Interview: Milo Greene
February 1st, 2013 • Interview
Los Angeles’ Milo Greene are one of the most exciting new bands from the US we’ve stumbled across in the last twelve months or so (check out our “Introducing” piece here). Their easy-on-the-ear, harmony filled, almost MOR sound has drawn comparisons to the likes of Local Natives and Fleet Foxes, and in “1957”, they may well have their very own “Sun Hands” or “White Winter Hymnal” in the locker as they prepare for a busy 2013 – a year which will see them spend a lot of time on the road, both in the US and abroad, promoting their debut self titled LP, which was released in the UK via Fierce Panda last week (it came out in the US last July).
Since their inception in early 2010, things have moved apace for Milo Greene – a major label deal with Chop Shop / Atlantic the following year ensued, leading to performances on Late Night With David Letterman, Conan O’Brien and at Chicago’s Lollapalooza – as well as their own, well-received headline tours. Their first ever UK jaunt is about to conclude tonight at Camden’s Barfly, where they’re set to play a Music Week Breakout event, and I’m sat in the dimly lit downstairs bar with Graham Fink and Andrew Heringer – two of the band’s four singers and multi instrumentalists.
“We were all in other bands, and got together to write some music – and to be creative, and have fun again”, says Andrew, about how it all began. “There was stuff happening (with the other bands), but a couple of us felt like it had got into a certain rut”.
Hellbent on making the new project a surefire hit, Graham informs they spent over a year honing their craft before playing live: “We wanted from the first show to come out of the gate the best we possibly could be”, carrying onto say it wasn’t until March 2011 that this happened, in LA. Says Andrew: “We wanted to get rid of the barnacles from our past, and start from the beginning making sure everything was a certain quality”, giving the whole project a very cathartic, cleansing feel – visible in the uplifting nature of their songs. The band signed their record deal not long after, perhaps justifying their measured and calculated approach.
There’s been a bit of confusion in some quarters about the band name – with people who haven’t heard the music, perhaps naturally, assuming MG is a solo artist. “In college, we created the Milo Greene name as a booking agent. For years we would Email venues as Milo Greene, and he would get us gigs”, Andrew reveals, clearing this up for us. Graham chimes in: “It’s funny – it ranges from confusion to frustration to upright anger, that we’re misleading people”.
On the subject of the debut album, I asked if there were any particular themes running through it. “There’s a nostalgia that carries over a lot of it. I think because there’s so many of us that are writers, the lyrics come from a lot of different places”, Graham informs. As far as musical inspiration is concerned, I suggest Local Natives and Fleet Foxes, as well as Wilco and Sufjan Stevens (who they are currently both covering in their live set – “Chicago” and “Shot In The Arm”), which they both agree on. Andrew adds: “I think a lot of our influences go back to what our parents were listening to – Crosby, Stills & Nash, Fleetwood Mac, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones. I think there’s a whole generation of music that’s coming back right now.”
Whatever this musical formula entails precisely, it’s certainly been a popular one to date. Was there a particular tipping point perhaps, when the band got the feeling they might be in the game for the long haul? “Really early on we got picked up to tour with The Civil Wars”, Andrew suggests. “We’d been a band for two or three months, and somehow they caught wind of our music. I think that opportunity to go and play for 2000 people in all these North American markets, as a launching point, you can’t really beat”. “That tour built a real foundation”, Graham adds.
On the response to their maiden tour of the British Isles, Graham informs me this too has been a trip to remember: “The shows have been incredible. The fact that some of them have been sold out is pretty crazy to us”, with Andrew adding Glasgow was particularly memorable, for the crowd’s silence, during the quieter moments, if nothing else. And it’s not only the shows that have been great – “The truck stops are certainly better – you get some really nice vegetables from Marks & Spencer”, Graham declares, suggesting such variety is not so commonplace back in the States. “There’s not quite so many healthy options!”.
Aside from “lots of touring”, as you’d very much expect from a buzz band with a great album on general release, more specifically the guys tell me they plan to be back in the UK before too long, perhaps in May. Later on that evening, Milo Greene play a unsurprisingly accomplished set to a room full of Thursday night revellers upstairs at the Camden institution that has seen many a US household name pass through their over the decades, with the grand finale of “1957” being a real head-turning, “I was there” moment. And at this point in time, given what’s gone so far, it would take a very brave man to bet against this originally fictitious booking agent adding themselves to any such illustrious list.