Vancouver garage-rock duo The Pack A.D. have one rule of songwriting: no love songs. Their lyrics are cool, edgy with a bit of humour – and definitely unusual.

“Rid of Me,” a funny – or is that sad – song on their latest release, 2011’s Unpersons, begins:

Well I drank two bottles of wine / And then I threw up / And felt just fine / I was only thinking of you / And then I thought of you / And then I forgot again

But love? Guitarist/vocalist Becky Black and drummer Maya Miller will have none of that. Instead, try this one on for cool: “My robot can kill your robot with the power of my mind” from the song “8.”

“The only thing I’ve ever mandated for myself is that I will not write a song about any kind of ‘Oh, I love you,’ or ‘This guy broke my heart.’” – Maya Miller of The Pack A.D

“There are some themes that come up pretty quickly,” says Black of the duo’s songwriting. “Robots and the fear of robots; aliens and alienation; and [the idea that] people are lame and animals are kind of cool.”

Miller agrees. “The only thing I’ve ever mandated for myself , and Becky seems to agree with [with one exception].. . [is that] I will not write a song about any kind of ‘Oh, I love you,’ or ‘This guy broke my heart.’ I’m not going to write about love.”

The two started playing together in 2006, and wrote their entire debut album, Tintype, more than 18 months before ever playing a live show. Since then, Black says, “Our genre has changed album to album. We started out playing fairly simple blues-rock, because that seemed like the easiest thing to play. Then we got better at our instruments and expanded from there.”

For The Pack A.D.’s last three albums – including the next one, due out in early 2014 – Black says they’ve booked off a month or two, getting together every day in their jam space.

“It’s just drums and guitar, so we come up with a song in, like, five minutes, and then maybe the

“It’s just drums and guitar, so we come up with a song in, like, five minutes.” – Becky Black of The Pack A.D.

next day [we find] it’s not that great and we just move on. And sometimes it ends up being great.” Lyrics, however, are typically written in the studio on what Miller calls “a pressure-cooker deadline.”
The new single “Battering Ram,” from the forthcoming album, is about “somebody who gets bullied or [is] generally dissatisfied with life, and then they take their rage out like a battering ram,” says Black, adding that the song has a “rockin’ anthemic chorus.”

“It’s our version of an anthem song,” says Miller. “I don’t know if that’s because we went on tour with Our Lady Peace – we might’ve got a little influenced, anthem-wise. But it also distinctly sounds like us. It’s our version of garage rock.” – KAREN BLISS

Track Record

  • Miller is “really really” into playing tennis
  • Black is writing stories and also draws. She’s working on a comic.
  • Miller is writing a book about being in “this band, in combination with being in a band.

Publisher: Network One Music Canada Ltd.
Discography: Tintype (2008), Funeral Mixtape (2008), We Kill Computers (2010), Unpersons (2011), Title TBA (2014)
SOCAN Members since 2006

In the 1980s, one band was synonymous with Prince Edward Island rock: Charlottetown’s Haywire. The follow-up to their 1986 platinum-selling debut Bad Boys, Don’t Just Stand There produced three radio singles: “Black and Blue,” “Thinkin’ About the Years” and the sultry, synth-driven glam rock hit “Dance Desire” – which went on to win an award at the World Popular Song Festival in Tokyo. The band has received lifetime achievement awards from Music P.E.I. and the East Coast Music Awards, and after a long hiatus recently began playing select festivals. Co-founder and keyboardist David Rashed spoke to us from Charlottetown.

What was the scene like for original hard rock bands in Charlottetown when you started?
It was fantastic. A lot of surrounding towns had little night clubs – or curling clubs, even. We played all over the island every weekend. We had put the band together from three local bands and the focus was to get a group that could tour and go to the next level. We started doing original music very early on.

Your first album was a success. Did this put pressure on you to write the follow-up?
I’m sure you’ve heard this from a lot of groups, but we came off tour, took a couple of months off just to kind of focus, then the record company started asking for a new record. So instead of just writing at your leisure, you have a deadline. We had only a few months to pull it together. There was a little more pressure, but we rose to the challenge.

What was the original spark for “Dance Desire”?
It’s a funny story. We’re in our spot we’re renting, a regular day working on stuff. Marvin [Birt] had to run to the washroom. I was just messing around with different patches and I started on this riff. He yelled out of the washroom, “Remember that!” When he came out, he picked up his guitar and we wrote the song around that riff. It was done in a few hours.

What was your approach to incorporating keys into rock music? The ‘80s were a good time for that, unlike today!
My first love was a guitar, and I was originally the guitar player. I think it’s thanks to Loverboy’s “Turn Me Loose,” and the first chord with the keyboard. We played covers at that time, so we learned it, and I could play some keyboards, so I did it. But all the keyboards coming on the scene, it became more of my passion over the years. I’ve tried to approach keyboards from a guitar point of view. Maybe that’s bipolar in some ways!

Were the lyrics co-written as well? How did that work?
Writing lyrics is collaborative, [between] Marvin, Paul and myself. Originally the song was called “Chase the Fire” actually, but that didn’t sound good. Marvin is the main melody writer and a lot of the times he’ll just mumble the same words on every song, at the conception, like place holders. We revisit it later with the singer, and try to focus on what it’s about.

Looking back at all your songs, what does “Dance Desire” represent to you now?
“Dance Desire” was the song showed that the band could write. We were always a performing band, but it showed that there was something more there, the band was growing, the writing was growing, and there are always new and interesting things to hear from us.

Founded in 2005, the Canadian New Music Network (CNMN) is all about being inclusive and accessible. Chamber music, improvisation, electro-acoustics, new opera, orchestral music, sound art, whatever – these are all just different paths to the same goal. We need to work together.

The basic premise of CNMN is simple: creating new music as a form of personal expression is an important part of the larger musical ecosystem in Canada. We felt that the larger “new music” community did not have a single, strong, unified voice that could articulate the larger artistic and social values that this music brings to the Canadian cultural matrix.

CNMN has two primary goals:
1) Networking – creating a cultural space and specific events that bring the entire new music community together, to work on common problems and find solutions.
2) Representation – to work with arts councils, government agencies, educators, the media and the public to promote the value of creative art music, both as an art form and as a social value in Canada.

We are a professional association in that we represent a specific professional community – the new music world (“contemporary classical” would be another term, but that felt far too narrow for our inclusive vision). However, membership is based solely on a simple philosophical belief – if you believe that supporting “new music” as a cultural value in Canada is important, you should join.

Our members include other arts organizations, new music ensembles, festivals, orchestras, composers, performers, improvisers, jazz musicians, experimental noise artists, visual artists, music educators, student composers and performers, musicians in other fields, curious listeners, avid fans…you get the idea. We currently have more than 500 members.

Our single most important activity is the networking conference entitled FORUM. These two-day conferences are exciting events where new music artists from across Canada and from the international community meet in order to both discuss important issues for the community, and to talk about new artistic projects. Half commercial arts market, half academic conference, it’s a great place to meet new people, talk about new ideas and projects, and find new partners from across Canada and on the international scene.

Previous FORUMS were held in Winnipeg (2007), Toronto (2008), Montreal (2009), Halifax (2010) and Vancouver (2012). Our Vancouver event was our most successful to date, with 112 participants.

The next FORUM will be held in Calgary from Jan. 24-26, 2014. We’re planning on expanding our international partnerships for this FORUM, and bringing in a wide range of international guests from the U.S. and Europe. If you want to expand your network of contacts and get new ideas off the ground, this is the place to do it.

CNMN maintains a very comprehensive website (visit for more info), a thrice-yearly e-Bulletin to members on activities and projects, and is constantly involved in representation within our sector, working with partners such as the Canadian Arts Coalition and the Coalition for Music Education in Canada, in order to help bring new music to as many Canadian listeners as possible.