It’s the night of Hurricane Sandy in Toronto and I have to repeat my question for Milo Greene’s Robbie Arnett a few times because the wireless service over the phone keeps cutting out. I hear music in the background — it sounds like a piano — as he tells me what he ordered at the restaurant. Pad Thai, mildly spicy, with lemon and water. Delicious. The indie folk band drove straight from Montreal in their van, and is now relaxing before their show at Toronto’s Horseshoe Tavern in a couple hours.
Robbie is one of four vocalists, none of whom are actually named Milo, in the Los Angeles quintet. Milo Greene was the fictional identity of their British booking agent who “represented” them through their college years. They don’t need his services anymore and are currently playing shows across North America. They recently released a self-titled debut album that includes the track “1957” and completed a short film named Moddison, which is the name of a track on their album. Over the phone, Robbie tells me all about pre-show jitters, guilty music pleasures and nearly driving off a cliff at the Grand Canyon.
First, some mood music. Listen to “1957.”
What are you up to right now?
I’m over at Rivoli’s, which is a bar right next to Horseshoe Tavern. We’re just getting some food and enjoying Monday night football before the show.
Do you get nervous before performing?
It’s more of a nervous energy. It doesn’t matter if we’re playing in front of five people or 500, I just get a little anxious. Once I get up there settle into it I get a little more relaxed.
You just played The Bowery Ballroom a few days ago. Looks like you narrowly missed Hurricane Sandy in New York.
It’s kind of scary. Our manager is in Boston with his girlfriend and they were supposed to fly back to LA this morning but he’s not able to fly back for a few days. Everything’s locked down but we kind of escaped some madness.
Any plans for tomorrow in Toronto?
We have a day off here tomorrow and I actually like grey skies. I hope it’s not too stormy though because I probably want to walk around. We haven’t had a day off in a week and half or so! We’re travelling in a van and trailer so we have pretty tight space most of the time. It’ll be nice to stretch out and explore if the weather’s okay.
Man, that sounds like such a small space. How do you keep entertained?
It’s pretty grueling some days because we can be travelling eight or 10 hours. As you can imagine, being in a van with seven people can get a bit stuffy. There’s a lot of movies and NPR broadcasts. If we’re really bored we’ll play a music game or something. And we try to take scenic stops if we have time.
I read somewhere that you nearly drove off a cliff at the Grand Canyon. What happened there?
We were driving and our drummer Curtis was behind the wheel. He’s deathly afraid of spiders and dead insects. This huge dinosaur-looking bug flew into the van and hit Curtis. When he saw it he started shaking and the van was swerving all over the place. We had to grab Curtis and say “you’re okay, you’re okay” and roll down the window so the bug could fly out. It was a bit of a Billy Madison type move where we thought we were going to drive off the cliff.
Yikes, that’s so scary! Going back to the music, do you have any pre-stage traditions?
We’ve curated a little playlist to get us pumped up before the show and it includes “Creep” and “Vogue”— all kinds of stuff I grew up with and love. I read about a girl the other day who said “the pre-show playlist threw me off big time. “ I just thought it was pretty funny because most people who come to our show are around our age so it’s kind of nostalgic. Usually they say “OMG they’re playing TLC’s ‘Creep!’”
You guys often trade instruments on stage. Is the ritual rooted in anything?
We never plan out that we’re going to hopscotch around. When we were in the rehearsal space we really wanted to use as many instruments as possible on the record, even if we didn’t necessarily know how to play them. We’d pick them up and learn a few chords and learn melodies around them. During the live show we toss off instruments to make sure the album is recreated. If we’re in a small space it can be tough!
We submitted a movie to Sundance and South By Southwest. We’d really love to showcase that not only do we love music but love making and writing films too.
Milo Greene’s self-titled album is currently on iTunes and you can watch their film Moddison below.
Moddison: A Film By Milo Greene