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'Girls can rock just as hard as the boys': The Beaches on opening for the Stones and reinvigorating rock

Hailing from Toronto, the rock group breathes new life into the genre whilst holding their own with The Rolling Stones.

All-female Toronto band merges classic rock influences with modern feminist lyrics

Jordan Miller of The Beaches is seen performing at the 2018 iHeartRadio MuchMusic Video Awards in Toronto. (Jess Baumung/Invision/The Associated Press)

At the time the members of The Beaches were born, the late 1990s, Mick Jagger was already a grandfather and the Rolling Stones were on their 23rd studio album. But when the Toronto band found out they were opening for The Stones during their June 29 concert, they could not have been more excited.

They were on their tour bus, and their phones started reverberating with text messages from their record label and managers.

"We weren't really answering, we were being bad, and then we finally answered and we found out about the offer and we were so excited," says guitarist Kylie Miller.

"We just really started screaming, we all called our parents, woke them all up."

Musically speaking, The Beaches, named after the Toronto neighbourhood where the band members grew up, are old souls. Along with The Pretenders and glam rockers like T-Rex, the Rolling Stones are their main musical idols; something you can hear clearly in the Jaggeresque swagger of songs like T-Shirt

"There's just such excellent music there, regardless of how much older they are than us. I think their music will always speak to whoever listens to them," adds Jordan Miller, Kylie's sister and the band's lead singer and bassist.

Resurrecting rock

With top-selling and highly awarded artists like Drake, Childish Gambino and Bruno Mars, rock music has taken a back seat to pop and hip hop in recent years, especially as the music of young people. 

It's one of the reasons The Beaches stand out: all four of the band members play instruments and write their own songs. 

"Our generation is so starved for rock music in general," says Jordan Miller. But these young women don't pigeonhole themselves to one genre: Kylie Miller says their sound is also influenced by an eclectic mix of disco, funk and 1970s dance music.

From left: Eliza Enman-McDaniel, Kylie Miller, Jordan Miller, Leandra Earl of rock band The Beaches in CBC studios June 2019 (Laura Robinson/CBC)

But they've had to fight stereotypes about their youth and gender.

Drummer Eliza Enman-McDaniel says they often have men approach them after shows, remarking they didn't expect a troupe of girls to be "that good."

Feminist lyrics vs. Stones' lyrics

Many of The Beaches' songs are sung from the point of view of young women, and they extol female empowerment. In Snake Tongue, Jordan Miller sings "I'm not gonna play along, I'm just gonna cut you off." 

"Some creepy old man made the most inappropriate, suggestive gesture to me," says Jordan Miller of writing the song.

"It got me thinking about all of the inappropriate messages we'd been receiving on our social media accounts, and all of the unwanted male attention we [receive]." 

So how does a self-proclaimed feminist band feel about some of the Rolling Stones' songs that have been called out for misogyny, such as Under My Thumb and Brown Sugar?

Jordan Miller says it's a frequent topic of conversation among band members, but she's measured in her criticism.

"You also have to take into consideration that those bands were famous like 40 years ago ... There's historical context," she says.

"I'd be more interested to hear what Mick and Keith have to say about it now." 

With an opening set for the Stones at Burl's Creek Saturday night, it looks like they might just get a chance to find out. And, as the only all-female act of the day, they also have a chance to show the traditional rock fans what four young women from Toronto can do. 

As keyboardist Leandra Earl says: "Girls can rock just as hard as the boys. We're there to put on a rock show."

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