On September 1st, the band Milk St released their latest album V3RMONT, and we caught up with them to ask a few questions about their latest album. Milk St is a fun "northeast emo" band. In this interview, we cover precisely what "northeast emo" is, and the meaning behind V3RMONT.
MSM: So, who is Milk St?
Jonah: I am Jonah, and I sing in the Band Milk St. Then there's Gabe, who plays bass, and then Harry plays drums. And we write, some of us will come up with a guitar part, or we'll do backing vocals. We're all in the car right now. We're on tour, so we're all here right now.
MSM: Hi, guys! Okay, so you released Vermont two weeks ago. Time has moved very fast. And how was the process with that? Because it sounds good, you have banjos in, don't you?
Jonah: Yeah, yeah. There are banjos in it. So we released the album and then
had four singles come out. But with the album, I mean, we've been recording it since we have our little studio, so we'll record demos, and then we'll like, okay, how do we want this here? How do we want that there? And that type of process is different than the last album we had because we just kind of wrote the previous album. Then we're like, okay, we're just going to; however it sounds live is how we're going to have it on the album. But with this, we had my banjo in the studio and some weird percussive instruments. So, at one point, we were just messing around, and Harry picked up a metal slide and the banjo, and I was like, what can we add? And he played this slide banjo part, and I was like, we were all, that sounds super, super cool. So, if you look at the credits for the album on the thing, it says Slide Banjo. Harry Burns's real job is playing guitar. It's his natural instrument. And there's a water bottle sound in one of the songs where I took my full metal water bottle, and we banged a spoon off it or something to get some cool sounds. And there's a lot of little ear candy we threw in there.
MSM: Wow, okay, I didn't pick up on the water bottle. But can you tell me about what Northeast emo is? Because we know Midwest Emo…
Jonah: Right? Well, we were sitting with one of our best friends who is a musician, but he's not in any bands or anything. I was sitting with him at this coffee shop, and our other drummer at the time, Josh, we were kind of sitting
there. We were talking about how our band at the time, at least, still had some folk elements with some punk elements. And then he plays classical guitar as well. So, there was a technicality to it all. I come from a grunge northwestern punk-type background, so I'll play it slightly sloppy and emotional. And we were like, we don't sound like anything. People will say violent; then they'll say The Front Bottoms, some other punk band or whatever, and Modern Baseball or whatever. And it's not quite any of that, which I'm pleased about because it wasn't on purpose. We made what we wanted to make. But that was like Northeast emo. It's like grunge guitars. And that's what I was going to say, my friend, when we were sitting in a snowstorm, he's like, it's so depressing here in Maine. It's so depressing with all; it's constantly snowing most of the year, but then there's those few months of the year where it's so beautiful and green, and then it just gets stripped away again. And I was like, that's northeast emo. It's beautifully depressing. It's depressing, but there's something so comfy and beautiful about it. And I think that friend Matt was like, that's what your band is. Your band is a reflection of Maine. It reflects where we're from, what we do, and how life is here. A lot more goes into what we make, but that is where it stems from.
MSM: You have been hit by some criticism. Was that the album or singles?
Jonah: So we've had some people write some stuff on the album and stuff. I know the thing is the only constructive criticism we've had is the same thing that I feel
like people say about The Front Bottoms or McCaffrey where they'll be like, the voice isn't for everyone, or the punk guitar isn't for everyone, stuff like that. But we've had a good reception for the album so far. We had 150 people come out to our show in Orno the other day, which is cool. It was an album release show for another local band that we played with all the time, that Harry also drums for. So that was cool. But a lot of the stuff people have been saying, they're getting Appalachian vibes or bluegrass fruit vibes and stuff, and it was pretty cool that that
was a cool review. One person said it was Nirvana, and Nirvana fans who don't realize they're hippies or something like that. And that was pretty cool. We'd DIY the album, so there'd be a bit of a process. Everything we did was DIY; we recorded it all ourselves, and then we had someone else, a couple of other people, help mix it, and then we mixed one of the songs. And there will always be a mainstream consensus for people bound to a more raw recording. So, the only criticism that was a big credit criticism that we might've seen was just mixing notes. But I like how the album sounds. We made an album that we like and enjoy, and we like.
MSM: Tell me about the singles you released from the album.
Jonah: So, the album follows a narrative. It's about a road trip I took to Vermont when I was, at least lyrically, a road trip I took to Vermont when I was 18 or so. And we started with Chinatown, which is the album's ending, which is me reflecting later on everything that happened during that period. Then we go into 'Peyote,' which is the opener for the album other than the intro, but it's the opening full song. And that is about first moving out of your parents' house,
realizing that your parents aren't always right, and you want to break free from that. But then you find you might accidentally gravitate towards people and significant others. Your taste in people is more like what your parents were and what you're trying to get away from in the first place. It's about becoming your person and learning the type of people you want to be around and don't want to be around. And then there's free acid, specifically about the road trip. It's like when we took off on the road to head to Vermont, and it's like, okay, these are my people final. I found my people, and these are my tribe. Those are the type of persons I want to be around, and the type of person I feel loved around. And then Cycles is about really, which came tandem with free acid cycles, was really about after realizing the kind of people you want to be around, you're coming to terms with all these things that maybe you went through with your parents and the reasons you
don't necessarily want to be like that and the things that they did that you don't want to do with your kids or the things they did that you don't want to, the way they interact with certain people that you might not interact. And it's not to say that parents are bad guys or my parents are great. They were amazing, but everyone has their faults, and they do their things, which affects us in how it does. And it's just how it is, but it doesn't mean we have to be that way. It doesn't mean we have to repeat those vicious cycles that just repeat from family member to family member like generational trauma. So it's, the album's really about breaking free of the shackles of the trauma and influences you've had throughout your life and becoming the person you want to be through whatever, whether it's a road trip to Vermont or a job you get, even, that just opens your eyes somehow or something. It's just about becoming the person that you feel you are.
Jonah: So everyone has their own Vermont, you know what I mean? They have their own Chinatown and their own Vermont, whether you find it through 'Peyote,' 'Free Acid', or mushrooms with your cousin's dog, it's what it's, you know what I mean?
MSM: Yeah. I think it's important to focus on generational trauma because it is an extensive discussion. And even now, post-Covid is something I discovered. It became a very big discussion. But you're right. Everyone has their own Vermont. So Vermont just symbolizes something on the album.
Jonah: Yeah, Vermont was my place of discovery when I got to Vermont. I was like, there are places and people I feel comfortable with. Life doesn't have to be this constant discomfort where you're just searching for something that doesn't exist. It does exist. You just have to find it.
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Interview by Karina Selvig