Milo Greene is not a real person. Or at least there is nobody with that name in the band. But the success the Los Angeles quintet has seen leading up to its debut album is very real. After gaining attention with the gorgeous single “1957″ and developing a local fan base, Milo Greene caught the attention of the Civil Wars, who soon asked the band to join their nearly sold-out nationwide tour.
Ahead of their self-titled album, out today, I talked with guitarist/singer Robbie Arnett about the band’s recording process, its lack of a frontman and the importance of vibes.
Who is Milo Greene?
When we were in school, Andrew [Heringer] and I were in separate bands at the time, and we wanted to get more professional in terms of booking gigs and getting out there and having a press contact. So we created a MySpace for a company around this dude Milo Greene, and he would submit us on his behalf. When we started playing together, we were trying to figure out what we should call ourselves, and that was kind of fitting.
I’ve noticed in your live shows, with all of the instrument trading, there is no clear frontman.
Unlike the other bands we were in previously, once Milo Greene became a real project for us, we spent a lot of time talking about and contextualizing how we wanted to go about things. In the past, it was very much, “Here’s our rehearsal space,” and we would just jam, and then we would come up with a few good songs. But with this project we put in a lot of work that we hadn’t done with our other projects. We didn’t want a singular voice through the entire record. We wanted different sounds and obviously we were affected by the harmonies that came out of us. We all have really different voices, so when we started playing together the three-headed monster thing was pretty cool. We don’t really want the focus to be on us all being songwriters individually.
Do you all write your own parts?
It comes in all forms. There’s not really a specific way we go about writing. Initially I was sending lyrics to Andrew and then he would send back chords. I’ve written songs, Marlana [Sheetz] has written songs, Graham [Fink] has written songs, and we all just kind of work out parts and figure out what vocals work and what instruments.
You recorded your debut album in a barn in Seattle. How did that come about?
We actually recorded the record all over California and Seattle at Bear Creek. We did a lot of recording in San Inez, right outside of Santa Barbara. We linked up with Ryan Hadlock who owns a studio in Seattle called Bear Creek, and we had kind of managed to record a lot of the stuff on our own. We went up there to Bear Creek, and it was very much our vibe, kind of tucked away and calm.
In the lyrics, there seems to be a progression of some sort of relationship. Was there a conscious decision to put the songs in this storyboard order?
I don’t think there was a formulated progression for the lyrical content on the record. We all feel emotionally connected song by song and tried to base lyrics off the tone of each song. I think as far as sculpting the record or putting the songs in an order, that we made a conscious decision of having it take you from A to B rather than just pop in singles here and there. So we put a fair amount of instrumental songs on the record, and we really wanted something that you could put on as a whole instead of song by song.
So the instrumentals were more than riffs that didn’t turn into songs?
With those instrumentals, that’s what we set out for. We weren’t like “Oh, I’ve got this cool drumbeat, but we can’t have a song, so we’ll just have the drumbeat.” We definitely wanted to have some instrumentals just to fit the mood. We’re a big vibe crew, and the mood is very important to us, and we wanted the overall feeling of the record to make sense.