Milo Greene Takes Us Inside Their Enigmatic Music and Third Album ‘Adult Contemporary’
Los Angeles indie pop group Milo Greene is an act like no other. With three of the members alternating on lead singing duties, and songs that shuttle effortlessly between disparate styles, the band has a strikingly dynamic sound. Their 2012 self-titled debut was a set of rustic, organic songs, and 2015’s “Control” found them expanding their sound with nods to the ‘80s, and forays into dancier, more percussive territory. Their latest release is an amalgam of everything they’ve done to date, showcasing a band really honing in on the sounds they’ve perfected over the years.
With such a hodgepodge of genres, it can be difficult to place Milo Greene, and the band has seemingly taken note of this, and helped us out by naming their new album “Adult Contemporary.” Yes, Rod Stewart, coffee mugs, Volvos, etc. — finally, someone has embraced it. Granted, it’s all a bit tongue-in-cheek, which makes it all the more enjoyable. There’s an understated humor to the album, and a lighthearted feel. It’s a treat to anyone who simply enjoys music, and can laugh about the relative absurdity of compartmentalization. There are roughly equal parts folksy fair and dancefloor-friendly bangers, but ultimately just a set of solid songs. Robbie Arnett, Graham Fink, and Marlana Sheetz of the band spoke with Entertainment Voice to elaborate on the nature and sound of Milo Greene and the details of their exciting new album.
What were you going for by titling the new album “Adult Contemporary?”
Robbie: “Adult Contemporary” is a direct nod to the music we were inspired by when we were writing the album in Nashville. The first songs started to feel akin to Rod Stewart, Bryan Adams, Sting, Peter Gabriel, Phil Collins, etc. and we decided to take the genre concept and run with it. Think it’s also a reminder to the three of us to have a sense of humor about ourselves and not take things too seriously. We are a rock band, after all, and for a minute we’d lost touch with that tongue-in-cheek quality a bit.
“Adult Contemporary” is one of those genre labels that doesn’t really describe a style of music as much as it does a lifestyle — to deserve the “adult” designation, it’s only important that music not be too edgy, too trendy, or too urban. You seem to poke fun of this with the computerized voices describing the genre. On the other hand, “indie” and “pop” are also ambiguous terms. Your music is pretty polished, accessible, moderate and unassuming. What genre would you consider your new record?
Marlana: I think part of the appeal and humor in branding an album “Adult Contemporary” is that genre has always been absurd to us. When we started out we called ourselves cinematic pop, others called us indie folk, then we were called indie pop as we evolved. I think people gravitate toward genres because it makes it easier to compartmentalize different artists into different moods — similarly to the way Spotify and Apple playlists operate. In reality we’re just a collective of songwriters trying to find common ground and make something we’re all equally passionate about — that takes us where it takes us, and it’s different on every album. By using a genre as an album title, hopefully listeners can spend less time trying to decide what to call us, and more time just immersed in the songs.
Does your single “Young At Heart” conflict with the “adult contemporary” designation?
Robbie: I don’t think so… musically it feels right on the money, and lyrically I think a massive part of adult contemporary music is that nostalgia for the past — for younger times. That’s a universal sentiment, especially as we get older. Hell, we have nostalgic feelings for the early days of this band at this point — it’s been 8 years!
Most bands have a single singer, and that helps them zero in on a specific sound to brand themselves around. There are many bands with two singers, but you have three. This allows you to have a very dynamic, versatile sound. How does your unique lineup arrangement affect the idea of the band, as you see it?
Graham: The interplay between our voices and our ability to harmonize has always been the foundation of Milo Greene. It’s what makes us unique and why there’s always something distinctive to the music we make together, versus what we make apart. It allows us to tap into very different emotional ranges, and I think that’s what’s special about our catalog, and “Adult Contemporary” specifically. The sweetness of Marlana’s voice, the smokiness of Robbie’s, and the low grit of mine allow us a great deal of versatility in architecting songs.
What’s the most dramatic way in which your new album stands apart from your previous releases?
Marlana: There’s always been a bit of fragmentation in Milo Greene albums. Songs have come from a number of different people, combinations, origins — and there’s still some truth to that on this album. But these songs by and large we wrote together, we developed together, and we produced together with Bill Reynolds. There’s a cohesiveness to this batch of songs because we fleshed them out in one place and had a vision for the mood and genre while they were still in their infancy. It really feels like a culmination of all the different strands that have made up our past releases, blended together and matured into something completely new, but still familiar.
Your first album was totally rustic. 2015’s “Control” found you trying out some new sounds, and the new record still has the folky elements, but along with plenty dancy, ‘80s-informed numbers. How did this change in musical direction come about?
Graham: Subsequent releases have always been reactions to those that came before. The first album was completely organic — it was the batch of songs that came together as we all started writing together and those songs were written largely on acoustic guitars. “Control” was an attempt to do something different — to start with grooves and find a different, dancier soundscape to suit our harmonies. “Never Ender” was a foray into a bit more of a classic rock landscape, nodding to some of our heroes like Bowie and Fleetwood Mac, and centered more on electric guitars. Given all those directions, with “Adult Contemporary” we felt like we had complete freedom to go whatever direction we wanted, and what naturally came about was an amalgam of all the musical directions we’d played with in the past. This album is emotional, but driving, while still dancy at times, and gritty at others. It’s organic, but synthetic — and modern, but still drenched in nostalgia and sonic references to a bygone era. It genuinely feels like the perfect culmination of the eight years we’ve spent together in this band.
The ‘80s flavor also made its way into the awesome music video for your single “Move.” What was the inspiration for the video?
Marlana: Celine Dion. Honestly that pretty much sums it up. We just wanted to make a video that felt like it could’ve been plucked from the late 80’s. Originally we were going to release doves and have backup dancers, but you can’t have it all.
Marlana, you’ve said before that when you started the band, you wanted to create music that we could see being placed in movies and TV. Your music certainly is visual. What type of film do you imagine the new album syncing up to?
Marlana: There’s been someone on Instagram syncing our new songs to scenes from various movies ranging from the “Breakfast Club” to “Titanic” to “Drive.” I can’t wait to see what they come up with next. To me, this new album feels like an 80’s/90’s rom-com or a coming of age teen classic like “Sixteen Candles” or “Say Anything.”
Is there any track on the new record that feels to you like an especially definitive Milo Greene song, and if so, why?
Graham: We’d probably all answer this a bit differently, but for me, “Drive” really feels like it sits perfectly in the center of the Milo Greene universe. It’s emotional and tells a story, it features a combination of organic instruments and synthetic sequencers, it highlights the blend of our voices, and it’s incredibly nostalgic and cinematic.
You’re about to embark on your first headline tour in three years. With so much musical range on this new album, how does it translate to the stage? What can fans expect from your live show?
Robbie: We’re honestly still arranging a set list and deciding what to play, but we’re trying to assemble a show that has significant peaks and valleys and feels cohesive. Our live show has always been a forum to tie together the different styles of our band in one place, and do it all with a surge in energy. We’re gonna give everything we’ve got on this tour, so excited to get back out there.
“Adult Contemporary” is available Sept. 7 on Apple Music. Milo Greene’s tour runs from Sept. 22 to Nov. 14 with stops at NYC’s Elsewhere Oct. 11 and L.A.’s Teragram Ballroom Nov. 14. All tour dates and tickets are here.