My Blog__ MILK MUSIC: INTERVIEW WITH ALEX
The first time I saw Milk Music play was when our bands were playing together in their hometown of Olympia, Washington at Old School Pizza (an infamous hangout that serves slices by day and illegal punk shows by night). The place was packed. I was debilitated from our show in Portland the night before. When Milk Music started their set my ears perked at the first riff. The drumming was steadfast and simple, the bass was full-bodied and the guitar reminded me of something my teenage self would have listened to repeatedly while laying stoned on my bed. I peeled myself out from behind the merch table and cupped my head in my hands, perched behind an amp. I was transfixed. It felt good. Everything about Milk Music made me feel really good. So good in fact that I was too chicken to tell them how good I thought they really were. As we drove to Canada that night I couldn't get their songs out of my head.
Fast-forward to a week later and I'm on Facebook. I notice that someone has posted a few photos from the show in Olympia. Three beers deep, bored and willful, I comment on a photo of Milk Music. "These guys are hot." The next day the singer/guitarist Alex Coxen, "liked" the comment. This opened the flood gates for a very "un-Olympia" start to a very "Olympia" friendship.
I decided to talk with Alex about Milk Music's LP Beyond Living, how he got into guitar and the business of independent music because everyone who reads my blog should know about the goodness of Milk Music.
Where did you record your record Beyond Living and what was it like?
Alex: We recorded with Capt Tripps in Olympia, Washington. He's got a bunch of great 60s and 70s gear stockpiled so you can record anything. It took a very long time [to record this album] and it broke me several times. There are versions of this [record] that no one will ever hear just because I wrote these songs and had to make them emotionally moving but it had to have the right balance of what was in my head for so long. It took time.
Are you a perfectionist?
I think most musicians are.
Alex: I don't. The musicians you remember, maybe.
What do you write songs about?
Alex: What's inside my life. What's happening. Life music. I guess it's spiritual. No politics.
I thought I heard you say the word "political" in the song "Fertile Ground".
Alex: The line is "political angst will never flow in the dark where the real feelings grow".
Are lyrics important?
Alex: Yes, extremely. My own that is. There's a big lack of sincerity in music now and we're fighting that.
When did you learn the guitar?
Alex: When we started the band.
Alex: I had guitars before and knew a few chords, but that was it. I would just play and play until things clicked. It was fun. Joe [drummer in Milk Music] didn't know how to drum either. We would just play and play and then we would do something right and be like, "[That] was just like that Husker Du song" and we'd both understand one another. We also used to practice like twenty hours a week.
It makes it extra cute that you dudes are brothers.
Alex: So yeah, at some point after about six months it was like, "Hey, we learned how to be good!" We never did covers to get started. I liked writing music - the hooks.
You guys are very good at the hooks. What has Milk Music been doing now that the record is out and everyone is paying attention?
Alex: We have been stockpiling and saving all winter to take America. That happens in May. I can't afford underwear right now but you should see the new amp. We want [tour] to be good. We don't come from money, you know and this record cost us $4500 out of our own pockets.
And you guys have had a lot of label interest but you refuse to sign to a label? Why?
Alex: You wouldn't believe how many I've turned down. What's the point of having a record label in fucking 2011?
Alex: Yes, the distribution aspect is nice but we just need to re-think our business model. We have a legit business. It's wild.
Alex: I will say that by selling and distributing the records ourselves we make enough profit to press the records better. Modern records tend to look like shit and I blame digital format but whatever. Take Nu Sensae for example, beautiful poster and layout. So we aren't trying to underground, you see. You are purist and you choose to suffer for your art, because how long will that last? Three or two more albums? I want to make it good. I want a family someday. If our business model doesn't fail us we will function as a band for a few more releases, that will get easier because the releases will start to pay for themselves then when we decide to cash out we will have like five to twelve thousand each because of LP sales.
Do you consider Milk Music a band and a business?
Yes, if we want to be strong on our own.
Milk Music will be playing Chaos in Tejas in Austin, Texas this summer as a part of their North American wide tour. They are so punk they don't have a website where they post tour dates so you can just add Alex on Facebook (his alias is a secret so good luck).