MILLY Explode Into View

The Los Angeles four-piece talks about their church band roots and the roads they traveled while making their sophomore album, Your Own Becoming.

Music Features Milly
MILLY Explode Into View

Last Friday, LA based indie rock band MILLY released their sophomore record, Your Own Becoming. Their noisy, downtempo sound prides itself in being concise and confident and veiled with a lingering melancholia. MILLY started as the solo project of frontman Brendan Dyer years ago, and he’s now joined by bassist Yarden Erez and drummer Conner Frankel—both of whom have been friends since high school. When they’re on the road, guitarist Nico Moreta is MILLY’s fourth member. Erez and Frankel cycled in and out of the band in its earlier days, but they all eventually reconnected through the restorative powers of the Los Angeles DIY scene.

The members of MILLY are truly a “guys being dudes” kind of band. “Even if we’re not writing, we’re trying to get together at least once a week to hang out and jam,” Dyer says. The four-piece’s musical background is fairly All-American, with every member getting their start from familial encouragement. “My dad plays bass as well, around the house, and then I slowly picked it up on my own,” Erez says. “That’s [been] my thing on and off since I was a kid.” Frankel’s parents got him into drumming when he was 10, with the hopes that he would join his older brother in their church’s band. Dyer had a multi-instrumental approach to his musical upbringing: “I started playing guitar and bass simultaneously,” he says. “Drums, too, primarily because I had an uncle and a grandfather who both were guitar players. It was just something I grew up around and wanted to learn to do. It seemed cool—finding music for the first time and, on my own, figuring out what my taste was.”

Like many young bands these days, the name MILLY was taken straight from Dyer’s notes app. “I liked how it was a one-word, simple thing,” he recounts, “so I just picked it.” This mindset ties aptly into the core of the band’s creative process. Your Own Becoming sees them adopt the “less is more” approach to heart, alongside lauded shoegaze producer Sonny DiPerri (NIN, Narrow Head, my bloody valentine). “We were really trying to make the songs as concise as possible,” Dyer explains. “Mostly in the song structure area, we were trying to make the songs in a way where no parts linger too long and take into account that people’s attention spans are short these days. I think, on the previous record, we were a little less aware of how long we were making songs and we wanted to correct that. Erez corroborated that sentiment, saying that the band “would draw songs out a lot, in terms of the writing. “But I feel like, with this one, the big thing that we were saying to each other during the writing and recording was just to ‘trim the fat,’” he adds.

This notion is exemplified on “Spilling Ink,” a track that clocks in at only two minutes and 20 seconds but packs a wallop. “Remember how your lives were making sense?” Dyer sings over unrelentingly punchy drums and some of the fuzziest guitars you’ll hear all year. His vocals are hushed and understated in a way that contrasts well with the intensity of the instrumentals throughout the record. Despite many people’s (including my) first impression of their music, MILLY aren’t keen on being pigeonholed into the recent shoegaze revival. “Our intent with this album was that we were really hoping no one would use that word at all to describe our music,” Dyer says. “We were just leaning into being a rock band. It sounds kind of funny, but if you listen to the record, the vocals are really present in the mix and there’s not a lot of reverb. We were really trying to just make a really raw, emotional rock record this time around.”

That sentiment certainly finds its way on tracks like opener “Blocked on Everything.” The track includes my favorite lyric on the whole record: “Exploded sky and numb the bassline.” When asked about that song and that lyric specifically, Dyer details that it was one of the first songs MILLY wrote for the record. “I always imagined it being this grand album opener,” he explains. “It starts off with feedback and there’s a big drum fill and, when we play it live, it always has a headbang[ing] feel to it. I feel like, in my mind, it felt cool to have the first line of the album just say ‘it’s exploding’—because we wanted this album to be a big punch.” Dyer often finds inspiration for these songs through dreams that reflected some of the turmoils he was experiencing at the time. “I dreamt that I was talking on the phone with a friend of mine who, in real life, had passed away eight years ago,” he says, “and the next morning, when I was walking to work, I thought it was so weird, but also a nice sentiment, too. It’s weird to go through my phone contacts and still see that I have this phone number saved for my friend. I still feel connected to this person in that way.”

That dream is mentioned on the song “At Odds,” as Dyer sings “I’m calling all the numbers in my phone / Of people that are dead like I don’t know.” The guitars here are much more sparse than some of the others, as the instrumental leans more on Frankel’s drumming before hitting its climax toward the track’s conclusion. Dyer grapples with what cognitive dissonance arises when time constantly distances us from those who are no longer there as well as past versions of ourselves (“Stop moving from the times we spent,” repeats the song’s chorus). “I feel like I’m really leaning into dream-like storytelling,” Dyer adds. “It was my concern with time, and time moving quickly, and becoming a person in my older twenties that inspired a lot of it.”

On Your Own Becoming, MILLY punch through life’s triumphs and disappointments on their heavy tunes (“I know, I know, the years fall down,” he sings on “Drip From the Fountain.” “I know, I know, they’re spinning ’round. Still, the dusk holds a broken home.”. Together, Dyer, Yarden Erez, Connor Frankel and Nico Moreta have put together a tune that is bulletproof, full of skyscraping riffage and knee-deep in hooks. Their chemistry as a band is palpable, both through their recordings and their charming candor with each other. MILLY are confident in their distortion, their vocal performances and, most dynamically, each other. The four Californians know what they want to say, and they take every opportunity to make each word count.

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