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.

Music has always come naturally to Edmonton-born sibling duo The Command Sisters. Still only 17 and 14 respectively, Charlotte Command and Sarah Command have been performing relentlessly since 2005, captivating audiences across North America with their country-pop harmonies and dynamic energy. Listeners caught on, and soon they were flying to Nashville and recording with some of country music’s biggest producers.

Music isn’t the only thing close to their hearts. This year they were part of an anti-bullying campaign and school tour run by the Alberta RCMP, and they busk at a farmers’ market in Edmonton to help raise money for local causes.

They spent the summer of 2013 recording, and performing at festival showcases in Nashville and in Canada. Where do they see themselves in the future? “There’s no limit,” says Charlotte. “It’s awesome. We can plan and make goals, but the unexpected is what excites us!”

Watch for their first Canadian release in 2014.

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