A year after the release of their acclaimed Singles EP, Calgary rockers Miesha and the Spanks are busting through the doors of summer with a hard-hitting track and video that will leave you reeling and really feeling the pain. A modern homage to a history that continues to be unearthed, the powder keg single “Dig Me Out” is a sonic journey that tackles vocalist and guitarist Miesha Louie’s experiences with the impact of residential schools.
Louie unleashes a tidal wave of emotional vibrations that drive this moving garage rock anthem. It’s not the kind of thing that’s easily addressed in a tight, three-minute, melodic punk package (or Q&A interview, for that matter), but just as she did on her recent single “Mixed Blood Girls,” Louie felt it was not only natural, but also necessary to create music about what was weighing on her mind.
We talked to Louie about the complicated history behind her latest single and how she chose to move forward with it below.
Why did you feel it was important to include contextual information about residential schools at the beginning of your video?
I wanted the video to reflect what I was feeling when I wrote the song, but for that to be effective, the audience was going to have to know what I was talking about. I wanted that information to be part of the experience and not just in a caption, should someone choose to read it. [Video director] Sebastian [Buzzalino] had an idea to have the numbers start with 215, then scroll up continually throughout the video, as it was hard to get a completely accurate headcount for the found children. Who knows when the numbers will actually stop?
What are the advantages and disadvantages of using rock and roll as a vehicle for social and cultural change?
Rock and roll specifically as a vehicle I think can be tough, because there’s a lot of rock and roll fans who don’t support the same things. I was shocked by how many people didn’t know the ‘schools’ existed. And I consider people I know, from close buds all the way to acquaintances, to be pretty ‘with it.’ I knew something that would be hard about using this banging rock song to share such emotional and dark content would be that maybe once the connection is made, people might be too upset to listen to it anymore. And I suppose that means the message got across, but good rock and roll is timeless.
How did you direct your negative feelings into creative energy when writing “Dig Me Up”?
I tried to keep the lyrics simple. I know all of this stuff is hard to hear and I didn’t want the words to scare anyone off before the song was over. But of course, the words I chose can be hard to stomach, and I’ve been told as much by some folks on social media. Creating the song is what helped me focus and process what I was feeling, and it meant handing those feelings over to the listener so I could take the load off. It was hard for me to stomach too.
How has becoming a parent influenced your response to recent events and impacted your perspective on your own childhood experiences with regards to culture and identity?
When the 215 were found it felt like I was hit with a ton of bricks, and that reaction definitely was influenced by the fact that I’m a new mom. My family’s history with residential schools isn’t just that my Grandmother ‘survived’ Tk’emlups, it’s that she was there because her older sisters didn’t survive St. Eugene’s. No one sent word when the children passed, parents would only find out when they came to take their children home for the summer. I had something new to imagine in all of this tragedy – what if my children were taken? It’s fucking chilling. I also feel a responsibility to take back my culture. Although this is something I’ve always wanted, I feel more of an urgency now to make sure my kids have access to this knowledge.
What elements do you bring to the table as an artist/songwriter when approaching this type of socio-politically charged subject matter?
I think because this is information I’d carried with me all my life, I assumed that everybody at least knew that residential schools happened. But when news broke out, it was clear to me that so many people didn’t, and more than that there was this disconnection from it that made it sort of unbelievable. It’s important to me to share this information because I think I connect a lot of people to this issue, who might not have realized they were so close to it prior. From my extended white family to my friends, people I do business with or just run into at shows, bands I’ve shared stages with, and fans of my music – these people are all connected to someone whose life has been affected by the very real generational trauma of residential schools.
How did you approach percussionist Sean Hamilton’s role in the video?
Throughout this whole process Sean has had the stance that his role is to step back and make room. He is of course a driving force behind the music of this song, so I wanted him present in the video, but passive. A lot of the shots are made to be like it’s the photoshoot for the promotional images and so he stays posed while I engage the lyrics and my emotions throughout.
Can you summarize your vision for a better future?
I hope we can keep moving forward in a direction of healing. The Pope finally apologized on behalf of the Catholic Church’s involvement last month when the issue was literally brought to his doorstep, but I don’t think real healing will happen until the records are released that would help name the found children. If they’re truly sorry, the next step will be the release of those records. There has to be some closure before we can fully move forward.
All sales from the single will go directly to the Indian Residential School Survivors’ Society, an organization with a twenty-year history of providing services to residential school survivors.
Upcoming Tour Dates
June 25 – Sakihiwe festival – Central Park, Winnipeg, MB
June 30-July 3 – Alianait Arts Festival (multiple performances) – Iqaluit, Nunavut
July 21 – The Lido, Vancouver, BC – w/ Strange Breed
July 24 – Constellation Music Festival – Squamish, BC