Rhye are an LA-based alternative soul band formed by Toronto born Mike Milosh. They’re an orchestra of sorts. Comprised of seven band members, their track listings are landscapes of airy composition. Light and otherworldly, Milosh’s voice pours like a cool spring of fresh water. Gliding free from constraint, it cleanses pure. Gentle and sublime, his voice is distinctly feminine – and, much like the French language, it flows legato and smooth. Rhythms of vocals ripple, repeated much like an overlaying riff, rather than a tool to deliver profound lyrics. The finished article is something truly special. Accessible, familiar and tight, they’re a recipe for commercial success. All the while, loosely nestled in the formula is something totally unique. They’ve got depth. Listen once, listen twice, listen twelve times – you’ll go on spotting surprises in every song they release.
Join Rhye on tour at London’s All Points East, as Mike Milosh documents his time on disposable cameras.
Your photos are truly beautiful! Did you study photography at all, or are you self-taught?
I would say I’m self-taught, but I shot a lot in my twenties. I shot the Blood album cover too. I happen to like photography a lot.
The people you shoot seem totally vulnerable, while also appearing powerful – and, at times, heroic. Is this a mood you often try to capture, or do you just point and shoot?
I think there’s a moment when you’re photographing someone that’s hard to articulate. When you pose for someone, it’s a very vulnerable feeling. I think it’s probably why I don’t like having my photo taken in general – and I think other people are like that too. But what you’re trying to capture is their strengths, so there’s a weird duality. You’re asking someone to be vulnerable – but, within that, you want them to be empowered.
I heard you didnʼt have a setlist for All Points East. Is that the case for all the shows you do?
Generally, yeah, because I don’t really choose the order of the songs or what ones were gonna play until we’re on stage. ‘Cause we all know like three hours of music together, as my band. I try to go with the vibe of the crowd. If it feels really subdued, I’m not gonna try to get everyone dancing – and if everyone feels a bit rowdy, which is what it was like at All Points East, I’m like, ‘Okay, let’s keep the energy going.’
So you channel the mood of the crowd, rather than counteracting it?
I try to go with it – and then I try to give enough moments that have reprieve as well, so people can have their relaxed moments and then bring them back up.
And then you mix Milosh songs into the setlist too sometimes! Does that not
ever trip your band members up a little, or are you pretty well rehearsed?
[Laughs] Well, it trips them up a little bit, but only if they haven’t heard a song for a while... At All Points East, we didn’t do any Milosh songs. We kept it all Rhye, first and second album. There’s also an intro that I’ve written called Six Wolves that’s not on any release. If it’s the right environment, like if it’s a church show and it’s really etherial, I’ll play that. It just depends on the crowd and the vibe and the actual acoustics of the place too.
So before you play, do you sneak a peak just to see what the crowd’s like, or is it always a surprise when you jump up on stage?
No, I used to walk around the crowd and try to catch a vibe. The thing is, at festivals, you can’t really do that, because I’m usually on the stage making sure things are okay until the very last five minutes – and everyone comes in at the last ten minutes, so you don’t have the time! If it’s my own show, you can kind of walk around and suss it out. I have this ability to disappear into people and they don’t really know it’s me.
How did you meet all your other bandmates?
It’s kind of an interesting hotchpotch. Thomas [Drayton] who plays bass, I met in 2006 at a tiny little concert that I was doing for my Milosh project. We played a show together. We just kind of stayed in touch. Thomas Lea was on the original Woman record, and he introduced me to Claire [Courchene] who plays cello. Pat [Bailey] I met through my management, but everyone I knew had played with him before, so that was cool. He’s on guitar. I met Zachary [Morillo], who plays drums, through my managers, actually. Theresa [Romack], same thing. I got her through the drummer. It’s kind of like a mixture!
Youʼre all family now, having played 500+ shows together! How do you feel when youʼre apart from each other?
I think what’s going on is we have a musical life and then also a personal life that’s kind of separated in a lot of ways. I think it’s one of the beauties of the project – I guess, because I’m calling all the shots, I do all these different things creatively, so nothing ever gets boring... And I think it’s really healthy to have time apart from people. I think it’s a really healthy balance.
Youʼre on tour a lot! Whatʼs usually the first thing you do when you get home to LA?
[Laughs] Well, I try to sleep for two days. But this time, Genevieve, my girlfriend who also does creative direction for other artists, was like, “Mike, can you please help me with this music video for this girl...”. It was my only week to rest, and the next thing is I’m assistant directing videos for other artists and just not really sleeping...
That’s impressive though! I would feel so unprepared if that was just bounced on me!
That’s kind of what I do though. Like, I don’t even know where I’m going next week on tour, I just roll with the punches. Because I’m so busy, I’m like, ‘Just tell me the night before and then I’ll jump in.’ I don’t have the bandwidth for it otherwise. And also, you don’t have time to get nervous, because you’re like, “Okay, cool, I’m doing this”.
Name a place you havenʼt played yet that youʼd love to.
I wanna play a bunch of places in Africa. The infrastructure’s really difficult, because there’s not a lot of cross over with the bookers knowing the bands that are from North America or Europe, so it’s unknown territory, in terms of touring. And then I really wanna play in mainland China, which we’re trying to set up right now.
Youʼve said you wanna fully explore Japan next time youʼre there. Whatʼs on the itinerary?
Okay, so, luckily, right before All Points East, I got to go to Japan and we spent a week there. I tried to check out Onsen spas and natural hot springs and I got a little taste of it and I had some surprises there, which I didn’t realise were part of the culture. One is that people in Japan don’t want to bathe in the same hot spring as me, because I’m not Japanese.
That’s pretty offensive!
Yeah, it was kind of offensive – but then I realised that there’s a huge benefit there – which is, I got to basically be in these hot springs, virtually alone all the time. I kind of wanna go back and really take advantage of this negative bias towards me.
How would you describe the crowd at All Points East this year?
The crowd had a really good energy! I never know what to expect from UK crowds, because, weirdly, we haven’t played that much there, so I had no barometer. I didn’t know if ten people were gonna come up to the stage or not, you know? It was a really pleasant surprise!
Did you get the chance to see any other acts?
I did! I went and saw Lykke Li, which was pretty cool. I saw The XX. I saw a little bit of Björk and then I saw Soulwax, which was amazing. I saw Lorde. I watched her from the crowd! And I saw a couple other acts during the day, but I don’t actually know what their names were. I actually thought there were some amazing acts.
And prior to the festival, you did a Mahogany Session at globe making warehouse, Bellerby and Co. I honestly canʼt think of a better setting for you guys! Did you get to try your hand at making one while you were there?
Okay, so those globes are way better done than I would have thought... They’re hand painted with gouache and watercolour, and they cost an incredible amount of money. I think we were singing beside a £100,000 globe, or something like that. I didn’t have time to actually make one, but they let me see what the brushes were like, ‘cos I used to be a painter, and they let me check out how they make them. It was really trusting of them, because the man hours involved with those globes is incredible. I definitely wanna buy a globe from them. I think I’ve gotta save up a little bit more [laughs]. Really amazing location! Have you seen the footage from it? It’s so special, that place.
Yeah, very haunting.
Very haunting and very from a different time... Everything’s hand done. There’s something so beautiful about the environment they have there. I was talking to the guy that ran it and I said, “How did you know to turn it into a business?” And he said, “There’s no competition.” And that’s an interesting idea! I mean, literally, nobody else in the planet makes these handprinted globes! I’m like, “That’s a really good business idea” – and he really enjoys it! I think that’s the big thing. Everyone involved with his company enjoys making these creations, and that’s the perfect recipe. When you have no competition and you love what you do. Done! You know?
What else did you get up to in London while you were up?
Well, my sister lives in London. She’s lived here for about twenty years, but we’re Russian and Ukranian by blood, so we went for Russian food! We always try to seek out the most authentic Russian restaurants in London... You can do it bad or you can do it really well, you know? There’s one called Mari Vanna that does really good food. You’re in there and everyone’s speaking Russian – and it’s like, “Wow, I didn’t realise there was such a big Russian community!” And as a result, there’s amazing food.
Authenticity is something thatʼs clearly very important to you. Is this the first thing you look for in an artist?
Oh, one-hundred percent! If I don’t feel the truth in the lyrics, I’d rather listen to instrumental music. It’s a tough bar that I’ve set, but as soon as I don’t feel that, I’m like “Ugh! This person’s such a good singer, but I don’t believe them...”. It frustrates me, you know?
Why do you think authenticity is so overlooked in todayʼs society, particularly in music?
Well, that’s a really deep question – and I’ll try to bring it down to a short answer. I think money is the number one factor. People are trying to make a lot of money! And when you get really obsessed with money, you start to think about formulas of success – and formulas of success aren’t usually authentic. If you’re bringing in a load of writers to work on lyrics, you’re trying to devise or come up with a song that has a winning formula, and that’s when you lose me. Maybe you win, or you reach your goal that you’re trying to get in general – but, for me, it doesn’t resonate as true and so it doesn’t have longevity for me. I can’t listen to an artist for very long if I can’t feel the truth in their music. And as a result, I’m very interested in authenticity [when creating my own music,] which can frustrate people on the business end of things, for labels and stuff. But I can’t really do it any other way! I have to have these experiences personally and write about them. I don’t need anyone else’s input, because I don’t want their input. I think it’ll dilute what I’m trying to do.
When youʼre not creating, what are you usually doing?
If I’m not creating, I’m on some kind of adventure, usually. I’m not really one to just do nothing. I need some recharge period from tour, but we’re always making a plan to go somewhere. We’re going up to Big Sur a lot, which is where Genevieve’s from. I don’t know whether you’ve ever seen photos of Big Sur? I think it’s one of the more beautiful places on the planet. It’s just this mountain range that is on the cliff, on the water. It’s a huge cliffy edge and it’s very rugged mountain living, so that’s where Genevieve and I spend a lot of time when we’re in LA.
Do you have any regrets, or do you think everythingʼs just part of the journey?
I don’t really look at life that way. Even the biggest struggles I’ve had, for example,
buying out a record label to be able to make a record, are not regrets. I view everything almost like I’m being pulled back like a bow and arrow – and all those struggles are just readying me to fire forward.
Whatʼs your favourite song off the new album?
Off the new album, for me, I would say ‘Song For You’ is my favourite song.
Name five songs that inspired Blood!
I don’t know if I’ve been inspired by other music in that way, but I’ve been listening to Band of Gypsys – ‘Who Knows’ recently. It inspires me, because there’s so much energy in that live performance. I love Once in a Lifetime by Talking Heads, I listen to a lot of classical music – Pergolesi, the Italian composer is someone I love. I have a pretty eclectic mix!
Fancy describing your music with only onomatopoeic words?
I think there’s a pulp to my music. I don’t know if that’s fully onomatopoeia. But I think the Ps in the word ‘Pulp’ generate a feeling of flesh.
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