jimmy Shaw from Metric, which became something fortuitous. "We were set up by a mutual friend and we did a session with them last summer. We ended up just hitting it off right away," says Kylie Miller. After being pulled in different directions, The Beaches quickly learned how to stick to their guns. They worked with countless producers prior who tried to determine what direction to take next. They are a bright spot in Toronto rock that their label—Universal Music Canada—wants to cultivate further. "We were in high school when we started that deal so that was a whole period of just becoming who we are, which influenced our songwriting," says Jordan Miller. The band grew accustomed to hearing producers want to play with or change their ideas completely. "We'd go into a session and play those concepts, sometimes they'd like it. Sometimes they wouldn't and they'd want do something new," says Kylie. That's why working with Haines and Shaw became an exciting and fruitful turning point. Together the two producers encouraged the sound the group had grown into without trying to mold them into something they're not. "They were working with us as producers rather than co-writers," says Jordan, unlike many before them.
In June, The Globe and Mail published a feature on Haines, discussing her forthcoming sophomore album, and The Beaches were proud to briefly be acknowledged in it as she called young girls the future of rock music. "Rock 'n' roll is definitely in the hands of 19-year-old girls," Haines said in the interview. It's this type of assurance by a prominent and successful woman in the music community that gives them a sense of purpose in what they're doing. "It's obvious rock 'n' roll is a male dominated genre, but if we just keep doing what we're doing, the lines can continue to blur," says Eliza Enman McDaniel. Taking the chance to work with the next set of young artists is an important move on Haines' part. Relationships like these can help continue and strengthen Toronto's rock legacy.
Three years ago The Beaches released their self-produced EP Heights, which included catchy garage pop infused tracks like "Strangelove" and the powerful "Little Pieces." These five songs showed their potential and versatility with a more glam rock swerve. Their newest single "Money," from their forthcoming debut, moves further from those earlier tracks, preserving that sense of dressed-up rock, but is more heavily influenced by The Strokes and some tighter, gritty 70s rock riffs. In the video, the group are at a motel, waiting around, before kicking off into a bold performance. It pays homage more to the kind of glossy teen boredom one could find flipping through old 70s magazines or in movies. They aren't wandering around on their phones (there's a flip one in the video) but in a diner and a party and the motel parking lot. Following the forceful beat on "Money," Jordan takes advantage of her low vocal range, pulling in the listener with the deep, provocative sound it can make. It's a compelling, captivating track about being broke, with nowhere to go, with the chorus' rallying, almost universally felt cry, "I need to make money, need to make money." It builds to a gravitating roar and as a whole represents their hunger to bring authenticity back to rock music.
The line from a pop punk star like Lavigne being their influence to them making exciting garage rock isn't so linear—and that's the best part of The Beaches. Pop is so influential to genres that fall outside of it and the people who listened to those songs. "I remember when Avril Lavigne first came out [and I wanted] to do that and have a bunch of girls in a band," says Jordan. The Beaches create a glam infused gritty garage rock sound that's best delivered with the take it or leave it attitude that comes natural to them and that makes for genuinely exciting music.
Paula Reid is a writer living in Toronto. Follow her on Twitter.