By GRACE HOWIE
On November 18 at the Talley Ho theatre in Leesburg, Virginia, I sat down with the indie rock, northern Virginia band, Milo in the Doldrums. About two years ago Robert Mays, 28, began playing what would later become Milo songs solo at different open mics. He was soon joined by friends, one of which being current guitarist, Richard Smith, 22, to form a full band. The ever-changing process that is creating a band reached its current form about seven months ago with the addition of two Ryans: Burke, 32, on drums and Wisgerhof, 22, on bass.
They described their sound as “Avant Grunge”. There is a level of familiarity that surrounds them as they are writing 90’s-esque songs with weird chords thrown in due to Jazz influences.
Mays told me how they feel; “it’s very nostalgic. People feel like they’ve heard it before.”
I agree with this, especially in regards to their newest song, “Built for No One” which was stuck in my head for days following the concert. They recently played at Sofar Washington, D.C. and a performance of this new song, lowkey about how terrible Trump is, can be found on Sofar Sounds’ YouTube channel.
This show in November followed a summer tour which they all said was a great experience. The band that they toured with, Kid Brother, was also performing at Talley Ho that evening and their relationship and energy could be felt throughout the night. Mays explained how they fed off of each other throughout the tour which caused them to be able to bring out rawer energy. Mays says he became more focused on vocals and things like that which at the completion of the tour he felt everyone gained a “little bit more of what needed”.
The performance they gave at Talley Ho was a reflection of this. The sound was extremely tight and professional, but they still had fun with it. There was a dynamic that was entertaining to watch as the members of the band interacted with each other on stage. The first time I saw them at Jammin’ Java I felt this way too; it was as if the audience was privy to a jam session in someone’s living room. This may be influenced by the fact that there is always the odd seemingly-random person who joins them on stage, jumping around dancing, and making everyone smile. They seem almost oblivious to the fact that there’s an audience and are just have a great time, which causes everyone else to also have a great time. Their explanation?
“What is it if your buddies aren’t a part of it?”
I find that Milo in the Doldrums are serious about music, but do not take themselves too seriously. As someone who has spoken to a substantial amount of musicians, ego is something that I always find tends to be hindering as a group is attempting to become successful. Over-inflated egos are something these four lack and I found it extremely refreshing. They explained how being in the studio is the serious part. It’s still fun though and there’s a feeling of pride following since it is a much longer process. The shows then are the instant gratification. The songs “take the most shape on stage and it’s a good place to test out material.” They also mentioned how after a show they’re always ready to party and hang out with friends, although to me it seems the hanging out takes place during the show just as much as after.
I look forward to hearing what Milo in the Doldrums will create next. They explained that with the foreseeable permanency of their current members, going forward the writing process will be more democratic and collaborative. Right now the sound is extremely characteristic and cohesive with the same danceable melodies accompanied by Mays’ distinct vocals and lyrics throughout the different releases. How this will change with the additional sources of creation is something I love about music and will keep an ear out for with this group in particular.
They’re planning to put out an EP early 2018. They will be playing during the opening week of Union Stage on December 29. Until then, you can find them on Facebook, Instagram, Spotify, Apple Music, and Bandcamp.