[INDIE RAUCOUS] Charles Waring doesn’t appreciate the suggestion that his band, Milk Music, is living in the past. He’ll admit the group is big on honoring its heroes—which, from the sound of its upcoming debut LP, includes every aggressive, squalling guitar band of the 1980s’ indie-rock underground—but he’s quick to add that ultimately the goal is “to do our own thing.” That’s probably true. But speaking to the 28-year-old guitarist, it also wouldn’t be surprising to discover the band was recently rescued from the basement of a defunct college radio station where it’s been trapped since about 1986.
“I don’t have a computer,” Waring says over the phone from Milk Music’s home base in Olympia, Wash., in a tone that suggests he finds such technology to be a bourgeois extravagance. “I mean, we know how to use computers, we’re not dummies. We’re definitely living in our own time. But all that light and numbers and information, that’s supposed to represent your mortal body. That doesn’t make sense.”
So maybe Milk Music isn’t living in the past. It definitely trades in it, though. In 2010, the band put out Beyond Living, an EP of mossy, melodic riffs and open-throated yowling from singer Alex Coxen, conjuring the spirits of bygone Pacific Northwest forebears from the Wipers to Nirvana. True to a bunch of punks leery of the Internet, the quartet didn’t make a push to promote the record online. Up until last year, it didn’t even have a website. But the band’s music stimulated too many long-dormant rock-critic pleasure centers to remain undiscovered. Pitchfork eventually picked up on it, then Spin and The New York Times, and soon, it was all “Dinosaur Jr. Junior” this and “Hüsker Dü” that—fairly obvious comparisons, but ones that irked musicians drawing from a much deeper well of music history.
“It’s not fun to hear people compare you to someone you’re not intending to sound like,” Waring says. “When I think of bands I want to sound like, I’m thinking of the Beatles or something, like everybody else.”
In an effort to express itself more clearly, for its first full-length, Cruise Your Illusion—no Guns N’ Roses pun intended, though Waring is a card-carrying member of the GNR fan club, and he’s got the complimentary tapestry to prove it—the band laid off the noise a bit, allowing its wide panoply of influences, from Neil Young to Kate Bush, to rise out of the fuzz. It’d seem like the group, once willfully oblivious to the mechanisms of digital-age hype, allowed outside chatter to affect its sound, but Waring insists the evolution happened organically. “Alex wants to write really sincere songs in a time where no one’s really writing sincere songs,” he says. “And if they’re not going to be able to hear that over the [distortion pedal], we’re going to turn it down a little bit.”
The result, Waring says, is a record that plays “like a dream,” one that works heard as a whole or in parts, and which isn’t beholden to any particular time or place—except, perhaps, right now.
“If anything, this
is Milk Music’s time,” Waring says. “Milk Music’s time is not the ’80s
or the ’90s hardcore scene. This is when we’re coming out with our best
shit. Everything we have to say is in our songs—and we turn up the
vocals really loud on this record so you can hear it.”
SEE IT: Milk Music plays Star Theater, 13 NW 6th Ave., with Gun Outfit and Bath Party, on Monday, March 18. 9 pm. $8. 21+.