photographed for IM//UR by Agnes Lloyd-Platt
Jessie, Jenna, Michelle, Seth, and Jennifer are the current members of self described pony thrash band, Mika Miko. This five piece from Los Angeles have actually been around since 2003; emerging from the tight knit, noisy experimental heart of the DIY community in LA, The Smell, where the list of patrons and regulars include No Age, HEALTH and The Mae Shi. The band though, have further come to light from an international point of view after touring the shit out of America, Europe and Japan with their blistering thirty minute set. Mika Miko aren't a musical revelation by any stretch; but their reinterpretation of Californian punk is, at the very least, a violent and raucous good time.
Everyone talks about their live presence; with their explosive energy, thrashingly danceable and good-natured punk mettle that has famously made theirs a fun show to attend. Just this month they headed over to the UK to give it some tour love before heading back over to the US to do it all over again. Whilst they were in London we caught up with them to talk Xuxa, the Smell and periods.
Introduce yourselves please, how old you are and what you do in the band.
Jessie, 22, plays bass, Jenna, 23, sings and plays saxophone, Michelle,24, plays guitar, Seth, also 24, plays drums, and Jennifer, 25, sings and plays guitar. Seth is also an accomplished washboard player.
AND WAIT A MINUTE - HOW DO YOU KNOW ABOUT XUXA!? (Amongst other places, we are based/coming out of Brazil - so this Xuxa business is a big deal! You guys should TOTALLY cover one of her songs.)
Xuxa's shows are on TV in the United States too! Michelle used to watch her and Jenna was once in her studio audience when she filmed her children's show in Los Angeles. Everyone is connected to her in some way, all over the world. We also love her name.
How did you get in with the scene at Smell?
About six years ago the Smell had to close because of fire code violations, and all the shows that had already been booked there were moved to a squat above a furniture store in Hollywood that Dean Spunt was living at. We met the owner of the Smell, Jim Smith, there at one of those shows. We played the last show they had there before everyone got evicted. Anyway, Jim asked us to play the Smell once it reopened. In the meantime, we played another temporary-Smell-show-venue in Echo Park a few times. After the Smell reopened we started going very often.
Did you feel nurtured by the environment there?
Jenna: Working at and playing The Smell, I met a lot of people that I count as being my best friends. Being around so many awesome people who were really listening to what you were doing, it was like being challenged to do your best. So that was nurturing, yeah.
Jennifer: And Jim, the owner, is super supportive of every band that plays. So it makes you feel really comfortable.
We know that you guys are tight with No Age....How influential have they
been in Mika Miko's career? What about the other bands who revolve around Smell - what's your relationship like (if any) with them?
Jenna: The guys in No Age are very important to Mika Miko. We met them when we started playing and working at the Smell, and they passed on some of the volunteer responsibilities to us when they went on tour with their band before No Age, Wives. Dean Spunt has put out almost all of our records, including the first one ever, when no one seemed too interested in doing that. They took us with them on our first west coast tour and they gave us their list of contacts for us to plan our first US tour. And more recently, Randy Randall is working on a music video for us. And they are very good friends!
Jennifer: Other Smell friend bands would be Abe Vigoda, Protect me, Soft Pack, Tearist, and way more. But whenever we play the Smell, we try and get as many friend bands on the show because it's the most fun that way!
Mika Miko has been kicking around six years; but 'We Be Xuxa' is going to
appear like your first album to a lot of people. Is this preferable that
people are going to get to know your music via this release and your
Jenna: Our older records are on the same label so they shouldn't be too hard for people to find! If someone's only heard our newest record, then they won't be asking us to play songs we don't know anymore, which always makes me feel bad. The first songs we put out, on a 7 inch of PPM, I can't even sing like that anymore. I've gone through a further puberty. So, that record might give people the wrong thing to expect from our sound now although maybe we're not as different now as I think.
Jennifer: That is totally cool with me. Except maybe 666 I would like people to hear, I think that record works well with this new one.
Is the reason why you chose to go for a punk sound because you're not
formally trained in playing your instruments?
Jenna: We have been formally trained in punk music and we got christened at the Church of Satan.
Of course being a (mostly) all girl punk band, there are some preconceived notions of how you're going to sound - like a grrl riot band. But mainly, you sound like what a boy punk band (though perhaps in this case the apparent 'boys' voice hasn't broken yet). What/who are your influences?
Jenna: Everyone's into different music. Everyone agrees on a few bands, like Redd Kross, X, Nerves and other bands that we always cite in interviews. I myself am influenced by Grace Jones and ODB.
Jennifer: I just bought The Creation singles and it's so good.
How do you guys cope with touring? Who's period comes first (the dominant female always goes first and the rest align with hers)?
Jenna: We cope with touring by trying to relax very deeply whenever we can, sometimes cracking each other's backs and drinking kava kava, and organizing the van so that everything is like a Tetris maze, leaving us the most room possible (not very much). Also Seth gets his period first, and it stinks.
Who looks after your blog?
Jenna: We all do except for Jessie because she hasn't gone on the internet yet.
Jennifer: I just updated it the other day with a new fresh look. But Michelle actually started the blog.
We read somewhere that you're all pretty vinyl crazy; how does this make
you feel about the whole blog evolution and what how that whole scene has affected music?
Jenna: I myself am uninterested in music blogs because I think most critics have shitty opinions. I like when people share music with people that they think no one has heard, because that's useful and sweet.
If you could meet XUXA, what would you guys say to her?
Jenna: I would ask her to sign our record in very large print.
Jennifer: I would run away.
And here's a track from We Be Xuxa for you, which is out on now PPM.