Band Of The Week // MILK.
The Dublin alt-poppers score a triumphant introduction with their debut EP 1, the EP.
Hailing from Dublin, alt-pop quartet milk. may just be your newest summer obsession as they unveil their glittering debut EP 1, the EP. Joyfully youthful and buoyant in its exuberance, milk. explore the shared human experience of intimacy and relationships through rosy textures and cascading synths. Sparkling guitar lines espouse a bright sonic palette which evokes sensations of carefreeness and liberation, whether this is through the rock-influenced Treat Me or dreamy opener A Little More. A nostalgic goodbye is reached in finale Always On Time, as hypnotic acoustic guitars pad through ethereal vocals, building to a climax of wavy electronics and expansive brass lines before concluding on a subdued note.
A deeply evocative body of work, it may come as a slight surprise that the early stages of the EP took shape through virtual messaging services, which normally preclude the level of emotional attachment that characterises 1, the EP. Yet an ardent desire for connection saw the band overcoming these barriers to focus on genuine feelings about intimacy, and vocalist Mark McKenna expands, “whether this is wanting to be with someone physically, to respecting someone so much you hope to, one day, be more like them. I don’t know if I would consider any songs on this EP to be love songs but I would definitely consider some to be about what I thought was love at the time but just turned out to be infatuation or confusion.”
We caught up with the band to find out more about the process of producing their first EP, and get to know the people behind the music a bit better.
What’s a motto you live by?
Mark: I have a tattoo of a quote from Slaughterhouse-Five on my arm that reads “Everything was beautiful and nothing hurt.” When I read the book I was just so into the attitude and irony behind its message that we can sometimes choose to ignore the disadvantages of the world and in turn make it worse. It made me realise that life isn’t always going to be what you want and that you must learn to work with what you have.
Conor King (bass): “You make your own luck”. I think it can be really easy (especially for musicians) to see other people doing well for themselves and feel a bit jealous, but I don’t think there’s any substitute for hard work. Anyone that seems ‘lucky’ with opportunities they’ve been presented has worked to get there.
Conor Gorman (guitar): Take each day as it comes. I’m never too wrapped up in what the future holds – I just have to try to be present as much as possible.
Morgan Wilson (drums): I have a tattoo of a line from the background of a Raymond Pettibon poster on my arm – it reads “GOD IS NOW”. I remember seeing that for the first time when Mark had shown me his work and feeling like it was something I could really hold on to. The idea that your present has the power to dictate the rest of your life at all times is a daunting one, but I’ve never been sure of fate and I’d far rather the daunting feeling of having a lot to deal with than that of surrender.
If your sound had a colour, what colour would it be?
Mark: Maybe like an off-white or creamy colour? Purely because it’s the colour of milk.
Conor K: Maybe I’ve been subconsciously influenced because the colour scheme for the EP’s artwork are lighter colours but I think I’d say white, I can’t really explain why but I think in my mind we always start with a blank canvas and see where we’ll end up.
Conor G: White. It’s new and fresh. It’s a blank canvas. You can make it whatever you want, and I hope people take whatever they want from our music.
If you could set the EP to a movie, what would it be the soundtrack for?
Mark: Some sort of coming of age movie like Nick and Norah’s infinite playlist.
Conor K: Yes a feel good coming of age with a healthy dose of heartbreak would fit nicely I think!
Conor G: A coming of age movie like The Breakfast Club would probably work well.
How did you come to incorporate WhatsApp into your writing process?
Morgan: WhatsApp has been an integral part of our creative process since Mark and Gormie started working together in 2017. Given that Mark is often abroad working on other projects, it was initially a necessity and then we came to realise that it has a lot of virtue of its own, irrespective of where we are. We can send ideas to one another and discuss them at any time of day without all needing to be in the same place, and work as quickly or slowly as we want, with no pressure. Since the Coronavirus, we’ve seen just how valuable it’s been to be familiar with this digital-only system; lockdown has had a pretty limited effect on our creativity. Writing this way is all we know in this band. Social media doesn’t serve us as a band much beyond a means of communicating with listeners – it’s very important to us, but not as far as writing is concerned.
Did you come across any surprises, whether pleasant or unpleasant, when recording the EP?
Mark: When we started making the demos for the EP the sound we were going for was very ambitious and specific. I was definitely pleasantly surprised when we first went into the studio and he made our songs sound exactly how we wanted them too. It was something I thought would be a lot more difficult for him than it was.
Conor K: Thankfully I didn’t come across any unpleasant surprises, I think the one thing that took me by surprise the most was just how well the whole process flowed, obviously it we put a lot of work into it but I didn’t feel there was any day where we didn’t feel we had made progress, I never felt frustrated leaving the studio at all.
Conor G: We had the tracklist for the EP set out for a while, and then in one of the last recording sessions we got rid of one of the songs and replaced it with a new one. It was a little stressful to change plans late in a project but it was definitely the right move to make.
What are your fondest memories of producing the EP?
Mark: The whole process took so long that all the memories have genuinely just mashed into one. The whole process is just one amazing memory. There were never any stand out moments whether bad or good. The whole process was just very nice and wholesome, just writing music and hanging out with our mates.
Conor K: Honestly just being creative with my friends, I think we all want the same thing which is for the music to sound as good as it can, obviously different people might have a different opinion on how to achieve that but it’s a nice feeling of unity when we’re all striving for the same goals. Although I don’t hold onto any specific incidents, the whole process was just a lovely experience and I can’t wait to get back into the studio.
Conor G: The whole recording spanned over nearly two years. It was kind of just doing days here and there rather than spending a few weeks just doing it at once. We had lots of good memories though. Recording during the summer is nice, because we’d always have a barbecue at the end of the day and just listen back to the tunes we had made.
Morgan: I came to really enjoy the routine of working on the EP, just waking up and knowing that it was all I had ahead of me. Our producer Adam is one of my best friends, so the entire process was really comfortable. We went on many late night walks to look out over Dublin even before we worked together as musicians, and this continued throughout making the EP. Not the most juicy answer I could’ve given, but it’s something I hold dear for sure.
Do you think social media and the current digital age has helped or hindered the abilities of humans to connect with each other?
Mark: I would say it’s helped more than hindered. Any connection is a connection. I think the internet has definitely helped us and all upcoming bands with getting our music and name out in the world. It also helps with small things like texting your mates to talk or see if they’re around to hang out. The only way I could see it hindering connections is if you live on the internet, then it might make your social skills a little bit naff but that’s about it.
Conor K: I think it helps people connect, I haven’t been able to get home since the start of lockdown and I’m now able to call my Granny on Facebook messenger video chat, which is something we’d never done before so I’m really glad of the digital age in that instance but I think you need to take it for what it is. Instagram is just an app on your phone, if it can help you in any way, then great, but I don’t think it should take over your life, or that you should do things based on how it’ll look online.
Conor G: Both. Obviously if you want to have a chat with your mate, it’s much easier just to text them and never have to meet them face to face which is a definite negative. However you also have instances of being able to connect with people you haven’t spoken to in years or would otherwise have fallen out of touch with.
Morgan: Social media is an invaluable resource for many things once it is used correctly. It has given us the means to communicate and share our music and our lives with people all over the world, and I love it for that. With that said, it has certainly changed how we communicate in general, shortening people’s attention spans and taking their focus off of one another when communicating in person. It’s become such a key part of daily life in our world that I do wonder how it will affect us all long term, but the positives outweigh the negatives for me when it’s used with care for your own mental health, and that of others.
Who is someone you respect and strive to be like?
Mark: I’ve always respected my parents as most people do. They’ve provided a lot for me in my life even when I don’t deserve it and have always been my biggest supporters. Creatively I’ve always looked to people who are more general creatives than sticking to one specific lane or further progress in the lane they’re in. The likes of Tyler, the Creator, Donald Glover, Frank Ocean, Kurt Cobain, Bon Iver etc.
Conor K: I come from a very small family, it’s pretty much just myself, my parents and two grandparents. They have completely shaped the way I see and behave in the world. In times like these I’m glad I was always taught tolerance and the importance of listening, I really respect that I have never been made to feel a certain way for wanting to pursue music as a career, they’re all wonderful people.
Conor G: Probably my Dad. He just works hard and provides for me and my sister without much complaining. I took advantage of that for years, but now having moved out on my own I’ve realised how tough it can be.
Morgan: My parents helped me to understand a world that I found very confusing, and still do to this day. If I can offer that kind of unwavering support and empathy to those around me in my own life, I’ll be happy with whatever else I’ve done. My parents and Prince. That’s my answer. They’ll be happy with that.
And finally, what does music mean to you?
Mark: Music has always meant a lot to me. It mainly feels like a symbol of when my life started to make sense to me. I never really had anything I was so obsessed with I had to do it when I was a kid. When I was around 16 I decided to learn drums and became so obsessed with the process of learning music it felt like everything had clicked into place.
Conor K: As cheesy as this sounds it really does means everything to me. I’ve been fascinated by music from a young age and I’m not even remotely good at anything else!
Conor G: I know this is a bit cliché, but it genuinely means the world to me and don’t know what I’d be doing without it. It’s kind of like a best mate who’s always there for you. It’s just the perfect way to create, escape and connect with people. It’s the one language every person in the world can speak which is truly amazing.
Morgan: When I was a teenager, music meant solace and respite. Whether playing it or listening to it, it was my way of discovering a world beyond being in school and feeling like the odd one out. Now that I’ve reached a point where I can play my music with my friends for others, it’s about togetherness. It’s an opportunity to feel like a part of something much bigger.