Milquetoast & Co is comfortable in its own musical skin
In case you are wondering, the name of the band is pronounced “Milk toast and company”. It was formed several years ago and it all worked for a while until the different goals, dreams, and realities of its members led them to separate ways for a hiatus.
The wife of frontman James McAndrew was the one who many years later prompted him to reorganize the band and return to music. The rest is history. New members have contributed to the musical growth of the group that today returns stronger and more mature.
We would like to start talking from the moment the band is “reborn” with new members, do you feel it was a continuation of the first attempt or a new and different project? And why?
It was certainly a continuation at first, there was some good music that I felt was worth putting out there with a concerted effort. And if I’m (James) to be honest my wife really pushed for me to pursue this at a time where I didn’t see much of a point. She was the catalyst to all of this. In the process of finding musicians this became a different project in many ways-it was still Milquetoast & Co. sonically however the sound started becoming much bigger. As all of us became closer this turned into a really endeavor-writing together, spending a lot of time together and ultimately developing a bond beyond the rehearsal and studio spaces. Everyone really started to believe that this was a really worthwhile pursuit and the constant development is a sonic representation of us challenging each other to be better across the board.
Do you think that this more mature stage has influenced the way of creating and composing for the band?
Absolutely, there’s a little spaghetti at the wall still however knowing our strengths as \has come into play. We’ve all been doing this for long enough not to be hindered by our limitations as much as we are influenced by what we like to sound like individually. Everyone has their own style of playing. That to me (James) is indicative of the maturation process of being an active musician.
In general, it is a bit difficult to put into words the musical style of the band. There’s jazz, there’s rock, there’s blues, and various other nuances depending on the song. How do you deal with this diversity of genres?
This is the question of the hour as this has been thematic throughout our journey. It’s challenging to a point, certainly if we were shopping for a label. It’s not formulaic pop for sure; that said, there’s been an openness to different genres though we make sure not to venture too far from our “brand”. We want to keep a cohesive evolution versus sounding like several different bands within the same set so attention has to be paid to that. Luckily, we’ve hit our groove together and are comfortable in our musical skin. So far I think we’ve looked at NOT being genre specific as a strength versus a weakness.
Taking into account the style of the band, we would like to know what are the musical references that inspire the music of Milquetoast & CO?
This can be a loaded answer but the short and skinny is… When MLQ first started in Boston back in 2005 I (James) was heavily influenced by a band called Morphine and truth be told I love the sound so much I wanted to make it better instead of emulating it. This was at the turn where I went from all out punk to something a little more meaningful lyrically and musically. I wanted to hear different things, it was dramatic out of the gate and I was going through a rough patch and this was the solvent at the time. We started our as guitar/vocals, cello and drums. It was a really broken down sound. As for musical influences outside of that I could do little more that throw out a list: Morphine, Radiohead, Portishead, Bright eyes, The Eels, Otis Redding, Jeff Buckley, Ray Lamontagne, Devotchka; and more recently Andrew Bird, Nicole Atkins, Father John Misty, Black Pumas, Lord Huron. That said, all of MLQ members have their own personal influences outside of the mainstream in the classical and Jazz world. The influences are extremely diverse and I can’t speak to all of it. We try to take what we like and make it a little better than we found it…
How is the creative process of Milquetoast & CO ? Is there a lot of teamwork?
There is a ton of teamwork which comes easily as we both trust each other and respect each other as individual artists. We all want to come out of a song we’ve worked on …..
Let’s do a projection exercise. With which band or musician would you like to share the stage?
Well then… We’re currently slated for a tour with Devotchka in late November into December so we’re able to cross that one off and we’re extremely excited about that opportunity. However, Beck, Black Pumas, Lord Huron, Andrew Bird would all be amazing artists to share the stage with. Do we get to time travel at all? There are A LOT of artists throughout time that would be amazing however in terms of contemporary artists that’s a small list as we could go on and on.
From mid-November to early December you will be performing live in various cities of the country. How do you feel about this return?
It’s about fucking time. Artists want to perform and people want to see artists perform. This was the natural state of affairs prior to (the thing). I think that if people want to go listen to music they should be able to do this and DAMMIT we’ll be out there playing for anyone and everyone willing to come out. This is a beautiful way for ALL of us to come back together, the separation has come with it’s damage and we want to be a part of the soundtrack to our collective recovery. People should have live music (live shows in general) back in their lives, we deserve it, we need it.
How did you choose the repertoire that you will be presenting during the tour?
This is a really good question, we will essentially commit to doing our thing independent of Devotchka who is preparing for a more holiday-esque theme then again with them you never know. I think we’ll be able to read the rooms and know what to put out there. If the feel is a little quieter and subdued then we can pivot. We have a few versions of our set list for this string of shows.
Does the online music trade seem fair to you in economic terms? Do you think it allows musicians to earn a decent living from their art?
Whoa loaded topic… There is nothing “fair” or “unfair” but this question is so loaded… In the broadest way I can answer; the music industry is exactly that: it’s an industry built to make money by producing music and artist that the masses enjoy. There’s always going to be the big folks on top land grabbing with financial capabilities that young artists typically don’t have. This is not to say that there isn’t room in certain markets however as a whole artist are taken for granted because artists are always going to express themselves and share it. The online market share is controlled by large entities loaded with proprietary data that can’t be utilized by just anyone so there are gate keepers at every corner of the industry at large. Artists have to find a way to merge commerce with art-when it happens it’s a beautiful thing. I’m sure there’ll be another Coop kind of attempt where artists are able to “monetize themselves” and I hope it works out. That said, musicians historically either make money or do not. Making a living is the end goal however every new group that really thinks it has a shot has a small company on their hands first and that company needs to be able to afford the costs of touring, merch, PR, etc in order to compete. Until this happens first, I don’t know that the online music “trade” isn’t going to favor most artists. I don’t know many who realistically do this for the money regardless.
*This may be a rather convoluted answer for this I apologize, I can go in ten different directions with the economic fairness of musicians in a rather subjective and chaotic market place.
Milquetoast & Co renews our hopes in the musical bands that a decade ago we got more frequently. The sound is remarkably authentic and hard to find on other artists. The musical power, vocal and instrumental richness have raised their level. So if something of them got to you, listen to it and enjoy it.
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