LA-based trio Milo Greene will be setting up shop for a show at Elsewhere tonight, and if you haven’t already grabbed tickets, be sure to do that right now! The band is touring in support of their latest record, Adult Contemporary, which dropped just over a month ago. In anticipation of the Brooklyn gig, I hopped on the phone to Graham Fink to talk about ghosts, alternate realities and the impending apocalypse (a whole week before that terrifying new report came out, PS!) because IT IS OCTOBER AND THIS IS 2018 AND THINGS ARE SPOOKY IN SOME CAPACITY ALL OF THE TIME! Read up on our full conversation below, and regardless of whether or not you’re free for showtime tonight, do yourself a favor and grab a copy of Adult Contemporary for your listening pleasure. HERE WE GO:
BYT: So we are here to talk about ghosts! I’m pumped! Do you have any specific personal experiences you can share? Or just general thoughts re: believing and/or not believing in the paranormal?
GF: Well, I watched The Craft last night to sort of get back into the supernatural mood. I forgot how fucked up that movie gets! [Laughs]
BYT: RIGHT?! I mean, it’s one of my favorite movies ever, but towards the end it gets super heavy!
GF: Yeah, in my memory they were just four sort of really badass witches who were super tight. I forgot the tangent where they all turn against each other, and one summons dark powers, and they pretend that they killed one of their dads…it gets gnarly. I guess I blocked out all the really scary stuff as an adolescent.
BYT: And maybe that’s still our problem IRL, you know? Women can’t just fucking work together and agree on what they’re attacking for the greater good. Hashtag this goddamn week!
GF: Totally. And then Melody from Hey Dude has all her hair fall out because she’s a racist bitch. It’s a wild movie. But as far as actual spooky experiences I’ve had, the only one that stands out to me is from one of the first tours I did, which was actually pre-Milo Greene. We were called The Outline, and we were in Milwaukee at this venue called The Rave, which is also called the Eagles Club or Eagles Ballroom; it’s one of those venues that has three different rooms where there’s a small bar room, a giant club, and then a giant ballroom. But we were just playing the small dive bar in the front, and after we did sound check we started walking around into the back, and there were no lights on anywhere. And it was just cavernous ballrooms and this like, abandoned swimming pool. There was also an old utility closet with crazy machinery from the early 1900s that’d been left there.
Granted, we were nineteen-year-old kids, so it was a little spooky for us in general, but we were climbing through all these different rooms trying not to crap our pants, basically. It honestly did feel like something was very ominous. There was an energy in the room that felt weird, unlike anything I’ve ever felt before. We kind of spooked ourselves and high-tailed it out of that part of the building back to the warm and friendly little dive bar that was still active. And we started talking to some of the bartenders and promoters who were there all the time, and we told them that we’d been poking around and felt really weird energy. They were like, “Wow, it’s crazy that you say that, because directly across the street is the hotel where Jeffrey Dahmer was known to stay and post up and commit some of his crimes.” That entire block also has a history of weird, haunted energy, just a lot of terrible things that went down. It was trippy to have that experience, and then to have it be validated by this horrific history. But that’s one of the only actual spooky experiences I’ve had, other than just being a fan of weird occult stuff from a safe vantage point.
BYT: You know, it’s one of those things where I like, do believe in ghosts, but I don’t know that I believe it’s even a spooky thing, necessarily. I think the more I read about quantum physics and energy and all these different dimensions that have been proven to exist, the more I wonder if it’s something more complex than just this like, “BOO!” scenario.
GF: I think I’m not sure what I believe as far as energy and separate planes of reality. I do think it’s funny and entertaining the way that humans tend to create supernatural genres or belief systems for themselves around the supernatural, though. I was digging around on some really fun occult message boards which had tips for spells and tips for conjuring things, and it was like, spells to conjure love or money and all these very powerful things. But then there was a spell to win like, a legal dispute. [Laughs] I was like, “This is not the appropriate channeling of mystical energies and things we can’t comprehend.” That’s such a man-made, preposterous usage of whatever greater powers or things beyond what we can put our finger on. I definitely want to believe in ghosts, but I don’t know that I’m the most tapped in when it comes to channeling them; I’m a very rational, level-headed, boring dude. I think I need to find ways to be more open to it, but I certainly think there’s no way of knowing and explaining, you know? The world is such a mystery that it’d be naive to say that none of that stuff is real.
BYT: Speaking of what’s real or not real, I forget who said this, I think maybe Picasso? But basically anything you can imagine technically exists in the world. What’s the most bonkers thing you’ve ever imagined, or maybe dreamed of, that you definitely WOULDN’T want to exist?
GF: I don’t know that I don’t want this to be real, but the idea that there are other timelines or planes of existence that are just off kilter, or parallel with our own. Our entire concept of existence and our world as it is is essentially just a perception. It’s kind of like what you’re talking about with being able to imagine something and it’s real. I went to school for psychology, so I have the tendency to skew that way, but every reality is different. A person’s perception shapes their own reality, so no one is ever truly seeing the world exactly the same way. But how far off the spectrum does that go, apart from just people seeing things differently? Are there varying levels of reality? Is the psychology of the universe (if you were to analyze it that way), like, are there other planes that are just so far beyond what we’re living and experiencing ourselves that are simultaneously happening? Something to that effect.
It’s almost like a joke – there are pop culture references like the Upside Down in Stranger Things, or in Men In Black where the whole world is just a marble and totally irrelevant. These concepts…you know, I wasn’t raised religious, so I don’t really have that in my background or my makeup, but there’s a lot in the world that’s super hard to explain. There are certainly explanations which I totally ascribe to, but I don’t know. Sorry if that was a super long-winded way of explaining that, but basically everything we think we understand about the universe and reality and energy is potentially up for debate. [Laughs]
BYT: Totally! I know there’s a generally accepted idea of what reality entails, but when you actually get into it, there are no proven parameters for what that actually means scientifically. Now, this is a bit of a messy segue, but in terms of the way you think about songs and narratives that you sing about, do you generally try to stick to material that feels grounded in reality for you personally?
GF: I think it’s all over the place. With Milo Greene, I think our lyrics tend to be more personal experience about love and nostalgia, more of that specific and relatable human experience. Beyond that, I’d encourage you to check out a song called “Haunted Rave” that I wrote under the pseudonym Gary and the Ghouls. It’s available on Spotify and all digital platforms, and it’s basically my version of “Monster Mash”. [Laughs]
But when I was younger, a lot of the material I wrote had to do with the world ending as a self-fulfilling prophecy. Like, the concept of Armageddon that people have put into terms of religion is really just the cultivation of humanity not being able to tend to our planet and the survival of our species. There are potentially supernatural threads to be tied into that, but we create these belief systems that are super big and super overarching to kind of take the pressure off our own accountability, but simultaneously we’re the ones fulfilling those realities. We’re destroying the planet and asking if there’s going to be an End of Days situation. Reality shows that we are the End of Days.
BYT: Absolutely! And I’ve always thought it’s interesting how monotheism seems to play into that. The shift away from polytheism and animism seems to mark the downfall of the planet, at least environmentally. BUT I DIGRESS!
GF: Yeah, I mean, it’s displacing blame and accountability, which, when you do that, it removes that investment in the communal culture taking care of the only planet we have to survive. Nobody can be bothered to change their daily habits or the way they selfishly do things, and when there’s billions of people living that way, it’s not terribly sustainable. [Laughs]
BYT: Unless you’re bankin’ on that afterlife. [Laughs]
GF: Right, exactly. If that’s not part of your belief system, it makes a lot more sense to really start giving a shit about the planet and sustainability and living a better path. That’s the frustrating conversation I get into whenever anybody gives me shit for being a vegetarian, predominantly vegan. Yeah, it’d be nice to eat meat, but don’t you care about all the other repercussions? And the answer is usually, “Well, it’s not gonna make a difference what I do, so it’s not gonna matter anyway.” And I think that’s the underlying principle in modern society, that nobody has the capacity to enact change autonomously, so they just throw in the towel.
BYT: Absolutely. The defeatist attitude is alive and well in 2018, and I wish there were more focus on a more “reducetarian” way of living, so maybe you don’t go full vegan or you don’t go full zero waste, but you try to do whatever you can manage and that, in theory, could have a very big impact if enough people join in that same thought process.
GF: Yeah, I think “Give a shit and try!” is gonna be my new bumper sticker. Just gonna start slapping those on people’s cars.
BYT: I support it. Alright, finally, speaking of trying, what can you tell me about the new record you’re touring? Was there any sort of discussion about what you wanted to convey here, either sonically or narratively? Did you write with the intention of doing a full-length?
GF: Getting on the same page musically can be difficult, because we’re all very passionate and can have slightly different tangents of musical taste and opinion. In the time after our second album we wrote twenty or twenty-five songs that were going to be an album, but we ended up scrapping them. We chose five that we really loved to put out as an EP, got rid of everything else and just kind of started over, started writing together very intentionally instead of scattered as individuals or in pairs. We went to Nashville to start doing writing for this album specifically, and we got to work with some amazing collaborators including Bill Reynolds, who ended up producing the whole album. But I think from the very first few songs, we had a strong sense of this kind of nostalgic melancholy throwback from the late eighties and early nineties that was a lot of the stuff we were listening to. We kind of came up with the idea to, you know, for the sake of our own writing, use Adult Contemporary as a kind of jumping off point. I don’t think we knew we were going to call the album that, or dictate that as the center of the entire campaign, but it was kind of the principle of keeping the songs cohesive. And having that grain of an idea for us to write around centralized the entire process, and we ended up writing ten to fifteen songs in that vein that we just loved. And it was a super rejuvenating process for us. And here we are a year later – kind of surreal.