West Coast electro-pop quartet Milo Greene (the band, not the fictional agent) is back on the road, and this time they’re promoting their sophomore album, Control, out this January on Atlantic Records. They’ll be supporting Bombay Bicycle Club at Terminal 5, this Wednesday October 22nd as part of the official CMJ lineup. I chatted with band member Graham Fink about tour life, their exciting new sound and why there’s nothing better on the road than hardcore super fans.
MV: I know that you guys just started your tour and that you’re playing a lot of tracks from the new album. Are you feeling really awesome?
GF: Yeah, it’s been really great so far. The first show or two were a little nervewracking just because we’ve never played any of these songs before, and we’re playing seven songs from the new album in our set list, so there’s a lot of new material to push through. But I think we’ve kind of found our stride and it feels really good. The crowds seem to be receptive. If our merch numbers are any indicator, I would say that people really like it. We’ve had to reorder merch two or three times already and it’s the first week of tour. It’s fun to get out there and play new stuff. It’s a nice combination of making new fans from the people who are coming out to see Bombay Bicycle Club, and then our existing fans coming out to see the change and the progress.
MV: The album sounds like it’s a bit of digression from the wide cinematic sounds, and now you’re delving deeper into the pop and rhythmic backgrounds. Is this something that you were trying to achieve when you started, or did that come from working with the new producers and drummer Joey Waronker?
GF: It definitely was happening before we started working with them. I think they were able to hep bring out the soundscapes and the sensibilities, but the demos that we did internally before we worked with anyone were very much similar to the finished results, just in more of a bare bones form. I don’t know if we set out a manifesto saying we wanted to do pop, but as we started writing songs that’s what naturally happened because we were starting with rhythmic patterns and focusing on beats and grooves and writing from there. That informed the kind of songs we were writing. We wrote a lot of our first album four years ago. The headspace we were in musically was a little bit different than where we were four years ago, and you can hear it.
MV: And that’s definitely exciting because you always want to be growing and changing your sound. For Control, you separated to do your own writing and then regrouped with the band to complete the songs. Is this similar to the writing process you followed for the first album, or is this a new approach that you took?
GF: I think the truth is songs in the Milo Greene collective come from all sorts of combinations, they did on the first record and they did on this new one as well. The end results always come from the four of us after long collaborations and back and forth, polish, making changes and brainstorming. Whether a song starts as one or all four of us, there are songs that one person wrote entirely and then the rest of the band helped smooth the sound and the riffs. Then there are some that were a piece of something and someone else wrote the chorus and another came up with the bridge, the nice thing about being a collective is there isn’t one blueprint for how we write music. By the end we’ve all dipped our toes in the sand a bit, if you know what I mean.
MV: And all of you sing pretty prominently on your albums, correct?
GF: Yes, definitely. And that is something that the new album showcases a bit more than the first one, our invidivual voices. In addition to our harmonies which were kind of our calling card with the first album we definitely took time to let each voice stand alone and be heard so the contrast would be that much stronger when the harmonies did come through.
MV: So when you were writing, did you know who had in mind to sing lead vocals on the tracks, or was that something that you also figured out when you regrouped as a collective? You can definitely tell your range of voices, and you never know what to expect on the next track which is great.
GF: Most songs grew naturally. If someone sang the demo and it felt good then we’d stay there. There were a few demos that we sat on when we feel that someone’s range didn’t quite I sang a part instead of RObbie because I have a lower voice, things like that. But it’s similar to the writing, it’s a case by case basis but we were just working together to see what’s best.
MV: How does it feel getting to come back to CMJ as a band that’s already made their mark and is growing, as opposed to feeling like the freshman who are hitting the scene for the first time?
GF: To be honest, it hasn’t really been a relevant thought for us because it’s just another tour show where we are supporting Bombay Bicycle Club at Terminal 5. I love CMJ! It’s a blast. I was there with my old band in 2005 and we had a ball, but this show is more just another show in the middle tour instead of a specific CMJ outing were we are flying out to do several shows a day and do the whole haul. It will be a lot of fun to be in the city while it’s going on. Hopefully we’ll get to hang out and see some other shows, but tour life is crazy though. We’re going to be running all over the place trying to get to point A to point B to point Z.
MV: And with this tour, you guys are in a different city everyday. You’re crazy!
GF: Yeah (Laughs). It’s a lot. These drives especially where we are right now San Francisco to Seattle and Seattle to Edmonton and Calgary to Winnipeg are all 10-15 hour drives. We’ve only done one so far. They are pretty draining. It’s hard to chase a band in a tour bus, when you’re not in that tour bus.
MV: What kinds of things do you guys do to keep yourselves occupied in the car? You got some travel Boggle?
GF: Man, I wish we had Travel Boggle. I actually really like Sorry, which is a very juvenile game, but we play it like poker, so we have some serious strategy.
MV: OH HELL YEAH. Even if you can do 15 hours in a row, you must really like each other, so that’s good?
GF: We probably like each other more now than we will in three weeks, but that’s natural. (Laughs)
MV: So when your tour wraps, which it looks like you’ll cover all of October, are you going to take a breather until the new album comes out? What else are you going to do to promote, Control?
GF: We’ll be doing a lot of promo and press stuff, maybe some music videos in November and December so we can come out swinging in January. We’re be going back on the road starting February probably through most of 2015. The months leading up to that will be album prep, just getting geared up for the best possible outcome.
MV: I saw that your song “Perfectly Aligned” was featured on the trailer for the new Tim Burton movie, “Big Eyes”. That’s pretty cool!
GF: Yeah, it’s super cool. We are huge movie people and to get a Tim Burton trailer was pretty surreal. We were all ecstatic when we got that phone call.
MV: I think I’d drop the mic on that one. I’d say, “I just won, THE UNIVERSE.” (Laughs)
GF: Yeah, totally. (Laughs)
MV: That’s awesome. In 2015, are you looking to do festivals again? I know you did Bonnaroo in 2013. Are you doing that again?
GF: Bonnaroo is super fun, but I’m not sure which ones we’ll play just yet. We’ll be doing a handful. I think the plan is to just keep trucking and doing what you gotta do when you have a new album out. I’m sure we’ll do as many as will have us.
MV: That’s great. I’m such a festival fan, do you feel like the shows you do at festivals vs. supporting another band that you come out with more fans? How do you feel that festivals differ compared to one-offs?
GF: I think it can work both ways. I think the experience to a festival is somewhat similar to supporting another band. It’s chaotic, you don’t have full control and you may not have had time for a soundcheck in, and you’re flying by the seat of your pants and taking what time you have to make things sound good and put on a good show without proper prep time, or lack of a better word, Control (Laughs). I think a festival is a special experience for the fans who are there because usually it translates into their reaction while you’re performing. People are just excited to be in that atmosphere seeing something unique to that moment in time.
MV: Yeah, it’s definitely an exciting vibe. I love it. Is there a song on the new album that you feel like you really identify with, or is there something that you’re particularly excited to debut?
GF: As far as what I identify with as a writer and a singer, there’s a song on the new album called When It’s Done that’s an exciting one for me because it’s something I wrote in the time we had off in my home studio, not really thinking about where it would end up. Then I played it for the band, and they were all really excited about it, and it made it on the record! We’ve been playing it at the last few shows and it has a really driving energy, and I get to belt for a full song, which is something I used to do a lot before this band. It makes me feel young. We’ve been on the road for such a long time that it feels like we’re all getting older, and getting to play a rock song for a little bit makes me feel like a young man again.
MV: It’s impressive that you were able to bust out a sophomore album so quickly because I feel like a lot of bands sit on it forever.
GF: Yeah, it feels like forever. If we had it our way, the record would have come out already. But unfortunately with these things, you can’t just make and release, unless you’re a band like Radiohead where everyone is just waiting and you’re fine to release whenever.
MV: Yeah (Laughs) we will ALWAYS be waiting for Radiohead.
GF: (Laughs) Just permanently waiting. But yeah, we’re eager for it to be out. January can’t come soon enough.
MV: Are you guys going to throw a killer party?
GF: I haven’t even thought about it, but I guess we probably should. That would be appropriate.
MV: Champagne for days. Champagne for days, man! (Laughs) Do you have any funny stories from the road so far? Did someone embarrass themselves yet? I know, it’s only been a week.
GF: No one has embarrassed themselves yet (Laughs), but this is one of the most radical things from the road. There were a couple of girls who followed us for all four California shows. So they were at San Diego, LA, Pomona and San Francisco and we became fast friends with them. One of them has our song 1957 tattooed on her knuckles. To start a tour, and have people like that at the first four shows was a real ego booster to get the blood flowing, It’s nice reminder that our old fans who love our first record are excited and receptive to the new music we’re playing and haven’t skipped a beat. We were afraid some people might not understand the transition, but to have super fans who love it even though it’s a departure is comforting.
MV: And I mean, you’re SOMEBODY now. People have your songs tattooed on their knuckles, which is something most people will never be able to boast. So go out and scream that shit from the rooftops because it’s epic. Also, that “White Lies” track is hot. It’s gonna be a big one.
GF: Thanks! I appreciate that!
You can purchase tickets to Wednesday nights show HERE, and listen to their new single White Lies below: