Talking with the grade-schooler students who started a punk band and played with Fucked Up.
What were you doing when you were 13 years old? No, wait. Don’t answer that question. Whatever it was that you were doing was a waste of everyone’s time compared to what these 13-year-old girls do with their band, Unfinished Business. Sita, Layla, and Fiona make up Unfinished Business, a punk band based in Toronto. Since picking up their instruments three years ago, they’ve learned Misfits and Negative Approach covers, they’ve written their own songs about haunted houses and hating school, and they’ve opened for Fucked Up and Mac DeMarco. They’ve found more success playing house shows and live venues before hitting puberty than most bands will ever find in their adult lives. They’re releasing their first album, Mix and Mash, on June 16 via Heretical Objects Cooperative and Weird Distro and it might be the best nine minutes of punk you’ll hear all year.
Noisey sat down with the girls from Unfinished Business along with Mike, Sita’s father and de-facto manager. There were a lot of giggles and awkward silences (because try to talk to a 13-year old without those). They told me how they like playing big shows with huge bands but really they just love writing and playing music in their basement because they love being together. And how fucking punk is that?
Noisey: How did you all meet and start playing together?
Sita: School. We were in the same class.
Layla: Nah, I was in grade 6.
Sita: But we were all in the same class when we met.
Fiona: We were all in the same school together and then Layla went to middle school. And then we wanted to make a band so we asked her to join.
Did you all play your instruments before you started the band?
Sita: Well I played guitar for a couple years, like since I was little I took lessons. But nether of them knew how to play their instruments so my dad helped them.
Was it hard learning to play the drums and bass?
Layla: When I first started, I didn’t really get anything.
How long have you been playing?
Layla: Four years... three years? No, four years.
Fiona: It was hard for me because I couldn’t really do the feet and the hands together at first but it’s gotten easier.
So Sita wanted to start a band and she asked you both to learn some instruments so you could play?
Sita: Yeah. Because we just wanted to start it for fun. Like, not to be a thing but I liked the idea of having a band and so did they.
Why did you like the idea of having a band?
Sita: Because I like to listen to music a lot and I thought it was cool to have a band.
What kind of music do you listen to?
Sita: I listen to like a lot of different types of music. Like, some pop and some alternative and metal. Lana Del Rey is my favourite. And this band Bring Me the Horizon.
You do a cover of "Where Eagles Dare." Do you listen to a lot of punk music?
Sita: When I was little my parents played that a lot for me. So I knew it.
Fiona: We didn’t know it. It’s fun to play but I don’t listen to that kind of music a lot.
Has it been hard to learn how to play punk music?
Fiona: Not really. I don’t know because I’ve never really played anything else but it seems pretty simple because the beats aren’t too difficult.
How do your parents feel about you playing in a punk band?
Layla: I don’t think my mom knows what it sounds like. I would never play it for them. But they know I play the bass because I have one in my room. They’ve never asked to hear the music we play. If they came to a concert I wouldn’t really mind.
Fiona: My parents have come to some of the concerts. They think it’s pretty cool. I think they think it’s fun to see us play from the beginning to now. We were a lot younger when we started and we’ve gotten better.
What’s your favourite part of playing in a band?
Layla: Just getting to meet up and play around and talk in the basement at practice.
Sita: Yeah, because Layla is in high school now so we don’t get to hang out a lot but we always get to come to practice together, which is fun.
Fiona: We have cool experiences that we wouldn’t have otherwise. I think we’ve been on the radio. And we get to meet some cool people, which we wouldn’t get to do if we weren’t in a band.
What’s been the funnest show to play so far?
Fiona: Probably with... Are we allowed to swear?
Yeah, of course.
Fiona: With Fucked Up. That was a pretty big show.
Do the kids from your school know you play in a band?
Sita: A couple of our friends know but we don’t really like to talk about it.
Layla: One kid always bothers me.
Fiona: It’s fun with adults that come to our shows.
Sita: We prefer to play shows with adult bands rather than other kid bands. I think adults are more of our audience than kids are.
Fiona: Like, hipsters. They’re the most fun to play for, too.
There are a lot of audio samples on the album from Mr. Show and Ren & Stimpy. The very first track on the album is an audio sample of Rob Ford responding to a question about buying illegal drugs. What do you think of Rob Ford? Why did you make that the very first thing we hear on the album?
Sita: We wanted to include these samples that we thought would be funny to people and we think of him as a joke.
Another audio clip comes from Kill Bill where The Bride says, "You and I have some unfinished business." Is that where the name came from?
Sita: No. But we put that in because of the band name. We used to be called Food Fight when we first started but we thought that was kind of silly so we changed it. Me and Layla went to Girls Rock Camp. We wanted to change our band name in the first place and we had to make a band at Girls Rock Camp and name it and one of the girls there said Unfinished Business and me and Layla loved that name but then they ended up changing it so we just took that name.
Layla: Everyone thinks we started our band there but we didn’t.
You write songs about how much you hate school. Do you really hate school?
Layla: I’m happy it’s over. All you do is work. It’s not fun.
What would you rather be doing?
Sita and Layla: Anything else.
You also have a song about wanting to be a famous rock star. Do you want to be famous?
Sita: Not really. That would be cool but that’s not our goal. That song was written when I was really young, like before our band was even a band. I had another band before at my old school and I wrote that with some of my other friends there and it was just an easy song we could teach Fiona and Layla in the beginning. Like, I think it would be cool to be famous but I don’t think I really want to be.
You’ve had a lot of support from pretty big bands. You’ve opened for Fucked Up and Mac DeMarco and you’re going to be playing with Lydia Lunch at World Pride. How do you feel about the attention you’ve had so far?
Layla: I don’t really mind it.
Fiona: It’s pretty crazy. We didn’t really expect that. We didn’t really go into the band thinking that we’d be known.
Sita: We just kind of started it for fun. I didn’t really know that we’d be playing shows at all when we first started. The first show we did was for my Mom’s birthday party.
Why do you think you’ve had so much attention?
Fiona: Maybe because we’re young.
Sita: I think that’s definitely a part of it that we’re young. But I think people just think that it’s cool that we can make our own songs and play them when we’re at a young age. That’s what people say a lot to us, like, they’ll walk up to us after a show and be like, "I wish I was that cool when I was your age." We’re just like, "Thanks."
Unfinished Business will be playing these upcoming shows:
June 21 For NXNE at The Smiling Buddha
June 22 NXNE Festival HQ at Edward Day Gallery
June 29 Toronto World PRIDE w/ Lydia Lunch
Brad Casey is a writer living in Toronto