The Pack a.d. to rock the roof at OlioThe last time Becky Black and Maya Miller, the two halves of garage-rock whole the Pack a.d., were driving along the Oregon coast, it was all sun, sand and um, a dead walrus. This time around, Black is more hopeful. She and Miller are en route to Arcada, Calif. on the eve of the release of their fourth album, Unpersons (in stores Sept. 13). It’s a blazing, bruising collection of emotionally charged rock ’n’ roll, with deviations into blues and punk. It’s the East Van pair’s best offering to date and we’ll get our first taste when they make their Olio Festival debut Sept. 24.
You’re driving on the Oregon coast. Did you stop at the Sea Lion Caves?
Becky Black: No, but one time we stopped at the beach and there was a dead walrus. It was such a beautiful day and then there’s a not very beautiful smell happening. Live seals, that would be better.
They smell bad, too, even the live ones. Those caves just smell like poop for miles.
Well, they’re just sitting on rocks, sunbathing and pooping all day long.
Are you two trying to kill yourselves, releasing so quickly?
Is it that quick? When was the last one? Last year, yeah. We release every year. For us it’s not that hard to come up with songs and do an album. It’s almost better because then we can start playing new songs and dump the old ones. We have ADD; the older songs get boring after a while. Is that kinda soon? I guess.
Many bands take two or three years between records.
Yeah, that’s true. I guess we just shit them out like seals.
Are you writing together?
It’s split pretty 50/50. But quite often I’ll write and song and not finish it. I don’t really finish a lot of things in my life, so it’s good to have a partner who can help me finish things. That happens with the songwriting, too. I’ll have the first verse or the chorus and Maya will fill in the rest. Or, she’ll write a whole song, it’ll be like a poem, and we’ll write the song around it. We kind of had a theme going with animals and — actually, well, things that aren’t human, ghosts and demons, and then a few break-up songs.
What’s the most personal song?
Maybe “Pieces.” That song’s just kind of about me. Some songs we’ll write a story about a break up but it didn’t actually happen in real life, like it sounds personal and everyone can relate to that.
Unpersons sounds more confident, more polished. This sounds condescending somehow.
No, it’s good. Everyone hopes to improve over time. Yeah, we feel more [confident]. When we started this, neither of us had spent years in other bands trying to figure out what we really wanted to do. We just started this band on a whim, kinda, and recorded an album pretty soon after that. So, every year after it’s just been all the touring and album after album, it’s just been a learning curve. We’ve just naturally, hopefully, improved.
What is rock ’n’ roll to you?
It’s not really about the getting wasted and fucked up and being that kind of — I mean, I know that’s the epitome of being a rock star and people kind of idolize people or look up to them even though they’re messed up. I don’t know what it is. Maybe people just like to watch a train wreck — that makes a person more interesting if they’re unwieldy and messed up. I prefer to just enjoy the music part of it.
Have you played the Olio Festival before?
We’ve never played Olio before and I think it will be cool. I think we’re playing on the rooftop of a clothing store. It seems like we barely ever play Vancouver. I always enjoy hometown gigs.
The Pack a.d. plays the Olio Festival on Sept. 24. Tickets and full schedule: 2011.OlioFestival.com.