Ask the Bassist: Milk Music's Dave Harris
In a little four-block town called Olympia, Washington, a band called Milk Music was born. Two brothers, Alex Coxen and Joe Rutter (who couldn’t play music yet), dreamed of starting a band. So, they did what all good Olympians do: They learned their instruments, toiled and toiled, until they came out with some off-beat, catchy hits, Then, under the name "Milk Music," they released their debut EP, Beyond Living. They added bassist and good friend Dave Harris and went on tour. The world fell in love. At rapid speed, Milk Music and their 90s-inspired sad-boy rock anthems caught the attention of critics all over, and soon, “Out of My World” became the go-to get-happy drunk track of North American punk kids.
Milk Music recently announced that their LP, Cruise Your Illusion, will come out on Fat Possum this year. I talked to bassist Dave Harris about Milk Music's forthcoming debut full-length.
Noisey: Last time I properly interviewed Alex, he gave me this business plan about remaining label-less and treating this like a business, walking away with a chunk of cash. But now you guys have signed to Fat Possum? Why the change of heart?
Dave: Not that much has changed, really. We still self-release our records on vinyl and plan to do so for as long as we do this. Fat Possum came to us with an offer that we felt opened up a lot of opportunity for us without us having to fundamentally change the way we do things as a band. They are representing us in the digital realm, doing things for us that we don't have the time or sufficient interest to do for ourselves. There probably wouldn't be a CD if it wasn't for Fat Possum, so I look at it as building an extra layer on top of the foundation that is already in place. Plus, everyone we have dealt with has been totally cool and seems to have a pretty good understanding of what we are trying to do as a band.
That’s great. What do you think about when you are playing bass? You look like you are thinking about everything BUT music sometimes.
Ha! I kind of am. I rely on a lot of "muscle memory" to get through a show. If I think about a song too much, I will invariably fuck something up. My brain gets in the way of my fingers. It's a delicate balance for me up there. On one level, I have to remain hyper-aware of what is going on with the song, so that I can hear and react to what everyone else is doing and play the right parts at the right time, but I can't let myself think about it too much or dwell on any one particular aspect or the whole thing comes flying off of the rails. It's a real Eastern thing: attentive non-attention is what I would call it, I guess. I come from a pretty amateurish, self-taught, musical tradition, and bass is a relatively new instrument for me, so I just do what works.
How has Milk Music changed in the last year?
If anything, I would say that we have opened up a little bit. We have made a conscious effort to become more comfortable with the space and dynamics finding their way into the music. The music swings and moves a little more. I think you'll really be able to hear it on the new record.
Who did the album art for the new record?
Alex did all the artwork. Hayes from Perennial and I helped with the layout stuff on the computer, but as far as everything involving a pen, pencil, and paper goes, It was all Al.
Do you all still live in Olympia? Is Alex still in that attic?
Not really. Chuck is the only one there full-time right now. Alex is living in Port Townsend, his ancestral home. Joe is in Georgia, and I'm bouncing around here and there. We all plan to spend one more month there, practicing for our next tour. Then, God willing, we'll scrape the mud off of our boots, hit the road, relocate somewhere warm and sunny, and live happily ever after.
Tell me about the recording and concept of Cruise Your Illusion.
We recorded this record with Captain Tripps at High Command in Olympia. We recorded to four-track 1/2-inch tape, like the Beatles. Because of the track limitations, all of the basic tracks were recorded together at the same time, live in the studio. We then bounced those four-tracks down to a stereo mix on a second four-track so we would have room for vocals and overdubs. It's a pretty primitive way to record, but it adds a lot of vibe and feel to the recordings. The whole process took a long time, but we had decided out of the gate that we were not going to rush things with this one. Some of the songs are old and some of them were written in the studio, but I feel like the record has a very cohesive sound and I am very proud of it. "Cruise" was mastered for analog and digital by John Golden, who is simply amazing at what he does.
You guys toured Europe/UK and did quiet well, gaining a lot of UK press. Are you all welcoming to press now? What is your perspective on the band's publicity?
We are still getting used to it. It seems to help for the most part, I guess. I try not to read too much about the band if I can help it. Whether it is good or bad, it will get into your head eventually and start competing with your own ideas. That shit will make you feel crazy for sure.
Mish reads stuff about herself on the Internet and it makes her feel crazy - @myszkaway