“Fuck This, I Don’t Wanna Talk About This Anymore”

Mika Miko were about 4 hours from Denton, Texas driving between shows when I spoke to them a few days ago. I called Jennifer but she was driving, and after yelling to her band mates “who wants to do an interview?” I ended up talking with Michelle, the band’s lead guitarist.

Four days into a US tour that will last for thirty days, the band has broken their own promise. After a forty day tour in 2005 they swore never to tour for more than two weeks ever again, but a lot of things have changed since 2005. The band’s third record titled We Be Xuxa has just been released and it’s the first time they’ve had to deal with a record label. Interest is growing in Mika Miko’s infectious punk rock and pressure from the media, booking agents and fans is forcing the band to travel more often and to places further away from their homes in Los Angeles. It’s an intense few weeks on the road, but when the tour is finished they’ll be taking some time off. Michelle says “we’re going to be gone basically until August but we’re taking all of the Fall off so we’ll get to spend time in L.A. It’s kinda funny not being home all the time, our boyfriends miss us and our pets miss us.”

All five members of Mika Miko have strong ties to L.A, Michelle admits “I don’t think I could ever leave, I’ve been to a lot of places but nothing ever really feels like L.A does.” They all grew up in the city, Michelle, Jenna and Jennifer went to high school together, Jessie is Jennifer’s sister and their rotating roster of drummers have come via friends. “The original drummer of our band was Jessie’s boyfriend.” Then she met the band’s second drummer, Kate from Malibu. “I used to be in a band in East L.A. with all these boys and she used to hang out because one of the other guys’ girlfriends in the band was from Malibu. And the band’s current drummer Seth, “I met in a parking lot skateboarding, I was like ‘hey can I skateboard with you?’ and we ended up needing a drummer, crazy.”

“…we were able to crash shows that we weren’t even on and just show up and set up in front of the door and not let anyone leave.” 

 

They would all go to punk shows together, hanging out at legendary L.A venue The Smell and watching old punk bands at venues across the city. “We’d all go to punk shows together, like we’d go see old bands, like old L.A bands or bands from where ever. I remember one time I saw Anti-Nowhere League and The Vibrators, we’d go see shit like that you know.” Michelle remembers how it was always ‘old’ punk bands they used to watch, guys in their 50s. “We’d go to all these shows, like old punk band shows and then finally we started getting into maybe like, not new bands, but bands of our time. Early in high school I was going to punk shows and then later on in high school we started going to The Smell.”

The Smell has been hugely influential on the band’s musical upbringing. From attending shows as teenagers, they are now regular performers at the venue. They have witnessed the venue evolve and the surrounding streets transform as the city becomes more heavily gentrified. “When we first started going there it was really unsafe, everyone’s cars were constantly getting broken into. Now there’s like artist lofts and cool bars, hip bars, you know, like rich people go to. It’s changed a lot over the past five years or something.” But as the venue grows so does its reputation, bands are being discovered at the venue and thrown into the spotlight. “I guess at the same time the bands have stayed the same and maybe gotten a little bit bigger over time. When we first started playing there, we were able to crash shows that we weren’t even on and just show up and set up in front of the door and not let anyone leave. But there’s more structure to it now that so many people are coming… so it isn’t like that anymore.”

Partly thanks to The Smell, the band takes the attitude that all their shows should be all-ages. “We try to always play all-ages shows, that’s like our main thing,” she says, “Some places if we’re forced to play at a bar we just kinda have to, but if we can we’ll try and make the age limit as low as possible, like 18 instead of 21.” All-ages shows have been a part of the band’s life since they started out, there’s a different connection with the audience when they’re kids and it really seems to inspire them. But Michelle dismisses any sort of idol status bestowed upon the band, saying, “I don’t think we get that and even if we do I think we’d see it. They’re either our friends or they’re going to become our friends, you know. We do have a covers band in L.A.”

 “If people think we’re gimmicky they can fuck off,  I don’t care.”

 

Michelle’s modesty towards the band’s growing popularity is pretty hard to disguise. Mika Miko recently became the first all-girl band to feature on the cover of the famous punk fanzine Maximum RockNRoll. The zine is viewed by many in California’s punk community as the punk rock bible and has been printed monthly since 1982. It’s run by an all-volunteer staff who ensure it’s the most up-to-date punk zine around. Michelle admits “this is the second interview I’ve done over the phone today, which is kinda funny because I hate doing interviews. But at the same time it’s OK, you gotta do it because people want to know about your band. That’s like an honour to me that people care about us.”

Sometimes it can get a bit daunting, “live interviews, especially TV, are scary. Especially in another country because you’re afraid that what you say might get misunderstood.” The band has never had to turn down an interview, but there’s some topics Michelle will not talk about. “Immediately when someone asks like, ‘what’s it like being in an all-girl band?’ or talks about riot grrrl I’m automatically like ‘Fuck this’, I don’t wanna talk about this anymore, you know.”

In the popularity contest, there’s always someone willing to dig at Mika Miko for being an all-girl band. Somehow trying to justify that girls could never make music as good as boys. Michelle’s heard it all before, “I remember a long time ago when I was dating this guy who was in a band and he was like,’you know the only reason people like your band is because you’re all girls, right?’, or something like that, and I was like ‘actually I didn’t but that’s cool’… if people think we’re gimmicky they can fuck off, I don’t care.”

All-girl bands the world over have heard it all before, even down here in New Zealand, a place Mika Miko hope to visit sometime soon. Michelle has a deep admiration for old Flying Nun records and is gutted she can’t get them anywhere in the states. “I’m influenced by some New Zealand bands that I can’t find over here, like 7″ records. All the Flying Nun stuff, The Chills. I can’t even get that shit over here.” So a planned record shopping trip in New Zealand is on Michelle’s agenda. “I think we’re maybe seeing about Australia and New Zealand if we can… if we could make it work it’ll be awesome.”

 Mika Miko- Myspace

Posted by Nick Fulton under Los Angeles
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