It’s been five years since Rhye (the critically acclaimed project of Mike Milosh) released debut LP Woman, and until 2.2.2018, it would remain the only full-length in the catalog. The recording hiatus came as a result of a messy record label contract, one which would require Milosh to buy himself out if he wanted to continue making music. Accumulating the necessary funding would only be possible through extensive touring, so that’s exactly what Rhye did. And once Milosh finally got free from the nightmare contract, that’s when sophomore record Blood (out now on Loma Vista) began to take shape. It’s a beautiful triumph on many levels, and if you’ve not yet heard it, I’d highly suggest you grab a pair of headphones ASAP. In the meantime, internet-eavesdrop on a phone conversation I had with Milosh a few weeks back; in addition to telling me all about Blood, he gave me plenty of solid industry advice, including how to stay sane on tour and ways to prevent being screwed over by a label.
Rhye will play sold out shows in DC (tonight, 2.26 at 9:30 Club) and NYC (Friday, 3.2 at Brooklyn Steel), but Chicagoans still have a chance to snag tickets to the gig at Thalia Hall on March 8th.
So touring as much as you have done, do you have any tips in terms of maintaining sanity on the road?
I do, actually! I’ve got tons of tips. Number one, make sure you plan touring in such a way that you have moments to relax. Eat good food, and don’t go down the path of drinking a lot of alcohol. It’s a depressant, and it’ll definitely mess you up. The other thing I’d say is to figure out how to not go broke, because that will really stress you out. And the number one way to do that is, for example, I drive the bus myself, and I’d recommend anyone to build those skills and be able to drive standard so you can drive a bus in Europe. I don’t know, just keep everything lean. And I think the biggest tip is to have everyone stay in hotels, but rotate hotel rooms so band members stay with different people all the time; that way, you’re allowing there to be a lot of change and movement within the space that you’ve created in your little tour world.
Good tips! Especially with the hotel rooms. I can see how a lack of movement could end up feeling like Groundhog Day after a while.
Yeah, exactly. And you need to have space for people to be on their own. We try to get everywhere early enough that people are able to have alone time as well. That’s why I don’t sleep in buses overnight and things like that. I want people to be able to have their alone time. It’s very important.
Right. Now, you’ll be touring Blood this go-round, so what can you tell me about the inception point of the record?
I started it about two and a half years ago. Once I’d bought myself out of the contract, I paid off the option, and that’s when my manager and I decided to make the record. And it was made at a fairly calm pace; I didn’t feel I was rushed at all.
Are you able to write when you’re on the road?
I don’t write on the road in the bus or anything like that. What I do is I pick moments (doesn’t matter what city it is) to go into a studio and work. I did this record from LA to New York, I did some in Berlin, Toronto…but I pick my moments to go into the studio, and I write when I’m in the studio. I don’t have a notebook where I write down ideas or anything like that. Usually I just show up, start and let things flow. I try not to overthink it.
So since you do work that way, did you write very intentionally to just produce the songs that went onto the finished record? Or were there some that didn’t make the cut?
I made about twenty-five songs and cut it back down, because it was way too many to put on vinyl. That being said, I’m probably going to release some of them, just to put them out into the world so that they exist, and I’ve decided to start working on a third record, and have been recording already.
Cool! Now, I know you work with other people on Rhye, but ultimately it’s your project, and I imagine that takes a lot of trust in your own instincts and self-belief. Has that ever been difficult? Has it gotten easier with time?
I’ve done four Milosh records, so I think what happens is you become comfortable with your own style, and you stop thinking about what people like. I’ve almost never really thought that way, either. I think music is more a true expression of your own feeling than it is about creating something to have someone else like it. If you stay really true to your intentions as to why you make music in the first place, if you’re doing it for the art and a love for music, then that’s the best way to approach it. Because, you know, you can’t please everyone anyways. It’s almost an unnecessary road to go down in your own mind. Make sure that you’re happy when you’re making the music, and that it’s satisfying what you need as a writer.
And do you have any advice for people with regards to dealing with record labels? Any warning signs or red flags people should be aware of, or is it just kind of a crap shoot?
[Laughs] Yeah, I mean, I have tons of advice. If I were to distill it into a couple of sentences – have a really good lawyer, one you trust. Really use your gut when you’re choosing people around you. I did make some bad choices earlier on, I had people around me who didn’t really help me out, and that’s why I got into a difficult situation. I’ve now got an amazing group of people around me, from my management to my lawyer. It sounds trivial, but it’s actually very true, because that can decide whether or not you’re even allowed to make a record again. Just make sure you have really good people around you who are also invested in your work artistically. They can’t just be there because they’re trying to make money. They have to be there because of what you’re doing. Also educate yourself. You have to educate yourself on what contracts mean, and how the music industry works. It’s a very complicated machine, and it’s that way for a reason. It’s complex so you kind of don’t win all of the time.
Right. On the plus side, getting out of that contract gave you plenty of stage time, and I’m sure that may have influenced your creative process moving forward. Were you very conscious of how the songs would translate in a live setting when you were writing and recording Blood? Did you run into anything that just didn’t work out for that reason, and you had to rethink the logistics?
Hmm…no, almost nothing like that. All the choices I’ve made have been because I want to be able to do them. There are only two things I wasn’t able to accomplish on this record that I wanted to – I wanted to have a symphonic opening, but I just wasn’t able to put that together because of scheduling and timing, and I wanted to have a moment with a choir on this record, because I got to play a show in Denmark with a 49-piece choir, and that was so incredible. It really hit me really hard, so I’m still thinking I need to get an opportunity to record with them, maybe for this third record.
That’d be amazing! And so you’re all set to go full force playing these tracks live on tour – is there anyplace in particular you’re super amped to roll through?
Well, we have a lot of shows booked, and I can honestly say I’m excited about every single one. I genuinely love to play live, and I also love exploring cities. My only regret is that it’s going to be a bit more intense of a tour with this first collection of shows we’re doing. I’d prefer to have a little more time to relax in each city, and just explore each place a little bit more, but that’s kind of how I view it – I’m pretty lucky that I’m able to do this as a career, just traveling, singing, meeting people, playing music. It’s definitely a dream.