Milo Greene is not real. However, the fictitious character that is Milo Greene is very much alive.
His makers perceive him as an intellectual entrepreneur. In his poised and dignified manner, he keeps things close to the vest and lets everyone know who’s boss. He is exactly the type of man you would want to represent you in any business venture…and that is exactly why he was created.
In the DIY music world, having proper representation is key. Lacking an actual manager, college classmates Andrew Heringer, Robbie Arnett, and Marlana Sheetz concocted a virtual one – Milo Greene – to promote their individual musical efforts. It wasn’t until 2009 that the three began creating music together. While house sitting in the isolated Northern California foothills, the trio wrote and recorded a handful of songs. Seeking a name for their new venture, they thought it only natural to pay tribute to the fake manager/booking agent that had represented them throughout their college years: Milo Greene.
Eventually Heringer and Sheetz moved to Southern California, where Arnett was living. There, they added Graham Fink (formerly of ‘The Outline’) and Curtis Marrero (formerly of Arnett’s band ‘Links’). The five-piece made a habit of escaping periodically to desolate West Coast locations to continue the story they had started.
“We had no TV, no Internet, we had a fire going, and we had to hush the dogs,” Arnett says, acknowledging that the environment probably accounted for their music’s pastoral feel, as well as its meticulous attention to detail. Sheetz concurs: “Every place we’ve made music has been isolated, and it has certainly helped us focus.”
Milo Greene’s formal recording sessions for their self-titled debut with co-producer Ryan Hadlock (Ra Ra Riot, Blonde Redhead, The Gossip, The Lumineers) followed suit; they took place at Bear Creek Studio, a converted circa-1900 barn in the country near Seattle.
“We set out to make the album a cohesive piece, something that takes you from Point A to Point B,” Arnett says, “which is maybe not the brightest thing to do in a singles world, but …” Heringer finishes the thought: “Every song does stand on its own, so you never know what to expect sonically or emotionally.”
Milo Greene is a collection of voices that live and breathe simultaneously with the breadth of an omniscient, collective consciousness. The melodies invoke long drives down the California coast and the feeling of leaving home. There is something meditative about it, as though it asks to be listened to alone and given one’s full attention. Guitar lines swell and recede as ocean waves would. A slight dissonance can be sensed underneath a seemingly passive exterior; a tension can be found in passing tones that evoke jazz harmony and the sense of waiting for something really big to happen, a sense of growing inevitably older while grasping at the threads of youth.
The themes explored on Milo Greene’s Chop Shop/Atlantic Records debut are timeless: a quest for permanence, a longing for virtue, a need for reciprocity in all that is good. “When, when, when we’re older / Can I still come over?” the band asks in “Silent Way,” looking hopefully into the future. It’s a future less daunting when faced with the strong bond imagined in the song “Don’t You Give Up on Me,” with its solemn vow “I’ll go wherever you go.”
Those songs, along with the embraceable “Autumn Tree” and “Cutty Love” embody the simple notion that, not unlike the way the quintet makes music, we are all in this together. “We all long to be comforted and secure,” Arnett says. “If our music sounds nostalgic, it’s for the times in our lives we felt that way. If we sound hopeful, it’s because we want to feel that way again.”
Says Fink: “We’re all in our 20s, but we’ve all had past lives. We’re coming to this band from a place where we lived out other dreams. And especially at the age we had them, we didn’t really see an endpoint. We saw the sky as being the limit.”
Wielding four-part harmonies and indelible melodies over sprawling, percussive arrangements, there is no lead singer of Milo Greene. They work powerfully as a team, yet each member is unique and can stand on their own.
“Four of us were lead singers in our previous projects,” Arnett says, “so we really have no focal point, no lead melody writer or lyricist. Everything is Milo.”
Their fictitious character, Milo Greene, is British, they muse, and well versed in art and history, with eclectic tastes in music. The kind of guy who wears a three-piece suit even when it’s hot, and has a record player in every room.
“I think he would be a big fan of our music …” Arnett says.
Fink interjects: “But only because he’s very vain.”