Nightmares colour deliciously dark Myths
As scary—actually, make that fucking terrifying—as they sound on record, the two women known as Myths couldn’t be more delightful in person. This has been known to confuse some of those they come across.
“People are always very surprised,” reveals Quinne Rodgers, the diminutive, bleached-blond half of Myths. “They’ll meet us before we play, and then tell us after that they were expecting us to go up with acoustic guitars and sing nicely. Or they will hear about us or see us, and then afterwards be completely surprised we are nice.”
Lief Hall, the dark-haired half of what might be the best young band in Vancouver, is eager to elaborate: “I don’t remember who wrote this, but I remember hearing this quote about writing and it was ‘Keep the drama on the paper.’ I always liked that quote because it seems really relevant. Whenever my life is really dramatic it seems to stifle my creativity. And so, if I can keep the drama on the paper, and my life clear-headed and focused and positive, then that allows me to explore the darker realms of my subconscious.”
Indeed, the only thing that’s frightening about the women of Myths on the night the Georgia Straight meets up with them is the house that they are sharing. (Hall lives there full-time; Rodgers is crashing there temporarily.) Located on a nondescript stretch of businesses on the East Side, the eerily gothic home is like something from a Stephen King novel, the paint peeled right down to the weather-beaten wood. Myths’ eponymous debut was dreamed up, incubated, and fine-tuned in the decidedly creepy basement.
The record is one of those rare beasts that transcend genres. Over the course of seven hypnotizing, relentless tracks, Rodgers and Hall come across as sonic alchemists who’ve never met a shade of black they didn’t like. Funeral-service goth, synapse-frying electronica, shock-treatment no-wave, and postapocalyptic industrial all collide to create a hyper-textured nightmare.
Fittingly, along with a steady diet of horror films, old Crass records, and underground art of all disciplines, nightmares are a major obsession of Myths. “We both have a dark undercurrent,” offers Rodgers. “We both talk a lot about the messed-up nightmares that we have.”
This statement leads to a long and involved recounting of a recent dream where both had an experience right out of A Nightmare on Elm Street.
“Okay, this is cool,” Hall says excitedly. “We actually had this dream the other week that was related, on the same night, even though we weren’t in the same house. It was like Quinne’s dream continued my dream.”
The Coles Notes version of that dream had Hall taking a plane to a foreign location, getting questioned by customs, loaded into a paddy wagon for further interrogation, picking up Rodgers along the way, and waking up five stories above a barren warehouse, which both were forced to climb down to on a rickety ladder. Rodgers kept telling Hall, who has a fear of heights, “You can do this.” In the warehouse, SWAT–like officers used batons with glowing-red electrical ends to zap the members of Myths, leaving both unable to walk, after which—their legs fucked up and jutting off at inhuman angles—they were ordered to produce papers they didn’t have.
Rodgers continues: “And then I had a dream that we were both in jail and somehow I got a machine gun, got out of the jail cell, and ended up walking down the street shooting everything.”
Playing amateur psychologist for a second, one might infer from such a tale that the bandmates have become so close that they’re starting to share the same brain. Even if that’s not the case, there’s no denying that Myths is a solid team effort, Rodgers and Hall sweating out every richly textured detail of every song.
“We kind of have a thing where, with everything that Myths puts out, we both have to agree on it,” Rodgers says. “We end up challenging each other constantly.”
The band started out as a bedroom project, playing songs that they now describe as light and cute. “Because we didn’t have a jam space,” Hall says, “we had to be quiet. We’d play our stuff on little laptop speakers, whispering the parts to each other.”
When Hall moved into her haunted-looking East Side house, things began to get loud and dark, partly because—being on a commercial strip—the two were suddenly at liberty to turn up the volume. Songs would mutate further once Myths got them loaded into the computer.
“It was definitely a long process,” Rodgers reveals. “It wasn’t just like we knew exactly what the record was going to be and then we just made it. There was a lot of adding sounds on and then taking them off again.”
The result is an album that, if there’s any justice, will be remembered as a local-music landmark, with blackhearted monsters like “Deadlights” and “Goldbase” built out of strobes-in-the-mortuary synths, bombastic death-dance percussion, and intertwined howling-banshee vocals. For every heavenly interlude (think the echo-drenched, layered vocals that drift across the buzz-bombed “The Horizon”), there are moments that make you think you’ve somehow landed somewhere south of hell (consider the skull-rattling exercise in sonic exorcism that is “Prism Portraits”).
While the sound of Myths has evolved in the two years that the band’s been together, what’s remained constant from the start is the way the songs have been carefully designed to send strong messages, reflecting Rodgers and Hall’s interest in feminist politics. It’s up to listeners to decode what they are talking about, a challenge considering the lyrics are anything but black-and-white.
“We write the lyrics and then we discuss every line,” Hall says. “It’s a pretty intense process. There’s a huge tapestry of ideas that goes into each song, but it’s a tapestry that’s meant to be explored and interpreted.”
Rodgers adds: “I don’t think that it’s interesting to go, ‘This is a song about this, and that’s what it’s about.’”
Take, as an example of this, “The Labyrinth”, a voices-from-another-dimension marvel that’s all ghostly washes of synth and machine-gun drum violence. Given lyrics like “We take all the children/And we bury them in the garden” and “The day would come/When we would roam through the night/The trees bend back from our empty eyes,” one might logically assume that Hall and Rodgers simply put one of their nightmares to paper.
Instead, when pushed for a detailed breakdown, the two reveal that the track touches on the ritual acts of marriage and killing, mythical legends and Minotaur-like beasts, and how well-intentioned acts can be completely destructive.
“One of the things that we were thinking was residential schools, and the idea of trying to save a culture by breaking up its family structure,” Hall says. “How an imposed, violent, supposed act of love can destroy a people and a culture.”
That’s a sign that, as interesting as things are on the surface with Myths, when you dig deep you get to something truly fascinating. Not to mention, if you think about it, scary.
Myths opens for Grimes at Electric Owl on Thursday (November 17).
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