Interview: The Milk
Published on March 21st, 2012 | Jonny Abrams
Chelmsford four-piece The Milk are set to release their terrific, classic soul-tinged single “Broke Up the Family” on 2nd April, with debut album Tales from the Thames Delta to follow this summer (along with a rather exciting festival date that we’re not supposed to mention yet; let’s just say it’ll be quite the home-coming). Rocksucker caught up with the band’s bassist Luke Ayling for a hearty natter about their current UK tour (click here for remaining dates), recording their album with Brad Baloo of The Nextmen and how they came to sign to Sony…
“Broke Up the Family”
How’s the tour going?
It’s been overwhelming. This is the first UK tour that we’ve ever done. We’d just been used to gigging around London and Essex until now, so you don’t really know what to expect once you go north of the Watford Gap! But pretty much 80% of the gigs we’ve done so far have been sold out, and if they haven’t been sold out then there’s at least been over a hundred people. They’ve come up to us singing our songs, saying this one’s their favourite or that one’s their favourite, and it’s just been completely overwhelming because we just thought we’d be playing the Dog and Duck in Doncaster with no-one watching except the barman, the sound man and the geezer on the door!
It’s been such a laugh too; I’m with my brother and my two best mates, the keyboard player we’ve got with us is a great lad, the tour manager’s a top geezer, we’re going from town to town meeting up with mates and partying, so it doesn’t feel like work.
Do you know yet when the album will be out?
At the moment it looks like it should be out in the summer, around July/July time. We haven’t got a confirmed date but we finished recording the album in November. We recorded it at Toby Smith’s Angelic Studio in Northamptonshire, which is a lovely place; it was pretty much one of the best months of my life, such a laugh and we’re all really proud of the tunes we got out of it.
What was it like working with Brad Baloo? Were you fans of The Nextmen?
Where can I start with Brad? Aside from being a musical genius, his record collection is second to none, and that helps inject a cross-genre element into the band more so than with anyone else we’ve ever worked with. On top of that, he’s a closet comedy genius, the funniest person I know, and that makes working so much easier. It started off as a working relationship and now we’re all great friends, in touch every other day chucking songs and ideas at each other, even now we’re on tour.
We’ve done a lot of stuff on the side for him because he’s been working with a lot of other artists, solo singers and stuff like that, and we’ve got a little studio in Essex so every now and then he rings up and asks us to put down some drums or guitar for them. So we’ve got a close working relationship with him now, which is great because he really knows his stuff and he’s done a great job on our album.
“(All I Wanted Was) Danger”
How did you come to sign to Sony?
We just started building up a bit of momentum playing some gigs around London, and our manager started getting in touch with people. There were a few different labels sniffing around us before we got signed. It was a weird thing; we kept hearing that Sony were interested and were talking to our lawyers, and we just thought that a piece of paper would be sent over, we’d sign it, and that’s it, happy days, we’re recording artists. But the period between the offer going in and the lawyers doing their thing was pretty much the hardest time in the band, because at that point we’d all left our jobs and were living back home on the dole, wondering if all our decisions were the right ones.
We were in limbo for two months wondering if it would happen or not, not even able to go out with our friends because we didn’t have any money, just sitting at home sulking our tits off. Then we got a call on a Friday around six o’clock saying the deal was all done and we could go and sign it now, so we bombed on a train to London, went into Angel, met up with the label boss and one of the lawyers in a pub on Essex Road, got the contracts out, signed it in a red telephone box and then got absolutely smashed! The next day we had a party with all our family, and on the Monday we were in the studio with Brad recording our album, so it was a crazy 72 hours.
Your sound has a classic R&B/soul vibe to it. Who are your influences in this regard?
We’ve all got quite eclectic tastes, but the main base for us is the old Trojan and Motown back catalogue, adding rock and roll and hip-hop on top. For me, it’s mostly the Motown rhythm sections; I love the drum rolls, they’re a huge influence. I love Wilson Pickett, Booker T. & the M.G.’s…those tunes are timeless. I think that all good music across the ages has an injection of soul in it, and not necessarily soul in the traditional ’60s/’70s sense – Amy Winehouse had soul, Oasis on their first two albums had soul in there – it’s about being honest and truthful, putting that raw emotion into something catchy that can relate to anyone.
Finally, are there any other up-and-coming artists that you’d like to recommend or give a shout-out to?
We’ve been doing some of our touring with a guy called Byron, a rapper who’s been working with Brad; he’s great, really good lyrics, and we’re going to be his backing band for a couple of gigs in May, I think. We like what we’re doing as The Milk but eventually we want to be known as a sort of rhythm section as well, like The Roots.
Luke, thank you.
Hotly-tipped Essex four-piece The Milk release their excellent new single “Broke Up the Family” on 2nd April. Please visit thisisthemilk.com to order your copy and/or see a list of live dates.