It is release day of the first single ‘Midnight Club’ from Milo Gore’s upcoming EP As you hear me now, you listen to my past when we connect over Zoom. It’s been a long time coming, and the Bristol-based singer-songwriter’s mood is one of nervous anticipation. The EP’s contents were originally written in his student digs in Falmouth a few years ago, and then recorded during the summer-before-the virus when debut How Do You Cope While Grieving for the Living? was thrashed out in a Cornish bungalow.
In many ways, those hazy days are a world away from where Milo finds himself now, almost two years on. A timeline of the last year-and-a-bit in particular shows how transitory a time it has been. “I recorded the album, went into rehab, then had four months of sobriety in the real world, and then we went into lockdown, which is like being in rehab again. It’s been brutal.” The time off from touring therefore hasn’t felt like recuperation but stasis, the excruciating wait to rejoin society prolonged by his recent sobriety.
So, while established artists might have welcomed the opportunity for respite, retiring into countryside recording cabins to write, Milo has craved noise and recognition. It is easy to empathise with his frustration at releasing his best work yet into a void, the only signs of engagement in the form of streaming figures and social media ‘likes’. At face value, his expectations for the single release might sound unambitious: “I looked at Spotify for Artists and it’s had like 100 plays already… I’m excited to see as the day goes on that hopefully tick up to at least 200”. However, left at the mercy of Spotify’s algorithms, DIY artists like Milo Gore have faced an increasingly difficult battle in an over-saturated virtual market.
Truthfully, Milo’s accomplishments stretch further than quantifiable statistics such as streaming numbers. Persevering despite the circumstances, the singer-songwriter has successfully wrestled with alcohol and drugs abuse. However, he confesses that the trade-off has been a more challenging creative process. “Now because I’m a lot more in my own head, even though I’m not high I’m actually more confused because I don’t have the blinkers on and there’s so much more going on. Where I was a little bit manic before, now that I’m sober I want to be a perfectionist about it. I want to be able to sit and slowly work it out and get it onto paper, I want it to be much more methodical. Efficient but slow.”
Combine the challenge of new-found sobriety and the stresses of spinning many plates as an independent artist, and Milo is finding it tough to set manageable expectations: “I do think I was kind of delusional in that I thought I was better than I was. I thought I was just going to blow up, release it and get millions of streams. But that was partly just because I was high on drugs.” Intoxicated or otherwise, you can understand why Milo’s hopes were high. How Do You Cope While Grieving for the Living was a timely record, fusing dramatic vocals with roaring guitar and drum riffs, and addressing weighty topics with an engaging urgency.
As you hear me now, you listen to my past—set for release on 28 May—is undoubtedly a strong follow-up. Its contents very nearly made the album; Milo admits he had to be convinced by his bandmates not to release a 20-track behemoth: “I got talked out of it because it’s good to have a backlogue, and we’re not in the age of the albums.” It turns out his peers were right; these B-sides make for engaging listening of their own accord. There’s a mesmerising clash of light and dark as Milo’s charged vocals are matched with back-up singer FARE’s (Christina Smith) airy undertones. Toe-tapping appeal is provided by the rhythmic swelling and flowing of Kieran Clark on guitar and Joe Aslett on drums. Although now technically a solo artist, Milo is at pains to point out the importance of his regular bandmates: “My music wouldn’t be half as good without the team behind me, so I like to make sure that’s known.”
There’s no doubt that the album and EP prove the benefits of collaboration. Producer Pete Propokiw (Florence + the Machine) offered to work with Milo Gore after spotting him and his group at a gig, and has since enabled him to explore new depths of sound. “As a professional musician, I pride myself on quality and working with these people lifts it. It’s radio ready now.” Opening the new EP, ‘Chilli’ is a typical example; a slow build bubbling towards the track’s roaring conclusion. Indeed, rather than reigning it in, it was Propokiw’s advice that Milo could take his signature urgency further. Milo explains “if you put that emotion behind it that’s what takes it from commercial indie pop to having that gritty feel.”
For all the merits of strong production, it’s the rawness of closing track ‘Scarlett’s Affair’ that provides the most arresting moments. Milo admits it is “one of my favourite songs I’ve ever written… that song is one take vocals, one take piano, and we were meant to re-record some bits properly, but the file got corrupted. I don’t mind that though; if I’d made it a perfect recording you would have lost that feeling.” Having sat with the track for a long time, Milo confesses its release marks a moment of closure. “The last line ‘everything’s changing now’, it’s that classic clichè of one door closes and another door opens.”
A new chapter, then, but an uncertain one. Conversing with Milo Gore for an hour is like listening to his music. There’s a restless rhythm to every thread, at once veering between excitement and anxiety. As we wind up, Milo tells me he doesn’t know where to go next, then offers a glimpse of a project he’s working on—a diversification of sound fuelled by a desire to experiment. It’s a theme that runs through his creative endeavours. In debut closer ‘The Endless War’, there’s self doubt: “I question myself every time I step off that ledge in my dreams” but also understanding: “these things take time / time to build.”
There is no doubt that Milo Gore is finding life as an independent artist tough, but like the rest of us now, he’s well-practiced in the virtues of patience. As we prepare to exit our own lockdown hibernation, we can empathise with the singer-songwriter’s struggles to adapt to a new way of living. But closure so often helps us move on, and with the release of As you hear me now, you listen to my past, Milo Gore takes an important step. For listeners the EP offers a chance to indulge in the familiar once more, but for the now Bristol-based artist it marks the first step on a new creative journey.
As you hear me now, you listen to my past is out tomorrow, on 28 May.
Interview conducted by Adam Goldsmith
Photo by Josh Collins
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