Niskayuna

Band from Niskayuna, pop-punk and ska band Millington, rising to the big time (with 10 photos)

Millington band member Cody Okonski, 29, of Niskayuna, practices in his studio in Niskayuna last month.
PHOTOGRAPHER:

Millington band member Cody Okonski, 29, of Niskayuna, practices in his studio in Niskayuna last month.

NISKAYUNA The homegrown Niskayuna pop-punk and ska band Millington plans to kickstart live performances next month at the local venue No Fun in Troy after a big show just weeks ago in Queens.

The band had kept a low profile since their trombonist died last summer, and until June, had last played live at his memorial service. They didn’t perform outside the studio again until the Governors Ball music festival in New York City. The local group now plans to play at Albany band Skotchka’s album release show Friday, Aug. 12.

The Governor’s Ball, which attracts tens of thousands of music fans, gave Millington a 45-minute platform in front of their biggest audience yet, where they played both covers and originals before an international audience. 

That performance ignited a spark in the band, and after a year of not putting out any new music, they posted a group photo on social media with a caption trumpeting: “Get ready for us.” After their newest single – Solo – was released in late May, many of their fans took to Twitter, tagging it “the ska track of the year.”

Cody Okonski, lead vocalist, producer and band founder, was planning to write new music right after the interview for this story: “Look out for an EP in the next six months to a year. We’ll make you laugh, cry, and dance.”

Millington is made up of six male musicians with Okonski at the heart of it all. Organizing a solid lineup has been a challenge, but the six band members who appeared at the Governors Ball are committed to Millington’s success.

Together, Okonski, Alex Maloy, Nick Cavin, Pat Faxton, Chris Paul, and Nathaniel McKeever play original pop-punk and ska music complete with brass instruments. All of the band members have previous experience as musicians varying in music backgrounds ranging from classical to country to rock. Okonski, Faxton (saxophone), and Cavin (drummer) studied music together at The College of Saint Rose while Paul (trombone) and Maloy (guitar and vocals) have been friends of the band members for years. A dedicated combination of artists was the foundation Okonski had been searching for since Millington’s inception in 2018. 

Okonski has always had a passion for music. He was a member of the band Uncle Joel’s Comb during his days at Niskayuna High School around 2008, a group that played for about six years. All of the band members were Okonski’s lifelong friends and they all shared their youth rocking out in his basement for hours and waking up the neighbors with their at-home concerts. Those memories are dear, he said.

Millington (10 photos)

Millington band member Cody Okonski practicing in his studio in Niskayuna ERICA MILLER/THE DAILY GAZETTE
Millington band member Cody Okonski ERICA MILLER/THE DAILY GAZETTE
Millington band member Cody Okonski ERICA MILLER/THE DAILY GAZETTE
Millington band member Cody Okonski works on producing the next record for Millington in his studio in Niskayuna ERICA MILLER/THE DAILY GAZETTE
Millington band member Cody Okonski ERICA MILLER/THE DAILY GAZETTE
Millington band member Cody Okonski with his custom painted Japanese main Fender Jaguar bass outside Schenectady County Public Library ERICA MILLER/THE DAILY GAZETTE
Millington band member Cody Okonski ERICA MILLER/THE DAILY GAZETTE
Millington band member Cody Okonski ERICA MILLER/THE DAILY GAZETTE
Millington band member Cody Okonski ERICA MILLER/THE DAILY GAZETTE
Millington plays at the Governor's Ball in Queens, June 2022. PHOTO PROVIDED

Uncle Joel’s Comb ceased in 2014 but Okonski’s love and dedication to his music kept going. He packed his bags and moved to California for a music production internship under John Feldman, a renowned musician and “studio wizard”, where he learned how successful bands like Sleeping of the Sirens and Five Seconds of Summer tackle their art in the studio. A lot of his job was to assist the artists, fetching coffee for Blink-182 or showing Randy Jackson from American Idol around the studio. 

“I never had more anxiety in my life but it still was a memory I’d never trade for anything. I learned a lot,” said Okonski. His effort earned him a mention in the credits in 2016 on California, one of Blink-182’s albums, a band that inspired him during his childhood. His experience working as an assistant alongside expert musicians still helps him in his writing, recording, and producing for Millington today. 

“It also made me want to compete with these big names but not rely on someone else to do it for me,” said Okonski.  

Now back from California, Okonski was ready to start honing in on his own career. His first step was reconnecting with musician Jonathon Bintz, an early member of Millington who first played with Uncle Joel’s Comb.

“We wanted to do Uncle Joel’s Comb when I got back from California but the other boys weren’t in the 518 anymore,” said Okonski. “Millington would have never existed if it wasn’t for Jon.”

When founding the band, Okonski wanted to encapsulate the great memories he cherished from his neighborhood, like playing guitar and Green Day covers with his friends.  “A big part of who I am is from this area,” said Okonski. 

The name Millington is an homage to the Schenectady street where Okonski grew up. For him, the name symbolized his roots and a promise for new memories to be made as the band grows. 

Okonski and Bintz reunited and were eager to create.

The pair took lots of their inspiration from the genre of ska music. Ska purists may claim that Millington is not an authentic ska band but Okonski said he’s okay with that. “We take elements of ska music,” said Okonski. “The ska crowd came to us early on and we love that community. We’re just more than a ska band. At the end of the day, it’s about having fun.” The band blends ska ingredients like an off-beat guitar, a horn section, or walking bass lines with pop-punk or rock elements to create the Millington sound. 

The band dropped their pilot album entitled “Millington” comprised of seven tracks in 2018 on streaming platforms like Spotify. Following the album, a few headbanging and emotion-filled singles like “University” and “Cold in the City” were released and both singles landed in Millington’s top five for most streamed songs on Spotify. “Beatdown Generation” dropped for their second EP release in 2020 and accumulated over 1.4 million streams over 73,000 hours with 188,400 listeners that span over 110 countries. The album caught the attention of Spotify ska and pop punk fans and the title song soon became their most popular track with over 850,000 streams.

Momentum came to halt after Bintz died in his sleep in the summer of 2021, Okonski said. Bintz was the beloved band member who brought Millington together and his passing left the band incomplete and lost. Millington played at Bintz’s memorial and then went almost a year without making new music.  

“It was a lull emotionally and motivationally for a lot of the members,” said Cavin. “This was a time for retooling the entire band.”

And Millington prevailed.

The band was able to land the gig at New York City’s Governors Ball after Okonski reached out to an old connection working in the music industry. Cavin made a few roof repairs to his 2000 Ford B350 and Millington hit the road en route to Citi Field. “We practiced every day for two weeks before,” said Cavin. “It’s still unbelievable now, what we did. It was the coolest experience.”

Some concerns were raised before arriving at the festival. Okonski was worried Millington would be pushed aside backstage or undervalued playing alongside acts like indie-pop stars Halsey and Clairo, R & B artist Jack Harlow, rappers J. Cole, and DJ Diesel a.k.a Shaquille O’Neal, NBA Hall of Famer. 

“I told our agent at the time to shield us from all that stuff. I didn’t want to lose all confidence right before our set when we were supposed to feel like rockstars,” said Okonski. Cavin agreed from personal experience that fresh bands encounter mistreatment and attitudes to “earn your stripes” from other seasoned bands. 

But at the Governor’s Ball, they were treated and felt like rockstars the entire afternoon.

“The Governor’s Ball wasn’t like that at all. They took care of the artists,” said Cavin. “We aren’t Halsey by any means,” he said laughing, “but we were treated with the same level of respect.”

Millington performed in the early afternoon, Cavin said. 

“It was awesome, I was freaking out. It was my first big show. I had only played in front of max, 50 people before,” said Alex Maloy, guitarist, singer, and a former student at Ichabod Crane School District. “I definitely want to start playing shows more and connecting with people. Shows mean so much more now after COVID.” 

While he said the band cannot reclaim what they when Bintz was in the mix, Okonski believes that Millington will perpetuate his legacy.

“The beauty of recording music is that you are immortalizing someone. Thousands of people are listening to him play trombone everyday,” Okonski said. “It motivates me to keep getting that sounds heard.” 

“Jon was an incredible human being,” said Cavin. “If there’s one thing I know, he wouldn’t have wanted Millington to stop.”

For further updates on Millington, the band will be posting via social media on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to keep fans in the loop about new song releases and where you can find them live next. 

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