Written by Johnny Papan
Photo by Bailey Morgan Photography
NICOLLE DUPAS AND MEGAN BELL REFLECT ON THEIR EARLY YEARS AND THE LESSONS THAT SHAPE THEM TODAY.
With radio-rock hits like "Closer", "The C-Word" and "Dead Girl", it's no wonder why Strange Breed is regarded as one of Vancouver's top rising acts. Their debut record, Permanence, mixes elements of riot grrrl garage-rock with a radio-friendly hard-rock flare. The all-female quartet has already teased some new songs, showing no signs of slowing down, even amidst the COVID pandemic.
Whether it be online radio appearances, Instagram takeovers, Facebook livestreams or their light-hearted and fun "Favourite Friday" Instagram stories, the band has not been shy in letting their audience get a glimpse into their personal lives.
Strange Breed's newest single "25" shows a more intimate side to the band. The track discusses mental illness in a raw, potentially triggering way. In fact, the artistically shot video by Section 4 Films is prefaced with a trigger warning. The song's title stems from the lyric: "It took me 25 years to wanna stay alive."
It's clear "25" is drawn from personal experience. With the song presumably being written when or after the songwriter turned 25 years of age, Dupas and drummer Megan Bell took the time to chat with us about things they wished they learned before turning 25.
01. THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS BEING 'COOL'
Megan: "When I was in my late teens/early twenties, I wanted so badly to feel a part of a scene, when I knew my interests were different. I couldn’t find the 'clique' that suited me. Now, in hindsight, I know that all of those cliques that I admired were filled with people like me. Lost, and looking to fit in.
Regardless of it being the 'lesbian scene,' or the 'music scene,' I now look back and accept that we were all lost and looking for something to guide us. And in hindsight, although I felt rejected by my own people, I am so thankful that I carved my own path, and found my own favourite parts of this ever-expanding city. I have so much respect for the scenes and communities that keep this city strong. People come from so many different backgrounds looking to feel a part of something and the community is always there to help anyone. I now know how to be a part of the queer scene while owning my individuality. For that, I am thankful that I never succumbed to being 'cool.'"
02. DON'T BE SO AGREEABLE
Nicolle: "Most of my adolescent years and into my early 20’s, I didn’t really understand the idea of taking what others say with a grain of salt. As someone who has dealt with depression and anxiety for ages, I’m definitely prone to taking things personally when I shouldn’t, and constantly doubting myself or overthinking my own instincts about things. I’d say that was my biggest downfall, mainly because it stunted me from learning to speak my mind when I needed to.
I distinctly remember many boys getting away with all kinds of behaviour that they shouldn’t have as a result of being scared to stand my ground or speak up. I remember listening to all kinds of conversations happening around me by friends or family that I disagreed with, but I was scared to speak my mind and lose connection with people - Afraid they wouldn’t like it and would stop liking me as a result.
I think I came around to the idea of 'being agreeable' as something that was ailing me around the time I really discovered a home in feminism… maybe around 23 or 24. I started an experiment where I questioned everything and everyone - even the people closest to me. If there was something that didn’t sit right or that I didn’t agree with, I would calmly - either just in my head, or in conversation, play devil’s advocate and start a conversation. If I knew that for my own sanity I couldn’t stray from something in my gut, then I wouldn’t - even if it was scary. If someone crossed a line with me, I told them. I continue to do all these things, and you know what has happened? Well, life is still hard sometimes, but I am at least finally living the most honest version of myself, and I have a whole lot less 'what ifs'. I learned a lot of this from my mother, so thank you for that, mom."
03. LEARN HOW TO COOK
Megan: "I can not stress this enough. I went through the majority of my twenties not knowing how to cook. Even in its most basic form, I didn’t know how to add heat and flavour to food. It’s not that I never cared, but I never had an interest in food other than sustaining energy. I also (pre-25) never had an environment where I felt that 'home' feeling. I ate a good meal at whatever restaurant I was working at, and tended to my hunger pains at home. I had no interest nor did I have the funds to eat at home. The result ended up being poor Nicolle sitting in my apartment starving for a meal and me serving her three different types of vegetables at three separate times, all of them being either undercooked or horribly overcooked. She was so patient. It took me turning 29 that made me want to figure this witchcraft out. I am now a confident and adventurous cooker!"
04. OWN YOUR WORTH AND YOUR WORK
Nicolle: "I don’t believe that I am the best at anything, but I know what my strengths are, and I love that I constantly have room for improvement. This is important. Your ego will kill you, but so will not appreciating your gifts. I know that I am a kickass songwriter; I have finally come to terms with this without being bashful or modest about it, and I love that about myself. I’ve honed that craft longer than half the time I’ve been alive, so it’s about time I learned to own that I am good at it. If I were in University, I would have a Masters by now. A PhD. HA!!
Sometimes, I allow myself to be cocky about my strengths because it makes me feel empowered, and it makes me feel confident. But I think it’s important to stress that it’s just as important to draw the line at ever believing that you are above anyone else. That is where the ego takes over, and it’s all over from there. What I’m trying to say is: Don’t feel bad saying 'I am good at this, I know what I’m doing.' Always be open to constructive criticism and critique, but trust your gut at the same time. Seek opportunities to learn and to grow, but only because you want to, not because you feel you have to be valid. Share your gifts with others, but never allow anyone to take them for granted or to take the credit for them. It’s all you."
05. DO YOUR TAXES
Megan: "There is nothing more embarrassing than entering a new committed relationship without having a grasp on your financial world. Taxes, every year feel overwhelming and so out of touch with how we live our lives, but ultimately doing them and having a positive track record and decent credit score to fall back on is so much better than scraping together a couple of bucks to get that phone plan upgrade. Your 'fuck the system' mentality is great and encourages people to think outside of the norm, but it will not help you get a driver's license, or even a cell/internet bundle plan to help you save money. Take care of your finances, and your finances will take care of you. It’s taken me the majority of my twenties of feeling like I’m conforming to finally reap the benefits of improving my credit score."
06. IT'S NEVER TOO LATE TO COME OUT
Nicolle: "Ever, ever, ever. I felt at the time that 21 was too late to come out - I thought I missed the boat on making the right friendships, the right connections, having the best sex (I know, at 21…...oh, if only I knew).
I thought everyone I knew would be like, 'but you’ve always dated men - so how can you just be gay now?' No. I always knew I wanted to be with women, but I just didn’t know how to. And when I knew, it took me a while to be ready. And then when I was ready, I had to know I was safe. And then when I was safe, it was finally time. When it’s time, then you know - doesn’t matter if you’re 10 or you’re 80. It’s never too late! And for the record, sexuality is a spectrum - most of us know this or have experienced this in some way. Being gay doesn’t change the fact that I did genuinely love the men I’ve dated in my life, or even have enjoyable physical relationships with them. If any of them ever read this - I hope they know that! It just means I was never going to be happy long term in those relationships because I was never being my true self, but I am now.
True story: Almost no one I told in my life was actually surprised, so there ya go."
07. DON'T BE AFRAID TO UPROOT YOURSELF AND TRY AGAIN
Megan: "I don’t know how many times I moved to a new city in my early twenties. I was always looking for something different, for a new connection, for that inspired feeling. And with every new city, and every new scene I learned something about myself. About my resilience or my ability to keep questioning my surroundings. I was always absorbing more self-knowledge from my new cities. I learned that I absolutely love feeling lost. I always knew that if a city was a complete flop, I always loved coming home to Vancouver. The times weren’t always good, but it was always nice to try out different aspects of my personality. If I had stayed stagnant, I know my life would be a shadow of what it is now."
08. RISKS ARE NECESSARY FOR GROWTH
Nicolle: "Every time I take a risk bigger than the last one, I gain so much more than I expected. No - I am not advocating for everyone to go out and start betting all their money on 21 red at the blackjack table - that’s not the type of risk we’re dealing with here. The risks I’m talking about don’t even have to be financial ones - an example would be coming out.
To me, that felt like a risk because I knew the way I would be viewed, and maybe treated, by many people would change. I knew the way many of my relationships with women would change, and maybe with friends. But I laid there crying one night in bed after I had my first 'real date' with a woman - and they were the happiest tears. I had just levelled up in the life I wanted, the life that felt the most honest and true and dear to my heart. I was crying because I was so happy I was bold enough to take that risk. As always though, I will admit that risks also often come from a place of privilege. I know mine did; using the same example, I am lucky enough to come from a close, loving family and a network of open-minded, liberal friends. I am also white and able-bodied, and fairly “femme” presenting which casts a veil of invisibility as I move through the world (that is a privilege at times and a mild annoyance at others). So to say I have privilege is an understatement. But in my world, this was still a risk in different ways. I could have chosen to not say anything - to not be honest, to not even try dating women. To be honest with you I’d probably be dead. So trust your gut, and don’t fear the risk - as long as you’re safe!"
09. FAILURE IS ALL IN YOUR HEAD
Megan: "When I was in my teens, I tried to kill myself. By a series of serendipitous moments, I am alive today. I entered my twenties thinking that if I couldn’t even take my own life, I must be a failure. I constantly compared myself to my peers who were attending post-secondary schools, and glamorous parties while I, at the time, hadn’t even completed high school, nor could I sustain stable housing. I constantly sold myself short, working jobs that I thought I 'deserved' and entered relationships as the one who needed to be saved so that if it didn’t work out, it wasn’t another failure over my head.
It wasn’t until I was maybe 27/28 that I realized, in hindsight, there was never such a thing as failure. All of the moments that I thought were my great faults were huge moments of discomfort and change, resulting in growth. It was a tremendous change in my thinking not only of my past but also of my future. It helped me complete high school at the ripe age of 28 and take on a new career path. I’m not afraid of failure anymore, I know that I can take on anything that comes my way, despite the discomfort and hesitation. We as people are strong and capable of anything if we see ourselves for what we are, human; capable of failure and growth."
10. YOU DON'T KNOW IT ALL
Nicolle: "I mean….you really don’t, and neither do I. Live with an open mind, an open heart and learn to zip your lips and really listen once in a while - it does us all some good!"