I recently had a chance to catch a quick phone interview with Graham Fink of Milo Greene while they continue on tour on the east coast. This band has been gaining tons of momentum in the past year thanks to an opening bill for the Civil Wars, a healthy dose of touring, and a collection of voices populated in heaven. Fink took a few minutes to chat about a memorable night-turned-morning preparing for Letterman, the hummus-and-pita benefits of being a rock star, and a stripper marching band.
I love that Milo Greene share the instrumentation and vocalization amongst the band. Where do you think that the band’s musical style came from?
When we first got together, we had four lead singers. It made sense to share the vocals among the four of us [excluding drummer, Curtis Marrero]. We started trading instruments while we were rehearsing a few times and the different combinations we ended up with made a lot of sense for each individual track, so we just continued to use those combinations.
I’ve read that a lot of Milo Greene’s influences come from film in addition to music, so where are some of the big influences coming from right now as a band?
We definitely have different cross-sections of influences coming from a lot of different places for us each individual. There’s a huge area of overlap for us as a band, from things like 90s R&B, Bryan Adams, David Bowie, and hip hop. There are big areas of overlap for the band as a whole.
Milo Greene really developed a huge following before the first album was released [in July 2012]. How do you think that fan base developed so much in the time leading to the album?
Going on tour with the Civil Wars was huge. Being on the road a lot and repeating places helped, too. It was great to get a chance to repeat a lot of places and see the crowds grow by a hundred or a few hundred each time we’d come through.
Could you talk a bit about the songwriting process for the band? How did things get started and how did they develop?
Well, Autumn Tree [the last song on the album] was the first song we wrote officially as Milo Greene. From there, we all developed different things and had a chance to write songs collectively. The songwriting process for us was really a collective effort.
You’ve mentioned before that having that live presence has helped to develop your fan base. What makes for a great live musical experience, as a performer or audience member?
[laughs] Well, as an audience member, any time you can do something like when David Byrne used a stripper marching band, you’ll grab attention. I was at a show of his that Arcade Fire opened for in Hollywood where he had this marching band, before anyone really knew who Arcade Fire was, and that show was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen.
As musicians, we try to bring more energy to the live show, try to mix things up, and keep it from being stagnant.
That David Byrne show sounds rad! Are there any other musical experiences that stand out for you?
I also got to see David Bowie perform in LA. That was another one of the best shows I’ve ever been to.
What would you say is your favorite thing about being a part of Milo Greene?
The hummus and pita! [laughs] Getting all the hummus and pita we want at shows for free is a nice perk. On a serious note, getting to see the crowds grow and seeing people who’ve had a chance to get the album and learn all of the words, that’s one of the best parts. Seeing people singing the songs now that the album is out. Touring can be exhausting, but is definitely gratifying. Any time we look out and the crowds are so happy to see you, that’s a great feeling.
Milo Greene creates music that brings me a lot of peace. What is some music that brings peace to your psyche?
Oh, there are a lot of musicians like that. The Album Leaf, Explosions in the Sky, and Mogwai are some of them. Sea Change by Beck; it’s pretty melancholy and meditative. I love instrumental music for when I want to go off by myself, space out, and get lost.
It’s been about a year since that Civil Wars tour started and I got to see y’all for the first time, like many of your fans. What is one moment or event that stands out for you in the last year?
Well, it’s not an entirely positive experience, but when we were going up to New York [City] to be on [The Late Show with David] Letterman, we had just finished a show in DC and started driving up around midnight. We got to New York around 4am and went right to the set to get things set-up. It was a mix of excitement and exhaustion. It was about 40 degrees and we were all shivering when we were arriving and setting up. We got set up, took a nap, and got to do our first performance on national television. We were all geeking out and giddy at the same time working on little rest.
So you’re heading back out west soon. Is there a break coming up? What’s on the horizon for Milo Greene?
More touring. [laughs] We’ll take a couple weeks break before we start touring again. We’ll be going to Europe soon then coming back to tour around North America. We’ll hit some festivals in the coming year. We’re always on the go! I guess that’s what we signed up for, though.
Thanks so much to Graham for taking some time to speak with us! I’ll be seeing them for a 4th time this year at the Crocodile in Seattle on November 14th, but you can check out Milo Greene as they continue to constantly tour around North American and, soon, in Europe. Current dates can be seen below. Their amazing debut, Milo Greene, is available now.