- by Matt Dunn
Pale Lips are a Bubblegum Punk band from Montreal, Quebec, Canada. I’m always scouring the internet for new music and seeing Pale Lips 2016 album Wanna Be Bad with song titles like “Mary-Lou Sniffin’ Glue” and “Doo Wah Diddy Shim Sham Shimmy (Bama Lama Loo)” really caught my eye. The band’s music is catchy, high-energy Rock N Roll reminiscent of the ’77 punk style of bands like The Ramones and the power pop of groups like Nikki & The Corvettes.
I caught up with 3/4 of the band on the phone recently to discuss their history as a band, what it’s like touring Europe and their favourite bands in the Montreal area.
Jackie – vocals
Ilona – guitar
Lynn – drums
Jamie – bass
Who came up with the name Pale Lips?
Lynn: Well, we all came up with a bunch of names. I just remembered putting a bunch of names in my agenda. We had a couple of names in mind. We slept on it and one day we just decided it would be Pale Lips.
Jackie: Lynn thought of it. *laughs*
Where is everyone in the band from?
Jackie: Everyone is from elsewhere. I grew up in Brockville, ON. Ilona came from Ottawa. Jamie came from Regina, Saskatchewan. Lynn is from Windsor, ON originally.
How long has Pale Lips been a band for?
Jackie: About 4 years.
Lynn: Almost 5 years!
Jackie: We’re almost 5 years old!
How did the band first meet each other?
Ilona: I used to play in another band called The Dagger Eyes. Lynn approached me after one of our shows. She told me she wanted to start a band with only girls. I didn’t really know how serious she was. I didn’t commit to anything but she mentioned it a few more times over the next few months so finally I said “Ok, you seem serious.” So we had a meeting in a restaurant with her friend Jamie who she thought would be a good fit for bass. I really liked Jamie. We became friends very quickly. Not long after our first band practice, I suggested we use my friend Jackie as the singer.
Jackie: I knew Ilona and Jamie both beforehand almost from separate friend groups. I don’t think I had met Lynn but I knew her boyfriend at the time through mutual friends as well. It was kind of an easy fit.
You recently filmed a double music video for “Don’t Take Your Switchblade to New York” and “Old Flame.” What was that experience like?
Jackie: It was a great time!
Ilona: It was a few shots really. Because it was all continuous. After that wrapped up, we went to a studio and used a green screen. The director David Don’t was super professional and knew what he was doing.
Lynn: We didn’t waste anytime. I didn’t think we would get it done in one day but that was really cool.
Was there some inspiration from the Canadian TV show The Hilarious House of Frightenstein in your music video?
Ilona: Indeed there is! I grew up watching that show. The Wolfman Jack sequence where the DJ Wolfman dances around with all the psychedelic colors in the background really stuck with me. I thought it was something funny that most Canadians our age would recognize. Part of growing up Canadian is watching that show.
Jackie: It’s funny. I’m not that much younger. I don’t remember watching it but my dad watched it . He mentioned it in the past as something I needed to see.
What has been your favourite show to play so far with Pale Lips?
Ilona: We opened for the Italian band Giuda last fall. They’re one of my favourite bands. So that was a very memorable show for me.
Jackie: We opened for The Kids a couple of years ago. It was a great show. A bunch of other really good local acts were on the bill. First time we played (maybe the only time) at this local montreal venue called La Sala Rossa. It was the first time we played in front of a big crowd. That show really stuck with me.
Lynn: It was interesting because there was a lot of old school punks there. Before we got on stage I was like “Oh god!”. I was afraid they would all throw something at us because they wanted to see The Kids. But I saw a lot of them were dancing to our set so that was good. Also I freaked out because I didn’t have a banana before the show. Otherwise I can’t play properly.
Is this a part of the band’s tour rider?
Jackie: We aren’t at the stage yet. We demand one banana!
Have you read other bands actual tour riders?
Jackie: I’ve seen some of the famous ones. Like Van Halen’s brown M&Ms demand. I’ve seen that one. It’s not as silly as it sounds. They have so many specifications for their gear. They made sure they were actually reading the entire rider. If they got into that room and saw red M&Ms, they knew shit was gonna be fucked up.
Are there any plans for a Pale Lips US tour?
Jackie: I think we would all love to do it. But it’s really expensive to get a visa for Canadians to go over and a lot of paperwork. It’s definitely on our list but it’s not the easiest thing to accomplish. It’s hilarious that it’s way easier to go to Europe and tour there then to go across the border.
Ilona: Yep. Much less of hassle.
Where have you played in Europe?
Ilona: Italy, Germany, France, Switzerland, Austria. Most of the shows were in Italy.
Jackie: Italy and Germany.
Jackie: Mine was definitely the beach. We played a venue called Hana-Bi. (Marina di Ravenna RA, Italy) It was a Sunday afternoon show on the beach. They had a craft beer kinda set up with all these stalls full of tasty beer. They fed us a delicious meal and we got to go swimming in the Adriatic Sea!
Lynn: There was a really cool place in Switzerland. It was like a huge commune. Different organizations had control of different parts of the building. There was a theater, a feminist collective and a punk collective. The whole thing was really really cool and inspirational in that European communal living and community building way that you don’t really see here. They feed us really well too!
What was the food like?
Lynn: It was cold meats at first. We loaded our gear and they had appetizers like the good cold meats. We got to pick what we wanted on the menu. The wine was great too. When you tour Europe, you don’t pay for your drinks, ever. You don’t pay for your food beer or wine.
What is everyone’s favorite song to play live?
Ilona: We haven’t started playing a lot of our new songs live. But I really like to play “Don’t Take Your Switchblade to New York” live. That’s a really energetic song.
Jackie: One of the songs off the new album that we have played a few times live is called “I’m A Witch.” I like that one because it gives me the liberty to be a little creepy and play around on stage.
Lynn: I like starting off with “Doo Wah Diddy Shim Sham Shimmy (Bama Lama Loo).” It lets me feel out the room. It was one of our songs that we would start out with. Feel how it’s gonna be, how the room is gonna take us.
Does Pale lips ever do cover songs live?
Lynn: We’ve done many actually. A lot of Ramones.
Ilona: We’ve done two Ramones song. Also “Steamroller” by The Adicts.
Jackie: We covered “Don’t Ring Me Up” by Protex for a while.
Lynn: “Back Seat Love” by Nikki and The Corvettes
Ilona: We did “Blue Christmas” for an Xmas show! And we covered “New Kind Of Kick” by The Cramps.
What are some of your favourite bands from the Montreal area?
Jackie: I’m totally biased but My fiance’s band Priors just signed a deal with Slovenly Recordings for their new record. He was in a band called Sonic Avenues before. Priors is his passion project. I get to hear it all in the spare bedroom for months. They are doing really well. I’m super proud of him.
What should people check out if they haven’t been to Montreal before?
Lynn: There is a Leonard Cohen exposition at the Museum of Fine Arts.
Jackie: A ton of great record stores in the city that cater to any interest you have.
Jackie: The Pick-Up has so many cool 45s in there. Death by Vinyl is all used records. A great spot. Sonic is a small punk record store.
Lynn: That’s my favourite. A good friend of mine is the owner.
Jackie: So many other great places. I’m totally biased. I work at a pinball bar called North Star.
Do you have a favourite pinball game at North Star?
Jackie: We have a pinball machine called Old Chicago. It was in the background of that old shitty horror film Basketcase.
Have you been in other bands besides Pale Lips?
Lynn: I was in a garage band called The Fried Clams. I played bass. I had a girl band when I was 16 called The Inner City Kitties. It didn’t go very far. That’s when I was learning drums and I realized I had to bring my drums everywhere and that sucked!
Ilona: Our bass player Jamie was in a few other bands. I played in The Felines from 2007 to 2008 then I joined a band called The Suppositories in Ottawa. That lasted a while. After The Suppositories broke up, me, the bass player and my boyfriend at the time formed a band called The Dagger Eyes when I was living here in Montreal.
Were any recordings released of these other bands?
Ilona: There is a Felines tape. The Suppositories had an album and a 7 inch record. The Dagger Eyes have 2 albums on P.Trash Records.
Lynn: I’m also in a band called Dirty Cheetah. We’ve been playing for a year.
What does Dirty Cheetah sound like?
Lynn: A little bit of Steve Adamyk.
Ilona: Action rock!
Lynn: I have a girl band and a guy band.
Are there any Dirty Cheetah recordings?
Lynn: We have one song online. We’ve got a song coming out on a soon to be announced compilation album.
How many releases does Pale Lips have?
Lynn: 2 EPs, 1 LP and another LP coming out.
Do you have a release date for the new album yet?
Jackie: No idea. We are at the tail end of the mixing process. We haven’t sent it anywhere. So we aren’t exactly sure yet.
How long did it take to record the newest album?
Jackie: Three weeks in December.
Lynn: We recorded with Ryan Battistuzzi who mastered our “Don’t Take Your Switchblade to New York” record.
Is there a story behind “Don’t Take Your Switchblade to New York”?
Pale Lips: I (name withheld) travelled to LA and with my boyfriend at the time. He really wanted a switchblade so we went to Chinatown and looked around for exactly what he wanted. He bought it and he mailed it home to himself. I freaked out that he would get caught. It came in the mail when he arrived home a few days later. Nothing ever came of it. It’s a cool souvenir. He isn’t a thug or anything. We planned a trip soon to NYC. We were collecting stuff to bring with us and packing. He picked up the switchblade and kept looking at it. He appeared to be thinking about packing it and I said “Don’t take your switchblade to New York!” He looked at me like “Are you crazy?” and I thought “Oh my god! That’s a great idea for a song.” He never ended up taking the switchblade to New York.
Pale Lips has played at Ottawa Explosion. Have you played other festivals?
Jackie: Halifax Pop Explosion. We also did Sled Island in Calgary.
Lynn: We did the ‘77 Montreal festival. It’s like a one day mini warped tour. We were the first band to play that day.
Jackie: X played which was fucking cool!
Lynn: We saw Jake Burns from Stiff Little Fingers play an acoustic set.
Jackie: I was very entertained by Madball’s set.
Did you tear it up in the pit?
Jackie: No I was actually on the super bourgeoisie side stage *laughs*. Which kept me out of the sun with cold beer. it was great.
Lynn: I watched Rancid and The Dropkick Murphys from the side stage. I was like three feet away from Lars Frederiksen. What’s really funny though is that we opened up our show with a Ramones cover.
Jackie: We did “Cretin Hop”.
Lynn: Rancid closed the show with “Cretin Hop” with the members of Dropkick Murphys on stage.
Jackie: I missed all the action cause I had to go to work like a true rock star *laughs*.
Jackie: We also did Festival Beat in Italy with The Mummies.
How were The Mummies?
Jackie: They were so good! The next morning we were eating breakfast and the bass player from The Mummies was like “You must be from Pale Lips?” We freaked out!
Lynn: He said he really wanted to see our set but had to go do soundcheck and was really bummed out.
Will Pale Lips be releasing more merchandise?
Lynn: We will be doing more shirts definitely. Before we went on tour, I’d been working on merch for a long time. I had paint pins. I had a huge bin of vintage buttons. They are quite large in size. I clean them off with alcohol and I have these oil based paint pins. I do designs on them. I paint Pale Lips pins. I’ll put a cartoon character with Pale Lips written on it. Or whatever I think of. Tattoo art, flowers and stuff like that.
Jackie: Every pin is individual and they are a big hit.
Lynn: They are unique. I think I made about 200. They’re all sold out. But I think I’ll give into that again.
Ilona: We’ll have some new stuff. We always have some new creative artsy things.
What is your favourite Montreal venue to play?
Lynn: I’m kinda bummed we didn’t get to play a venue that is now closed called Divan Orange. A lot of shows happened there.. I like to play at L’Esco. We played the new L’Esco which was a dive but now it’s renovated and bigger. It’s always great to play there. Great location. Great crowd. They started doing Sunday pasta shows. You pay ten dollars and you get to watch two bands play and they feed you pasta which is great. You get to play and then you get to vomit. Eat to the beat!
Jackie: I really like playing at La Sala Rossa. The sound is so good. Being able to hear everybody is almost a novelty in the rock n roll world!
Where was Pale Lips first show at?
Jackie: Bistro De Paris.
Lynn: that’s actually where I played with Dirty Cheetah on Saturday.
Where can people go online to check out your music?
Jackie: Bandcamp, iTunes, Spotify…
Lynn: Apple Music, YouTube.
Jackie: You can order physical stuff from us but we are sold out on a lot of this stuff.
Lynn: We have maybe 15 LPs left.
Jackie: Come see us live. Hopefully we’ll make it to the states before we die.