Milo Greene on “Milo Greene”

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When it comes to new music, I’ll be the first to admit that I’m the laziest connoisseur I know. Most of the time I absorb it through osmosis thanks to the radio or, more frequently, my musically inclined friends. I find their tastes to be nearly impeccable—that is, I’ve never really disliked anything they have exposed me to—so when my friend Kamie invited me to a concert with a band I’d never heard of before, I gave her the benefit of the doubt.
And I’m glad I did, because I’ve been playing the CD on repeat since the concert in Atlanta on July 21. Milo Greene’s self-titled first album blends haunting vocal harmonies with an almost otherworldly style to turn melancholy and raw emotion into some truly beautiful music. The band, made up of five people, came together through college friendships and music scene acquaintances and they have been playing live together since March of last year. In case you were wondering, Milo Greene is not the name of any member of the band; he’s actually the fictional booking agent contrived by band members Andrew Heringer and Robbie Arnett to help them book gigs early in their prior, independent careers. I took the chance to borrow Milo Greene for an interview before they became too famous to talk to me, and Arnett was gracious enough to take a break from the tour to call me from Denver, Co.

BH: How long have you been writing music?
RA: Probably since 2006, so about five or six years. I think I’ve always been interested in creating some kind of art. Growing up we would always go to the movies and the theater, and there was always music around in my family. We were avid music lovers. I was always kind of inspired by it, and when I got to college there were some guys in my dorm who played music. I started singing and taught myself to play guitar, so that’s where I got started.
BH: What were you studying at the time?
RA: Music and theatre.
BH: Oh, so then this was right in line with your passions.
RA: Yeah; I didn’t switch from being an economics major or anything like that.
BH: You guys definitely have a really unique sound. How would you describe your band’s style of music?
RA: I think at the core it’s pop music, but we’ve definitely tried to decorate it with stuff that’s influenced us and inspired us—dreamier and ethereal sounds. I’ve always been interested in scoring and movies. We’d talked about working with filmmakers and scoring, but we formed a band. Since there are four vocalists we’re centered around vocalists…it’s all kind of placed in more dreamy tones and stuff. We try to make it as unconventional as possible.
BH: There’s a really definitive tone to the album, too. What can you tell me about that?
RA: We recorded all of the music all over the west coast primarily in winter and autumn months, so I’d say the tone was inspired by a somber, nostalgic atmosphere.
BH: I noticed during the concert that you guys switch instruments around a lot. How did you all come to be so versatile?
RA: I think initially we were just trying to figure out what each song needed. We made the record without playing the record, and when we had to play it we had to figure out how to recreate it. We all primarily play guitar, but we switched around to kind of fill up the songs. I learned how to play piano a bit for certain songs and Marlana takes up the bass for certain songs…We learn as we go. Andrew’s pretty classically trained and an all-around great musician, so he can pick it up pretty quick. Since I wasn’t classically trained it takes me a little more time, but if we need the sound then we’re all about figuring it out.
BH: What is your creative process like? It sounds like you fly by the seat of your pants a lot.
RA: It happens in all sorts of different ways. Since the four of us are the song writers we’ve all brought songs to the table. It’s a big collaborative union. The initial start of the whole thing was that song “Autumn Tree.” I’d sent Andrew the lyrics and he wrote a melody for the lyrics I sent him, but sometimes we’ll all be sitting in a room and I’ll start playing the piano and start singing some words, and Marlana will jump in and then Andrew will jump in and we’ll try to figure it out. There are all kinds of ways to do it; there’s not one set formula.
BH: You guys were on Letterman recently. How was that?
RA: It was very exciting. I think we were all really nervous. We came from DC the night before and came to Lettermen at three a.m. We were all kind of zombies. It was really cool. He keeps his studio at, like, 40 degrees, so it was freezing. But we’d all grown up with that program, and our parents were excited. It was an all-around wonderful experience for us, and we can’t be more thankful to be on that program.
BH: What did it mean for you as a band, as far as exposure goes?
RA: It’s hard to say. I think it’s a nice accolade to add to our career, that experience and exposure about being on television, but we just went up there and did the best Milo Greene performance that we could and hope people will respond to it. But yeah, it’s hard to say how much that helps in the big picture.
BH: What has been your favorite part of the tour so far?
RA: The television experience was wonderful, but we played Lollapalooza as our first festival, and that was really cool. It was cool to be part of the evacuation—they evacuated for the first time because there was a crazy storm coming in. But really traveling to different cities, and people meeting people have all been an amazing experience, kind of a dream come true. Milo Greene is a recent project, but some of us have been working for this for the better part of a decade.
BH: Let’s talk about “Moddison” for a minute.
RA: We thought about doing a project that would score films. We had a month before we started our tour, so we ended up writing a screen play for a short film that would encompass our entire record. I had a friend of mine come up to silver lake, a place where we’d recorded a lot of the music, and we recorded a film that went along with the record.
BH: The music videos for “Silent Way,” “Perfectly Aligned,” and “1957” are now out. What’s coming next?
RA: I think “Don’t Give Up on Me” is coming next. I think we’ll be releasing a few [videos] over the next month or so. I guess the biggest hint would be that the videos correspond to the track numbers on the record, so people can figure it out that way.

Arnett said that “Moddison” should be released in its entirety sometime this winter, so those who want to piece together the story as it goes will want to get a jump on it now. The music videos for “1957,” “Silent Way” and “Perfectly Aligned” can be found on the band’s Web site. The curious and enthused can buy the album at http://store.warnermusic.com/milo-greene.

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