Interview by: Jessica Nakamoto –
Known for their high-energy live shows and gritty in-your-face punk-rock sound, powerhouse all-woman quartet, The Anti-Queens, have once again reinvigorated Canada’s underground music scene.
Signing to Stomp Records, and releasing their first ever full-length album (out now), lead vocalist and guitarist Emily Bones, guitarist Valerie Knox, drummer Dallas Conte, and bassist Taylor Cos have clearly come a long way since their self-released debut EP back in 2013.
Now, with a reinvigorated love for the raw and fiery tones coursing throughout new tracks, and an exciting two-month tour of Europe and Canada, in which to show them off, there’s no better time to get out and enjoy a thrilling set by the Toronto-based quartet.
So, before The Anti-Queens make a stop in a city near you, catch up on our conversation with frontwoman Emily Bones, about new music, funny music video memories, the style of their first full-length record, and more!
First off, congratulations on the new album! I know the record has been out for a couple of weeks now and you’ve gotten the chance to play a few shows in Canada since then. How has the fan response been as far as the new material goes?
Thank you! It’s been awesome! We played in Toronto on Sept. 20th. It was our official album release date. We haven’t played in Toronto in a couple months. It was so packed and everyone knew all the words to the album. It was a crazy feeling to hear them singing it back to you. Overall really great!
Was it liberating to finally release your full-length album after so many years in the music scene?
For sure! We’ve just been doing EP’s for the past few years. I think the first one came out in 2013. We did two six-song EP’s, but haven’t really played anything new since 2015. So, it’s been a while.
While we were recording these songs, and even after they were recorded, we weren’t really supposed to play them live. Even though we had all these new awesome songs that we wanted to play, we had to kind of keep them in our back pocket until the record came out. So, it’s exciting now that we actually get to play them live to you!
Compared to your previous EP’s which were independently released, the band did things a little different this time around, signing to Stomp Records. How was that process for you?
Great! Approximately five years ago, I met my friend Mathieu [Gagné] who’s our manager now. He was a drama teacher in Gatineau, Quebec, and he asked me to come and do a performance at his high school. I went, we hit it off, and we kept in touch over the years.
He opened a tattoo shop and was doing all this crazy stuff. Then, one day we were talking about music and he said he was thinking about management. There’s no one that I’d trust more than him to manage us. He’s just an amazing person. He knows everybody, loves music, and is one of my best friends!
We signed the deal with him and had the first meeting with Stomp. He’d been friends with them for fifteen years or so, and he pitched us to them. They liked what they heard, and that was it! (laughs)
That’s excellent! (laughs) As a band who is used to a more DIY style, how were you able to maintain a lot of that same creative freedom going into the recording process?
I would say it’s about trying to record the way we would sound live. We didn’t put in any filters. There are no bells and whistles in the recording. It’s exactly like how we found our energy on stage. We didn’t change a whole lot. We just went in, channeled that energy, and recorded the songs!
That’s something I really enjoy about the new record! You seem to have a more straightforward and honest rock feel, even compared to your previous releases.
Exactly! I think for us, we wanted to keep it simple. We wanted the album to reflect what we sound like on stage. What you see is what you get essentially. I think this album is a lot more raw than the others.
We would do one full take, and I would sing the whole song in its entirety. I wouldn’t take any breaks so by the time I was done, I was completely winded. You can kind of hear it in the songs. It almost has more emotion to it when you don’t stop. You just keep going through the whole song, which is really similar to a live performance. So, I think that’s what gives it that unique kind of feel.
Were there any themes that you knew you wanted to tackle or anything that you wanted listeners to take away from the album?
Not necessarily regarding themes. A lot of these songs I had written through personal experience. It was kind of like a diary in some respects. We just wrote how we feel.
The most that we can hope is that somebody would listen to the songs and relate to them. Or, maybe even see a song with a different perspective…take their own opinion out of the song and relate it to their own life in a certain way. That’s all I can really ask for.
Well, it seems like everyone is having a blast with all the new material! The recent music video for “Worse Than Death” is especially fun. Were there any memorable moments on set or from shooting the video?
There were so many! It was a really fun day. We had three of our friends come in and help us. We rented this room where we had it all to ourselves. There were make-up lights and all these bathrooms. It was pretty easy going, just a long process.
I loved the lipstick smear part way through the video! (laughs)
Yeah! (laughs) For that, we thought once I do the lipstick, we have to be finished filming. We can’t go back because it’s going to take forever to wipe it off and my hair’s a mess too. So, it was a one take thing.
It’s also funny because we had rented a really nice room. It was clean, there were bathrooms, make-up lights, we had nice catering, and everything! Then, we just filmed another video last weekend in a field! (laughs) There weren’t any bathrooms or anything, so it was the complete opposite from filming “Worse Than Death”! We had to go out in the forest, where there were no lights, nowhere to change, and nowhere to do our hair. The contrast was just so funny!
Oh no! (laughs) Speaking about the production side of things, I know that Sarah Blackwood’s brother, Ian, was the producer in your first two EP’s. Was he involved again in the making of the full-length?
For this record, no. He did the first two EP’s and he kind of taught me everything that I know about being in a punk band. He showed me a lot about guitar tones and how to sing in the studio. I did a bit of recording in the past but nothing like the two EP’s we worked on. I wouldn’t be where I am now, if it weren’t for him! He’s inspired me a lot over the years, and definitely plays a role in the album even if he wasn’t present for the actual recording itself
It’s great that you’re so close! Has he heard the completed record?
I haven’t talked to him about it yet. I should probably call him! (laughs) I think I sent him a song or two while we were recording. He said he really liked what he was hearing and was super excited for us. Sarah [Blackwood] used to be in The Creepshow, the band that we’re travelling to Europe with tomorrow. He’s really excited because he knows they do really well over there. I feel like I’m kind of part of the family! It’s great to be touring with the band that his sister used to be in. It’s a cool little circle we have.
In addition to the new record label and recording process, you’ve also recently had a line-up change with new additions, Dallas Conte (drums), Val Knox (lead guitar/vocals), and Taylor Cos (bass/vocals). How did you all come together to form the new Anti-Queens?
Originally, Val joined when we were still a three piece. We were touring together and her band, Black Cat Attack, told us that we needed a second guitar player. We did auditions but couldn’t really find anyone that we liked. So, when she offered to be in our band, I was really excited and took her up on the offer.
Over time, the other bandmates had other things going on… they were in school, work, and had other commitments. They kind of fizzled out and we had to find new members. We held auditions for both a drummer and a bass player, but not at the same time.
Dallas joined three years ago. She’s awesome! We auditioned a bunch of guys and a bunch of girls, and she just blew all the guys out of the water! (laughs) She was by far the best drummer that we auditioned. We also knew of her from before, in the music scene, so we just had to take her! There was no other choice, she was the perfect fit!
It was a similar situation with Taylor. We knew her from the Toronto/Newmarket music scene. She came to audition for us and she was also a perfect fit. We lucked out with the members that we have. They’re all super talented and fun to hang out with. They’re really smart, awesome, cool girls and I feel very fortunate to be in a band with all three of them!
I know you’ve all been in the punk-rock world for around a decade or so. Have you seen more inclusivity towards women in the scene in more recent years or are there things that you think could still improve?
I don’t see as many women in bands as I do men. That’s kind of always been a thing. But, the more that time goes on, the more I see women in bands. I think the playing field is starting to become a little more equal with women in music. At least that’s our goal when we go out there and play with a bunch of guy bands. We want to top them. We don’t want to be at the same level, and we don’t want to be below them. We want to show them that they need to step up! (laughs) I think more women should not be afraid and try to blow the other guys out of the water!
Is there any advice you could give to young musicians trying to break into the market right now?
I would say, definitely don’t take crap from people. Stand up for yourself. If something doesn’t feel right, call it out. Go get the advice of friends or other musicians. Also, don’t be afraid to experiment and when you’re on stage. Own it, and don’t be shy.
I’m actually really shy and an introvert! But, when I get on stage, it feels so natural to me. It’s a way for me to express myself. So, I would just say use music to express yourself, and don’t be scared!
Before the interview, we talked a little bit about the exciting European tour that you have coming up! Is there anything that you’re looking forward to the most or do you have any particular songs that you’re excited to play live?
I’m looking forward to everything! None of us have ever played over there. I’ve been to Europe before, but have never performed there with a band. For me, going to Europe has always been the number one dream and goal of being in a band. Just the fact that we’re getting on a plane tomorrow and we’re going out there is amazing! We’re playing seventeen shows in a row with a band that I grew up loving. So, I’m ecstatic for just about everything! (laughs)
As for songs, I don’t know how many people in Europe have heard the album or the single. I’m curious to see if any of them have watched the “Worst Than Death” video. Maybe they know that song.
We like to play around a lot with audience participation and getting the crowd to sing and do a back and forth. I’m looking forward to seeing how the Europeans enjoy shows, and if the audience gets more involved than even the Canadians or Americans. I’ve heard that they get really into the music and are pretty receptive, energetic, and really fun. I’m very excited!
I’ve heard the crowds there are absolutely wonderful. I’ve also heard that they tend to bounce to the rhythm versus in America where people like to dance around!
I can’t wait! I have a feeling it’s going to be great because Creepshow’s been going over to Europe for maybe fifteen years now and they’ve developed their own fanbase there. The fact that we get to show up and play in front of their fans, we’re so lucky!
Now that you’ve checked a full-length album off the bucket list, and are going to Europe, what are some of your future goals for The Anti-Queens moving forward?
Moving forward, we’re hoping to do at least two more music videos. Most of us just want to quit our day jobs and do this full time! So, that’s the goal for 2020! (laughs)
Also, more travelling. I’d love to go to additional places in Europe and I’d really love to go to Japan. We have to keep writing and hopefully put out another full-length record. Perhaps next year. I want to keep touring and going to places we’ve never been.
To wrap things up, I have a few fun fill-in-the-blank questions for you. Would you like to give it a go?
In my spare time, I love to…
If I wasn’t a musician, I’d probably be a…
A hairdresser. I worked in a lot of hair salons over the years.
My favorite tour snack is…
We eat a lot of chips but there’s so many carbs in them. I’ve discovered that eating sunflower seeds are the next best thing! Shells on!
Last one for you! If I could collaborate with any musician past or present, I would pick…