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Milo Greene represents an impressive evolution in many ways. What began as a collection of friends is now a four-year musical partnership about to release their second album. In 2009, Andrew Heringer, Robbie Arnett and Marlana Sheetz began making music together and added Graham Fink into the mix after moving to Los Angeles shortly thereafter. As the group made their cinematic debut album, released in 2012, Milo Greene shifted into a fully tangible being, a force created by four distinct songwriters and musicians whose collaboration consistently remains its center.
Last summer, after touring extensively and playing festivals like Lollapalooza, Bonnaroo and Outside Lands in support of Milo Greene, the musicians came home and began writing new music. The band wrote separately, each constructing their own ideas, bringing in varied, individual influences, putting the pieces together as a collective. There was a unified focus on percussion and on creating more up-tempo tracks, specifically ones with rhythmic, dance-inducing grooves.
“The sound has evolved, but this band is the four of us as writers and singers,” Graham notes. “It’s very centered both on our vocal presences and our identities as writers. We come from different perspectives so that cross-section is what makes us distinct from what we would be as individuals. It’s the sum of the parts thing.”
The four songwriters came in with a wealth of material, eventually whittling 17 songs down to the 13 that appear on Control. There was an unintentional through line in the songs as many of the band members were grappling with the end of relationships and with what it means to come of age in a band on the road. The dark, angst-tinged subject matter is juxtaposed with the buoyant sensibility in the music itself, building a dynamic tension between what is said and how it is conveyed. The title of the album represents a spectrum of ideas, reflecting the give and take of control and the shared sense of control within Milo Greene itself.
“The title speaks to the idea of the individual getting out more on this record, whether it’s playing or singing,” Robbie says. “It’s about how we trade and share that control.”
“Control is not specific to one thing,” Marlana adds. “To some, it’s about authority or domination. To others, it’s about having control over your own emotions. The title means something different to each of us.”
Throughout the writing process Milo Greene collaborated with several mentors, including drummer Joey Waronker who has worked with Beck and Thom Yorke. Waronker played drums on several tracks on Control and helped guide the rhythms that thread through the songs. The band’s longtime live drummer Curtis Marrero also helped define the rhythmic sounds. The final album was recorded in the spring of 2014 with producer Jesse Shatkin (Sia, Foster The People, Ellie Goulding) at his home studio in Highland Park over the course of two months. “Jesse comes from a pop and hip-hop background so he was a good person to help play with what we wanted to do with this music,” Graham says. “He had a very calming, exploratory effect on us. He really helped balance the four of us and make this record flow.”
“With this album there was a conscious choice to push the sound of Milo Greene in new directions,” Andrew notes. “Four years had gone by since we’d started writing the first album and naturally the music we were drawn toward had shifted as well. We ended up putting a lot of emphasis on the rhythmic foundation of the drums as well as exploring new instruments like synthesizers to fill out the sonic landscape.”
In the studio, the musicians wanted to ensure that each singer’s individual voice had its moment. Where the four voices had always combined on Milo Greene, Control reveals each musician alone and how they all come together as one. “On The Fence,” the album’s debut single, reflects this aesthetic as the singers play off each other over the soaring, propulsive indie pop melody. “White Lies” relies on a soulful groove, its surging chorus driven by the song’s percussive elements, while “Lie To Me” balances a thumping beat with a lush, orchestral melody. These songs represent a more recent facet of Milo Greene’s ongoing evolution: Control combines the haunting, cinematic expanse of their debut with new, energized elements, urging a more upbeat tone overall. Milo Greene has become something else entirely.
“This feels like a new beginning in some ways,” Robbie says. “We learned so much on the first album – about how to tour, about songwriting, about being a band. Now we’ve had these experiences and everything feels like it’s aligning more completely. We’ve grown with our experiences. We’re at a place right now where it feels new and it’s exciting to see the next stage of Milo Greene.”