A couple weeks ago, I got the amazing opportunity to hang out with indie-pop band Milo Greene. Milo Greene is comprised of Graham Fink, Robbie Arnett, and Marlana Sheetz who are all extremely talented vocalists/multi-instrumentalists/songwriters.The band, fresh off their release of their third full album Adult Contemporary, is trekking cross-country in a van to play some old and new music for their fans. I hung out with them backstage at their Chicago concert at Lincoln Hall. Most of my time was spent with member Graham Fink, as Marlana and Robbie tended to some technical difficulties on stage following their soundcheck, but they did join in later on. We talked everything from their new album to their favorite movies to what it’s like to tour the country with your best friends.
Ally Kvidt: Is there any place that you’re super excited to be playing?
Graham Fink: You know, I’m really excited for Portland. It’s a venue called Doug Fir. Its really awesome. We’ve played there a lot. We’ve headlined there two or three times. We opened up a radio show there with The Hives and Dinosaur Jr. once and it was incredible. But this time, now that we’ve grown up a little bit and realized that sometimes we need to spend money for enjoyable experiences, we decided to rent hotel rooms at the venue rather than drive out of town to a dumpy hotel somewhere. So, we actually get to play, hang out, have some drinks, and just like walk two steps and pass out. So that like feels like the culmination of playing somewhere a lot and finally doing it the right way. From a comfort standpoint, that’s going to be fun.
AK: Is there any songs that you’re excited to play live, or for your fans to hear live?
GF: I mean all the new stuff is really exciting. We’ve kind of crafted some instrumental jam outros on a couple of songs on the new album which are really fun for us to play because we traditionally haven’t expanded our songs for the live setting. We kind of usually play them just the way they are. So to have just kind of instrumental sections, we can just groove out and dance around with each other. It’s just fun, something a little different. Yeah, so like “Slow” and “Please Don’t” are two that are very, very fun on this tour so far.
AK: So, this is your tour in almost three years right?
GF: Yes, first proper tour in almost three, yeah. We did the west coast in the beginning of 2017, but other than that we haven’t done a full national tour since spring of 2015.
AK: How does it feel then to be back on tour with everyone again?
GF: It’s, uh, it’s good. It’s been fun. In the same spirit of what I was just talking about in being older and valuing our comfort, we’ve been getting our own hotel rooms on this tour which is really a game changer. We’re spending a little bit more money for it, but like having time at night for everyone to have their space, get their sleep, and not have to talk to anybody has been really great. And it’s just been fun. It’s been long enough where it’s exciting to play shows and to see people singing along to the new album its very gratifying.
AK: And you guys have been together for so long it must just feel like family by now.
GF: Oh, we are very much a family. All the good, all the bad, all the ugly. We are all siblings. We know what makes one another tick, and what gets one another super angry, but we love each other a lot. We’ve been a band for 8 years so, it’s pretty wild.
AK: In an older interview, you talked about how you wanted to create music that could be played for TV or movies. Is there any movie or TV show that you remember the soundtrack being so good you were like, “yeah thats what I want to do for the rest of my life?”
GF: That’s a good one. I mean, tons. I’m sure each of us would have a different answer for that one. I mean it’s interesting. I think we’ve always looked at the cinematic aspect of our music in a few ways. There’s the concept of scoring music for movies that we all dabble in a little and want to do more of. And then there’s just the appeal of making songs that are good pop music that have a home in TV shows and movies, and we’ve had a lot of luck having our songs be put in stuff like that. As far as a TV show or movie that really nailed it, I loved There Will Be Blood, and Jonny Greenwood scored that. The percussive elements, and the anxiety he can induce with his use of non-traditional instruments that he’ll introduce to scoring is really cool. I don’t know that’s a good one to have Robbie and Marlana chime in on.
Graham and I took a quick intermission to talk about movies he has been watching on the road. According to Graham, Robbie has been watching most of the movies and is not sharing, but he does recommend Leave No Trace. Now, back to the regularly scheduled programming.
AK: If Adult Contemporary was a movie what would it be?
GF: Definitely a John Hughes’ movie. I think like some collaborant of Breakfast Club, Pretty in Pink, and honestly everything from that era. That's really what we were drawing on for the music. Those movies all have soundtracks that are so much that era, and so on the nose. They’re fun, they’re emotional, they’re kind of cheesy, and they don’t take themselves too seriously. That's definitely the cross section we were shooting for on this album.
AK: When you guys write new material, what is that process like? Is it more of an individual thing, or is it more of a collaborative effort?
GF: It’s super collaborative. In this band, there’s three of us who write a ton of music constantly, but for this album we really made an effort to do it together. We went to Nashville, and wrote with some collaborators, and got in some different studios with some different producers, and we just did it together, and that gave way to a super cohesive album that we are all really excited about. It's always a different experiment, but that was the story for this album.
AK: Your sound has obviously evolutionized since Milo Greene and even control. We talked about movies you drew inspiration on but is there any specific artists you drew on or genres you wanted to capture with this album?
GF: The entire realm of adult contemporary, and all the artists that were big in that day, like Rod Stewart, Sting, Bryan Adams, Whitney Houston, Celine Dion. That was the stuff we were like, “Fuck man. They write really great ballads, and really great power pop songs.” I think we just tried to draw on that, and just have fun with it. Not over think it, not complicate it, which is great. Just good songs that felt good and sounded wholesome.
Member Robbie Arnett rolled into the greenroom, so he got the opportunity to chime in on the next few questions.
AK: How would you describe Adult Contemporary to someone who hasn’t heard it before?
GF: I mean I almost feel like the answer is the answer to the last one. It feels like a John Hughes movie. If a modern day pop band payed homage to late 80s cinema soundtracks. Just like a lot of sincere harmonies.
Robbie Arnett: It’s right in that line of the earnest sincere to that grandiose vibe of the early 90s/late 80s that every balladeer was kind of channeling.
AK: You guys are obviously all extremely talented musicians and songwriters, so is there any advice you can give to someone who maybe wants to pursue songwriting, or performing their own music?
RA: I mean, to write like a decent song, you have to write a thousand songs. So as many hours, and as much time you can put into listening to different songwriters, and learning different variations of structure, and honing in on that. I mean, there’s so many different types of songwriters, lyric based, melody based, players. It sounds like a dad, but you can’t really go around just not practicing and not writing.
GF: I mean, we must’ve thrown away what, 50 songs in the process of making this album? And even now that’s a really hard thing to do. You write something then get attached to it, and think it's special, and coming to terms with the fact that not everything you write is as good as it could be, and being willing to ditch stuff is a hard thing to do, but an important thing to do.
Marlana Sheetz strolls in after finally solving the tech issues on stage. The playful sibling banter starts with Graham telling her I have a question for her and her immediate response is, “Do I get my period? Yes.” Finally answering that toilsome question, we decided to circle back around to the previous question of if there was a specific movie or TV show that inspired their drive to create cinematic music.
Marlana Sheetz: I mean, I think like, we didn’t realize it, all of us didn’t realize it growing up, but a lot of times a soundtrack to a film is what makes the film, and give it the right mood and the emotion for that scene or what have you. I think we knew we liked film already, and we realized later that it had a lot to do with the emphasis on the music. You try watching a movie without the score in it, and it’s just fucking weird. Does that answer your question?
It sure did answer my question. My time spent with Milo Greene was time that I will truly cherish forever. I told this to them, but I fully do believe that they are reminding people of what music is all about. Creating a space full of love, acceptance, and just a place to be vulnerable with yourself. Their love for their craft and their genuine passion for what they do is inspiring. They were the same people on stage as they were off stage. They are just having fun and playing music they love for people who love it just as much. Also, if you are looking for any TV show/movie recommendations, Marlana recommends Godless, and Robbie says that Rest in Bone, Holy Motors, and Heat are all good ones to check out.