SXSW Leftovers: Mika Miko

Queens of the L.A. underground, Mika Miko.

Mika Miko (listen) is a perfect band. That doesn't make them the greatest band. But there's not a single thing you'd want to change about them. The all-female Los Angeles quintet, ages 21 to 24, plays punk rock that's as heavy as it is infectious. Whenever the band is on stage, it's a party. And not one of those lame parties where people sip wine and talk about the latest happenings at the office. No, they are the soundtrack for parties where people drink cheap beer, dance with folks they've never met and simply have a good time.

Their performance in Austin last Thursday afternoon at the Other Music day party was typical of a Mika Miko show. Singer Jennifer Clavin bounced around the stage like she had springs on the bottom of her shoes, shouting into her telephone-as-microphone, trading verses with fellow shouter Jenna Thornhill, who also took a few turns to bleat on saxophone. Guitarist Michelle Suarez provided the buzzsaw riffs while the rhythm section of Jessica Clavin (bass) and Kate Hall (drums) injected some funkiness into the proceedings. The five of them just look like they belong together up there; to not be won over by their charms is nearly impossible. Even the uniformed security officer, who looked a whole lot more like a Mike and the Mechanics fan than a Mika Miko fan, could be seen bopping his head. One word that kept coming up when I talked to Clavin and Hall after the set was, appropriately enough, "fun." Because above all, that's what the Mika Miko experience is.

Do you like playing SXSW?
Jessica Clavin: This is our second time doing it and I had a lot of fun the first time and now I'm already having a lot of fun and it's just the first day.

How many shows are you playing?
Kate Hall: 12.

Ever feel like you're just going through the motions?
Hall: The adrenaline and the expectation of each show just keeps you going.
Clavin: And we just like doing shows, so knowing that we have three more shows today is like, "Yeah!" It's what we like to do.

Do you think the festival is getting a little too corporate?
Hall: What we're playing isn't really super corporate. It is a little, but everyone running the shows is only a couple years older than we are. It's just a bunch of kids that like music. Of course we like to play the house parties and the backyard shows. Those are absolutely the best.

How do you see yourself in the new world of indie music where instant success isn't just possible, but some bands think it's their right?
Hall: I think we're just really hard-working. We always play lots of shows. The band is fun but we also treat it as something where we have to work to be able to do this. You can't just be on the cover of whatever magazine and have people show up. That, to me, isn't fun. Playing the shows and being in touch with the kids and touring and meeting people is so much more fun. It's more natural to do it that way than to appear out of nowhere and have everyone love you. ... It's like, yeah, you get that and it happens but then it disappears just as quickly.

You seem to be on the road pretty constantly. Is touring second nature for you at this point?
Hall: I definitely feel different on the road now. I remember when we first started touring, I admit, it was really difficult. At times I was just like, "I want to be home!" ... But now being on the road, we just want to keep going.

Any favorite random cities?
Clavin: Cloverfield? What is it?
Hall: Clovis, New Mexico?
Clavin: Clovis! Why did I say Cloverfield? I'm thinking of that movie. Clovis, New Mexico, is kind of fun>. That's because it's so crazy and out there.

Do you find those small, random towns often have the craziest shows?
Hall: They can. But they can also be the worst.

Do you feel it's important to maintain some sort of punk rock integrity?
Hall: We're not trying to be perfect punk rockers, we're just trying to be ourselves.

By David Malitz |  March 19, 2008; 12:00 PM ET SXSW
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