July 4, 2008

PACK A.D.: Drummer Maya Miller and Guitarist-Vocalist Becky Black Make Up Pack A.D., Named Vancouver’s Best New Band of 2007.

By Joe Stumpe, The Wichita Eagle, Kan.

Jul. 4--Pack A.D. is a two-woman band from Canada. But don't go hear them expecting anything like Alanis Morissette or Celine Dion, to name two famous female warblers from up north.

More like the White Stripes meets Howling Wolf meets Janis Joplin.

"We're really loud, for one thing," drummer Maya Miller said. "Usually we end up playing last and everybody's got their drink on. It turns into a party."

The approach got the grunge blues duo named Vancouver's best new band of 2007 by Canadian rock magazine Nerve. They play Saturday at Barleycorn's.

In a phone interview from Cottage Grove, Ore., the second stop on a 35-city tour, Miller said Pack A.D. evolved a little differently from most bands, stripping away members until it was just her and guitarist-vocalist Becky Black.

That cuts down on the inevitable band drama since "you have only one person to discuss things with," Miller said.

And it's freed them up musically. Black and Miller both write songs, usually building them around a guitar or drum riff.

"We tend to come up with a lot of songs really quickly," Miller said. "We abandon a lot of them, too."

Bigger bands often get committed to playing songs long after members are tired of them, just because they've spent so much time learning them, she said.

Favorite song topics include animals, partying ("I Like to Drink") and snow.

"We both really like snow," Miller said. "Not that we get any snow in Vancouver. Just rain."

Another song, called "This Terror," includes the lines: "This terror tastes like coffee/Can I have another coffee?"

The two-person approach and Pack A.D.' s sound invite inevitable comparisons to the White Stripes, although that band is not among the extensive influences listed on their MySpace page. Instead, the list includes a host of old electric blues performers, as well as such cryptic entries as "the American Civil War" and "George Romero and all his Dead movies."

But like the Stripes, Miller seemed to enjoy being a little mysterious about her and Black's background. She did say that both quit their day jobs to tour full time this year.

"I worked in a bookstore and Becky worked in a gas station," Miller said. "Pretty exciting stuff. Becky does art, and I write."

Miller can't quite explain the band's quick rise in Vancouver, other than to cite its chemistry and Black's "killer pipes." A reviewer for Nerve called the latter "the greatest vocal discovery this town's ever known."

This will be the band's second appearance in Kansas, having played the Kathouse Lounge in Manhattan last March.

"We're looking forward to it," Miller said. "We're playing with (opening act) Black Gasoline, and we've heard a lot of good things about them. We're just out there taking it one show at a time."

If you go

What: Grunge blues duo from Canada, performing with opening act Black Gasoline

Where: Barleycorn's, 579 W. Douglas

When: 9 p.m. Saturday

How much: $5 cover


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