Recorded at Ben Edwards' The Sitting Room Studios (which has brought us the likes of Julia Jacklin and Nadia Reid), comes The Miltones’ first ever commercial single, ‘Wildfire’. The song is an ode to the strength of those around frontwoman Milly Tabak, and the video was filmed at her family farm.
We spoke to Tabak about the band's upcoming debut album, songwriting, and more…
COUP DE MAIN: You said you wrote ‘Wildfire’ thinking about all the amazing women in your life who’ve dedicated their lives to others, despite hardships in their own lives. It’s a really powerful sentiment. Do you find it important to use your music as a way to express gratitude and love for those around you?
THE MILTONES: Absolutely. It’s a beautiful feeling to have shared in the lives of the ones you’ve loved: those who’ve passed away, moved on, or simply had a hard time. The album evokes those feelings shared and moments frozen in time. Those flashes of life are more valuable than you can ever imagine, so a song to grieve for them just seemed right. To keep their memory close and appreciate how they truly gave some part of themselves to me, it’s the least I can do in giving some part of myself back. The last track on the album was written for a friend who sadly took his life the day before we were due to head to Lyttelton to record the album. Unable to see him off, I felt extremely helpless. The morning of the funeral I sat on the deck looking out at beautiful Lyttelton Harbour and wrote ‘Song For Friend’. I see sunflowers when I think of that song. I remembered that he so kindly gave me sunflowers for my 21st birthday, which was incredibly sweet of him. Funny thing: when we arrived to Ben's studio and walked into the house, sure enough, a vase of sunflowers were sitting on the table. I took a photo but I needn’t have. I’ll never forget that moment.
CDM: What was your mum’s reaction to the song and the video?
THE MILTONES: That was neat! She had just come back home from Europe after spending three months with her dad on his last journey of the motherland (The Netherlands). She’s a real Mother Goose; she missed us kids way too much, so you can imagine how keen she was to get back. I walked her into the lounge and played the video. She turned to me and with the warmest Mother Goose smile told me she adored it. Mum’s the word, hey!
CDM: You worked on ‘Wildfire’ with Ben Edwards at Lyttelton's Sitting Room Studios, which has become renowned for creating super unique sounds. What was that experience like?
THE MILTONES: Before we even made it to Lyttelton, I had some amazing chats with Ben on the phone. The poor guy has been through hell but still does everything he can to accommodate his artists. I’ll say it again: he put the magic to the album and the soul to the sound. I can’t tell you how he does it but he sure knows how to get the best from musicians. I think it might be his calm and easy-going nature. He’s bloody hilarious, too! I don’t think I stopped laughing down there. He listens, he cares, and he will approach you in such a way to get the sound he (and you) are looking for. We love that man. If you walk into that studio, count yourself lucky as you’re in the hands of a master craftsman as nurturing as he is talented. You are very, very, very, lucky!
CDM: When can we expect to hear your debut album?
THE MILTONES: Before the end of the year!! For sure.... we can’t wait!
CDM: Is it in a similar vein to ‘Wildfire’?
THE MILTONES: There are certainly more elements of 'Wildfire' in the album, yeah - moments in a couple of tracks which hark back to that track’s whimsy and upbeat feeling. There’s also the Americana/folk side yet to be heard. We drew loads of influence from the likes of Neil Young and Ryan Adams but there's also a bit of in-baked 90s country and rock that shines through now and then. Overall, she’s a quiet meeting of blues, bayou bliss, and whispered seventies soft-rock, I’d say.
CDM: How does your songwriting process work?
THE MILTONES: Often, it’s the feel that comes from random guitar chords. I’ll just be strumming away, bouncing around a few things and I’ll end up singing over the top. For lyrics, I tend to just sing random words from the top of my head, or I’ll ask Liam what springs to mind for him. Sometimes, the inspiration is even a bit more sporadic. You can be sitting there and five minutes later, you’ll have a song in your heart and wonder where that moment came from. ‘Carlos’, one of the tracks on the album, took barely any time, I was sitting in the band room one clichéd, dark and stormy night, and I saw my dad’s guitar just lying there. I felt a bit miserable so I picked up my guitar and started plucking away. From nowhere, the words just came. That was such a natural songwriting experience, but more often than not, you just have to lay the guitar down, tie your laces and go for a walk.
CDM: Our column is all about NZ artists - what other NZ music are you currently listening to?
THE MILTONES: As I type, I’m midway into the stunning Nadia Reid’s ‘Arrow And The Aim’. She is such a phenomenal Kiwi songstress and I almost cried at work listening to her album when she released it earlier this month. It really felt like I was in the studio listening to her sing, you know? March has been such a great month for local talent. Have you tapped into Thomas Oliver’s, 'Shine Like The Sun'? What a treat! Those keys... Damn!
YOU WILL LIKE MY MUSIC IF YOU LIKE… Your parent’s record collection.
IF YOU ONLY LISTEN TO ONE OF MY SONGS IT SHOULD BE… 'Gypsy Queen'.
WATCH THIS VIDEO BECAUSE… My friend Kendall lights the room as wildfire.
MY TOP FIVE MUSICAL CRUSHES ARE… Neil Young, Stevie Nicks, Ryan Adams, The Guess Who, Jackson Browne.
YOU KNOW YOU’VE MADE IT WHEN... You get your picture on the cover of Rolling Stone!
CDM: If you were to curate your own music festival, who would you want to play and what would the festival be called?
THE MILTONES: Okay, festival name... ‘Live Wire‘ - is that already a festival? How big is this list allowed to be? Shit, that's the hardest question I’ve ever been asked... Are they all at their peaks? These are all peeps I think would kick some serious ass live!
The Guess Who
Charles Bradley and his Extraordinaires
Lil' Band o' Gold
Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble
Crosby, Stills & Nash
Dr. John and the Nite Trippers
The Allman Brothers
Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers
Leon Russell with Joe Cocker
CDM: What's the most despicable thing you've ever done?
THE MILTONES: Haha... When I was about sixteen, a friend and I created our own sort of ‘car orienteering’. We split into teams and drove around ticking things off a list such as: run onto a golf-course and throw the golfer's ball back once they’d hit it (dick move, I know), or ask a fisherman for bait and then eat it in front of him. Unfortunately, I drew the the short straw on that last one...
CDM: If you could pick any five people (living or dead) to be in your entourage, who would you choose?
THE MILTONES: Janis Joplin - she’s a firecracker! Stevie Ray Vaughan - the music-loving legend. Dave Allen - the most classic comedian plus, he’d keep our spirits high! Duane Allman - he and Stevie can create some sweet music and Janis will most likely join in. And of course, my mum - for obvious reasons. She’s a legend!
CDM: Who is your most famous fan?
THE MILTONES: The most incredible thing about the NZ music industry is the community between musicians, I wouldn’t know if it is possible to claim that people who are famous who are fans, but we have some well respected musicians that we’ve shared music with and they’ve enjoyed the band, such as Adam McGrath from The Eastern and Nick Atkinson from Hopetoun Brown. They’re idols of ours; it’s been a treat having them appreciate our music.
CDM: Do you believe in magic?
THE MILTONES: Of course! Magic is everywhere. Feeling happy, isn’t that just magic? Seeing something beautiful, isn’t that magic? Loving in the moment, or just in general, that’s magic.
CDM: What is your spirit animal?
THE MILTONES: Humans are animals too, so Ben Edwards from The Sitting Room - i.e. the coolest human on the planet!
CDM: How long could you go without talking?
THE MILTONES: Shit, not long at all... I’ve been a chatterbox since the start and apparently, even had my own alien language as a wee one.. To answer your question, maybe half an hour max? Or... does sleeping count? If so, I’m smashing it!
CDM: If you could steal one thing without consequence what would it be?
THE MILTONES: Anything? America, then. I would give it to Michelle Obama (;
CDM: What is the most heroic thing that you've ever done?
THE MILTONES: I once helped an old lady who had fallen over and hurt herself pretty bad in a carpark. It wasn’t really heroic but I sat her up against me and kept her warm until the ambulance arrived, poor wee thing! Old people are the sweetest!
CDM: Have you ever written a love letter?
THE MILTONES: I was sure that I hadn't, but I asked Liam, the guitarist for the band. He and I were in a relationship for six years and apparently, I declared love a few times in written-form before running off overseas when I turned eighteen. For everyone’s sake, I hope he never finds them again, but I do bet they were quite sweet. Who doesn’t feel special from a little bit of love, ya know?
CDM: What is your first proper memory, ever?
THE MILTONES: My older brother Josh tipping me upside-down and rubbing my head on the ground. That’s also how I got the nickname, ‘Milly Mop’.
CDM: If you were a country, what would be your national anthem?
THE MILTONES: ‘After The Goldrush’ by Neil Young. That song awakens a sense of hope and lights a fire in my soul. Have a listen and watch yourself fall into dreamland.
CDM: Have you ever had an out-of-body experience? If so, tell us about it.
THE MILTONES: Okay, so it’s not quite an out-of-body experience, but I think it counts? When I was about eight, I developed a fever and ended up hallucinating up a storm. Running into my parent's bedroom, I could swear that several midget lumberjacks and American Indians were attacking my mum. To her bewilderment, I jumped on the bed and started hitting her which, in my mind, must have been me trying to defeat the roving band of pygmy Village People? I was pissed because I couldn’t understand why she wasn’t defending herself, but next thing I knew, I was under a cold shower, being carried onto the balcony by my dad. Thinking about it, maybe that’s the most heroic thing I’ve ever done?
CDM: Stretch your right arm out as far as you can reach, what can you touch?
THE MILTONES: A tipped over silver and blue glitter nail polish which I’m yet to use...
Watch the ‘Wildfire’ music video below…