Interview: The Milk

L-R Luke, Dan, Rick, Mitch

Hi guys, how’s the tour going?

Rick: The tour has been really enjoyable so far –unlike the other tour we did a couple of months ago it has been intermittent with festivals so you’ll go from five or six club venues to a few thousand at a festival, and then back to the club gigs again. It’s a more schizophrenic way of doing it, but it keeps you on your toes a bit more.

What has been your favourite venue thus far?

Mitch: Ibiza and Majorca Rocks. Everyone’s out on holiday and there’s a party atmosphere, but Leeds has also been really good, and Bedford.

Are you looking forward to the British festival scene?

M: I love festivals but it’s a shame about the weather! We’re doing Beach Break but Beach Break in the wet isn’t quite the same. We’re doing bigger festivals this year and we’ve gone up on the bill and onto the bigger stages, so it’s really something to look forward to.

How does getting more recognition feel?

M: You just want more of it; you have one bit and it’s like great, cheers, now where’s the next thing.

R: It’s a self-perpetuating hunger for more good news. The manager will come in and give us good news, we’ll celebrate for ten minutes and then we’re back again saying what’s next. You can understand why evil dictators exist, because you kill a few people and you want to kill a few more.

How did the band get started up?

Dan: We go way back – me and Mitch played football together in the under 9s, Mitch and Luke are brothers, and we started making music when we were at secondary school. We were a punk outfit for a bit and we were fucking awful! We toured around, chucked our gear into the back of an old Escort, packed a tent and a bag of weed and just played where we could.

What has the reaction been like?

Luke – After that we all went our separate ways and our parents said ‘go and get real jobs, you bums,’ so we did that, and a few of us did the university thing. But a couple of years into working life we all decided we hated our jobs, so we decided to give the band a go again, and things snowballed from there. It’s been really overwhelming, especially when you gig in places you’ve never been before like Bedford and they’re sold out. We’re still at that stage where a couple of people might know of us but most still don’t, so to go onstage with people scratching their chins wondering who you are to screaming your name when you’ve finished the set and singing along to the songs is pretty special.

R: We did a gig on Saturday night in Leeds and we were playing tracks from the album that have not been played on the radio before and we’re still trying to work out how people knew the words!

D: – We’ve got a little fanbase up north and they follow us from gig to gig up there.

Do your fans have a collective name?

L: Some girls called themselves the Milkettes and the lads were the Milk army, but it’s open!

How did the name for the band come about?

L: It’s the worst name…But it’s not offensive in any way and you can’t misspell it, and it is what it is. We came up with loads of stupid names on the back of this band name generator website just for a laugh, and all this crazy crap came up including Kenny Cornflakes and the Milk, so we thought we’d be called The Milk until we could think of something better to change it to. But by the time we’d thought of something better, we were signed to Sony records, so it was like ‘you’re The Milk, motherfuckers, deal with it!’ And that was that.

How would you describe your sound?

M: It’s eclectic – The Milk sounds like four of us getting together and taking key elements from soul and mixing it with contemporary hip hop.

Do you share the song writing?

D: There’s a million ways to do it and we’ve done every single way. It might be that someone comes in with an entire song, it might be that someone comes in with a riff, someone comes in with a lyric – and if someone comes in with a song, it takes the four of us to turn it into a Milk track. Some bands have the song writer and the lyricist and the other members are arbitrary, but we’re all about working together. We all write as well which helps, because it means there’s less pressure on one person to do it all, and we can share the burden.

When you started out did you have a specific goal in mind that would mean you had made it?

D: You start out wanting things like to play V Festival, and then you play there and you want to play higher up the bill next time.

R: We did Ibiza Rocks supporting Ed Sheeran, and he’s obviously a very successful artist; whether you like him or not, he’s very successful at doing what he does, and when we were hanging out backstage it came up in conversation that he was playing Wembley in a few nights time for a Capital Radio gig. And he said ‘yeah it’s great, I’m only playing three songs though’ – so even at the stage where you’re an artist being booked to play Wembley stadium, the artist is still saying, ‘I want to get further up the bill, I want to have my own set.’ And I think that’s good, because it’s not a healthy situation for an artist to be content, because you get kind of lazy and would lose your motivation. I would.

M: It’s the sort of thing you look back on when you’re fifty and you’ve done it and we’ve all split up and we hate each other, you’ll look back and hopefully be proud of what you’ve achieved. Unless you’ve got three Grammys in your pocket and you’ve headlined the Pyramid stage, I don’t think we’ll be happy! It’s all little steps – you can’t go from nothing to that straight away. We’ve got a lot more festivals this year and we’re higher up the bill, the album’s coming out, more people are slowly getting to know about us and that kicks it all off. You don’t really know when you hear about a band – what’s that moment where it clicks and suddenly everyone’s aware of The Milk? There’s a lot of hard work that goes on behind the scenes – we’re gigging round everywhere and suddenly The Milk is in everyone’s consciousness. I think we’re just on that journey now.

Do you think that will happen in the near future?

All: That’s the plan!

Would you compare yourselves to other artists?

M: I wouldn’t say there’s a direct comparison: I really like what Black Keys are doing. I think you can compare us to any soul act over the years, Maverick Sabre being one of them, Amy Winehouse being another. Our album is very much about Essex and where we’re from – there’s no conversation about New York or anything like that.

L: The easy description of us is that we’re DJs with instruments. Essex hasn’t really got a music scene, just the clubs we grew up with, and I get bored when a band stops their tunes in between. We just keep the music going and want people to have a great time, get pissed up with your mates and just enjoy the soundtrack to your evening.

R: We link our songs to little parts of other people’s songs just to keep ourselves entertained, and try and push the live show and the musicianship up a little bit.

Do you have good support back home?

R: We gigged at a club near us in Southend a couple of weeks ago right at the beginning of the tour, and there were queues round the block – it was sold out. It’s by no means Wembley stadium, but it’s one of those things that when you’re a kid fucking around in bands, you always wanted to sell out that venue in your hometown.

What’s that feeling like?

L: I think that was one for the little Milk boys when they were fourteen – a little high five to them. We did a gig at Scala in King’s Cross as the last date of our last tour, and we were thinking we’d have to do some serious work to sell the tickets. But two weeks before it, the gig had sold out, so that felt amazing.

R: They’ve just booked us for the Shepherd’s Bush Empire which is nearly three thousand people, so now we’re shitting ourselves for that! Hopefully we’ll conquer that and then we’ll shit ourselves for the next step up.

Do you think it’s good for artists to have that element of fear?

L: I think the fear helps you push on, and the pressure. If it was easy selling, everyone would do it.

D: We’re all song writers, you need to have a bit of anxiety and fucked up-ness in your head in order to write decent lyrics and songs, you need that anxiety.

Who are you influenced by?

M: It’s easier to list the ones we’re not. When it comes to song writing and ambition, we look up to The Beatles, in terms of the sound and ethos, it’s more like the rhythm section of the James Brown band.

R: Sonically, when we’re trying to put a live show together, we look to people like Chase & Status and The Prodigy because you go to a festival in the last few years and no one’s coming near people like them – they put something together that’s so huge that kids go apeshit for. I don’t really like them but Pendulum do the same sort of thing, it’s just so much more of an encompassing experience than indie bands staring at their trainers going through a three minute ditty.

L: It sounds fresher than a lot of bands who are out at the moment like Two Door Cinema Club and The Wombats.

Are there any parts of the world you want to crack?

D: When I was younger, you’d always hear about bands going to Japan, so that’s one place I’d love to tour.

L: I think we’re going to be doing a few European dates this summer. I think our sound would be good for America – it’s the classic case of English bands selling back American music to them. It worked for The Beatles!

Do any of you have any secret talents?

R: I used to pull a brilliant face called ‘the toad’, but I dislocated my jaw doing it so I can’t do it anymore.

What’s your favourite song to perform?

D: I love playing Picking up the Pieces.

R: I’m most enjoying Kimmy Kimmy.

L: I’m digging B Roads.

M: I like them all!


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