Milo Greene is a band without a single front man or leader.
In fact, the Los Angeles-based band has four — Robbie Arnett, Graham Fink, Andrew Heringer and Marlana Sheetz all collaborate equally in the songwriting on Milo Greene’s self-titled debut, released in the U.S. last summer. Not only that, the four switched off on lead vocals throughout the album’s 13 tracks, and traded off on all the instruments except for drums, which were handled by Curtis Marrero.
Live, the group operates in much the same fashion, trading instruments and vocals and shifting the focal point to each of the four members at different points in a show. The band’s business is also handled democratically, with each member taking charge of a different aspect, from merchandising to online materials.
Given that each of the band’s four singers used to lead his or her own band, the dynamic within Milo Greene has been something of an adjustment for them. But according to Heringer, it’s been for the better.
with MaryLeigh Roohan
Where: The Linda, WAMC’s Performing Arts Studio, 339 Central Ave., Albany
When: 8 p.m. Saturday
How Much: $15
More Info: 465-5233 ext. 4, www.wamcarts.org
“I had my own band before this, and I was in charge of everything — the websites, the T-shirt designs — and I’m not a graphic artist,” he said recently from New York City.
“Personally, my thing is, I’ve played music for a really long time, so I’ve always loved the musical side of it and everything that goes into that — that’s my favorite part about this. So when you team up with a lot of different people, like what Milo is, you have people who do more of the business side, or the social side, and it becomes a small business. I think you just have to figure out what everyone’s role is — that’s definitely where all these alpha males can come together.”
The band has been taking its “cinematic pop,” as they’ve called it in the past, around the world since the album’s release — they’ll be at The Linda on Saturday night for a stop on a two-week run of smaller towns on the East Coast, stretching from Vermont to Virginia.
The choice of “cinematic pop” as a genre label is no accident, with the band designing the album as a complete experience akin to a film score or soundtrack. Shortly after the album’s release, the band put together a film made up of music videos for each of the album’s 13 tracks, titled “Moddison” after one of the short instrumental transitions.
Milo Greene began in 2009 as a long-distance project between former college classmates Heringer and Arnett. Heringer was living in Northern California while Arnett was in Los Angeles.
“We had kind of played with some of the same musicians a whole bunch, but never played together [while in college],” Heringer said. “We started sending things back and forth over email — songs that we found inspiration in, lyrics, songs we were writing. I think Robbie and I always had — we never really collaborated before, but we really valued each other’s opinion. So it started out that way, long distance. He sent me some lyrics, I put those to music, we ended up doing a little recording session and what came out was a version of ‘Autumn Tree’ that was on the album.”
Band comes together
That song ended up being the catalyst for the rest of the material. Soon Fink and Sheetz became involved, and the group continued recording demos at a cabin in Shaver Lake, Calif., owned by Heringer’s family (the cabin is featured prominently in the film “Moddison”).
“We were just hanging out and having fun, just creating art to create art and have fun, experiment, do something different,” Heringer said. “We did another demo session six months later, and by the end of that we had five songs, a little piece. We all — we turned off the lights, laid on the floor and blared it in the studio, listened through it, and realized we had passed into something that we hadn’t really had before.”
The surreal film, which follows a couple in a jumbled time line, was created long after the album was finished. However, the group had been discussing different ideas for bringing other art media into the music, and the film seemed a natural choice given the flow of the album.
“That’s something we would love to do for every one of these records — maybe next time we’ll do a short movie,” Heringer said. “I think the idea of — we all love movies, we all love cinema, and we’d love to be scoring movies down the line. For us, too, the music is so visual that it just kind of paints the landscape.”
Live, the band takes a different approach. Because the band members switch instruments and lead vocal duties, the songs in the set lists are placed so that the switches happen at strategic times, in order to give the performance a better flow.
“I think live is just such a different beast — the objective is totally different,” Heringer said. “You’re in this room with a group of people, so you’ve got to kind of entertain them; you’ve got to build a different kind of arc to the whole evening.”
Reaction to the band’s unusual setup has been quite positive, with the group selling out shows on its recent United Kingdom tour, where the album was just released in January. “I’d never been to England before two weeks ago, and to show up and have all these rooms full of people — how do a people a third of the way across the world know my music?” Heringer said.
What’s in a name?
The band’s name has also caused some confusion among fans who think Milo Greene is an actual singer.
“Every now and then I see Tweets — ‘I love Milo Greene, his voice is so good!’ ” Heringer said. “I mean, it was always a joke — the idea of having a band called Milo Greene. That was something that started when we were all in college, and we had a fake booking agent — we would send out emails as Milo Greene to get gigs. We were in college trying to figure out how to seem professional, and now here I am driving around playing shows under the name Milo Greene. I wouldn’t have believed it seven years ago, but here we are.”