Millie & The Moths, Grass | Buzz Blog

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Millie & The Moths, Grass

Posted By on May 26, 2013, 11:59 PM

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We're finally hitting the stretch of yearly weather where you can head outside and not expect to see snow in a couple of hours, which makes for excellent concert weather. --- I know, it's inside, but you all know damned well that the majority of Utah's music audience is dictated by how many clouds are hovering overhead, because, god forbid, you get wet for 30 seconds between the door and your car. But, I digress.

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This past weekend, I headed over to Kilby Court for an awesome showcase featuring the melodic pipes of our old friend Josaleigh Pollett, the folk-punk stylings of Millie & The Moths and the progressive rock music of the barely formed SLC band Grass. I chat with those bands today, along with showing about 200 pictures I took of the showcase for you to check out here.

Millie & The Moths

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Gavin: Hey, Millie. First thing, tell us a little about yourself.

Millie: Hello, Gavin. I’m Millie Montag, from the all-girl folk-punk band Millie & the Moths. We wear black lipstick and we sing songs about earthquakes, moths, Peter Lorre and the end of the world.

Gavin: What got you interested in music, and who were some of your favorite acts and musical influences growing up?

Millie: I grew up listening to folk rock of the '60s and '70s, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young and John Prine. When I got older, I discovered punk music and started listening to bands like X and The Slits. I feel like Millie & The Moths is a synthesis of the two genres. I want to have the raw emotion of punk combined with the folk harmonies and instrumentation that I loved in the music from my childhood.

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Gavin: How did the five of you come together to form the band, and why The Moths name for the band?

Millie: I put up some flyers around the University of Utah, I got a call from Lexie Levitt, my guitarist and ukuleleist, and she introduced me to Molly Porter, my drummer and charmer. I heard Laura Slusser, bass, and Ysa Pitman, violin, playing a set of crazy/fantastic Nirvana covers with only an electric guitar and violin, and I knew I had to have them in my band. We call ourselves The Moths because, for us, moths are underappreciated punk butterflies. “Moth Love Song” is a song I wrote for anybody who has ever been called “ugly and strange and unholy” by people who don’t understand them.

Gavin: You perform more of an acoustic folk-punk style. What influenced the take on the genre, and how tricky is it keeping the edge on the sound without going full folk?

Millie: I think that punk kind of evolved out of folk music, with bands like The Patti Smith Band and The Velvet Underground, and so to me the two genres are really quite compatible. In the end, I think it just comes down to making music that is honest and without affectation -- that is at the heart of both folk music and punk music.

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Gavin: You've been together about a year now. How has it been playing around the city and building an audience?

Millie: It’s been great! Audiences in Salt Lake have been so nice to us, and hecklers generally only shout out helpful things like, “Don’t trip on that."

Gavin: Late last year, you put out the Moth Love Songs EP. What was it like recording that album, and what issues did you have along the way?

Millie: I recorded and mixed the songs on Moth Love Songs myself. I’m pretty sure I drove everybody crazy -- I would say stuff like, “Try to make a moth-like sound with the violin” or “play the drums like you’re getting frustrated but you’re trying not to show it,” and then we’d try a bunch of stuff for hours until we got a sound that we liked. But, I’m pretty happy with the way it turned out.

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Gavin: What was the reaction to it' release, as well as the 801 Sessions with Spy Hop?

Millie: The reaction has been really great – the idea of somebody, somewhere, hearing one of our songs at some random time at some random place is still so crazy and exciting to me. And we were so thrilled to get to work with the people at Spy Hop for the 801 Sessions – they did such a good job.

Gavin: Are there any plans for releasing a full-length album down the road, or simply recording for now?

Millie: We would love to record a full-length album. Right now, we are just trying to figure out the funds for it.

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Gavin: Are you looking to do any local touring over the summer, or just sticking to SLC?

Millie: So far, we’re just playing around SLC this summer and getting ready to play at the Utah Arts Festival on June 20. But, we do love road trips, and we hope to go on tour before the end of the year.

Gavin: Going local, what are your thoughts on the local music scene, both good and bad?

Millie: I am very new to the SLC music scene, but I love how there are a lot of people here who are really passionate about making music. Also, there are a lot of great venues here – I love Kilby and the Shred Shed. I got a chance to see a show at the State Room a few weeks ago. They let you sit down. It felt kind of like a church in a really good way.

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Gavin: Is there anything you believe could be done to make it more prominent?

Millie: I think it would be really cool to have a free concert series, like the Twilight Concert Series, with local bands.

Gavin: Not including yourselves, who are your favorite acts in the scene right now?

Millie: I saw Brent Colbert from The Awful Truth play a set a few weeks ago, and I might have cried a bit. Maybe I had some dust in my eye or something -- I didn’t. Also, I love the beautiful, soft folky sounds of Josaleigh Pollett, and we are so excited to be playing with her again on July 1 at Boing! Anarchist Collective.

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Gavin: What's your opinion on the current airplay on community radio and how it affects local musicians?

Millie: I think radio is a fantastic medium that is so underappreciated. I love what Alana Burman is doing on KRCL with her show The BeeHive; there are so many local artists who need a platform, and radio offers that platform.

Gavin: What do you think of file sharing these days, both as musicians and a music lover?

Millie: I really don’t know what to think about it. As somebody who is just getting started in the music business, I think that the ability to share my music with somebody in Brazil who I have never met is pretty incredible. I have no idea what the consequences overall will be, but I strongly believe that people who truly love to make music are always going to make music.

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Gavin: What can we expect from all of you over the rest of this year?

Millie: We’ve got a few videos in the works involving five nun costumes and some bearded men wearing lipstick. We’re going to be playing gigs throughout the city – our upcoming shows are listed on our website.

Gavin: Is there anything you'd like to plug or promote?

Millie: Please come see us at the Utah Arts Festival on June 20 at 5:45 on the Park Stage. We are so thrilled to be a part of the festival this year and it is going to be so much fun. I really want to build us five pairs of moth wings to wear on stage.

Grass (Sean Smith & Dan Actor)

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Gavin: Hey, guys. First thing, tell us a little about yourselves.

Sean: Grass is myself on bass and vocals, Dan on guitar and Harvey Bennett on drums We're a three-piece progressive/indie-rock group, based in SLC.

Gavin: What got you interested in music, and who were some of your favorite acts and musical influences growing up?

Dan: My favorite acts growing up were The Mars Volta, Maps and Atlases, and The Dillinger Escape Plan. I played jazz guitar in high school and college so jazz is definitely an influence for me, as well, at least in the chordal aspect. Mostly modern funky stuff like Lettuce or Medeski Martin and Wood, I'm all about the dad-jamz.

Sean: My influences in terms of playing bass were Stanley Clarke, Ray Brown, Ron Carter, all amazing players with a huge sense of range. On the other hand, I love groups like Sonic Youth and Sigur Ros for their amazing songwriting and arranging. Basically, as Dan said, we're jazz trained, the three of us, and I think that has taught us that being musically open is really important as an artist or ensemble. Our drummer couldn't be here for the interview. He grew up playing jazz with us.

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Gavin: How did the three of you come together to form Grass?

Sean: The three of us have been friends since high school. We grew up playing together, in school music programs and on our own time. Eventually, we all found ourselves living back in SLC, and here we are. It just seemed natural.

Gavin: What kind of a challenge has it been working as just a trio without having to expand the band?

Sean: The challenge that exists in playing in a three piece is also what makes the project enticing. I feel that trios are unique in the sense that every member has to pull their own weight; you can't hide.

Dan: I don't see it as a challenge, and for Grass, I think keeping it a three piece is best. Though we've only been playing as Grass for a short time, the fact that we grew up playing music together means that we have this kind of group intuition. Everyone anticipates and plays off of everyone else, which is easier to do with less heads in the mix. It makes the writing process feel really organic.

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Gavin: While you've been in other bands before, you've been together only a short time as this one. How has it been building an audience from scratch?

Sean: Right now, we are sitting at only a couple of intimate shows under our belt, which, at least, for me, makes where we currently stand very exciting. I have played in a fair amount of bands in my short time in the city and I feel a fair amount of the focus for artists is on how many shows they play, as opposed to making meaningful connections with the people who attend. We want to take a different approach.

Gavin: Are you looking to record an album soon, or are you mainly just playing gigs for now?

Dan: For the near future, we're looking to cut an EP and keep playing gigs. Ideally, we'd like to get a full-length done by the end of the year. We're always writing.

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Gavin: Any plans to tour this summer, or will you mainly stick to Utah?

Dan: We'll stick to Utah; the main focus for the summer is to get recordings done and play more local shows. We're starting from the ground up.

Gavin: Going local, what are your thoughts on the music scene, both good and bad?

Sean: Local music is the lifeblood of the music industry as a whole. With that said, I get frustrated sometimes with the state of our scene. I feel like the dominant consensus here is, "Lets go see -- insert friend's bands name -- at -- insert random bar -- and get shitty." Though that kind of attitude is really easy to attain the wanted results, I feel that this kind of thinking is almost subversive to the scene as a whole. In short: I would like to see the scene grow more intrinsically and holistically.

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Gavin: Is there anything you believe could be done to make it more prominent?

Sean: My answer goes back to what I said about the state of the local scene. We need collectivism and openness to really define the Salt Lake scene. It has so much potential, and it's up to all of us to sustain it.

Gavin: Not including yourselves, who are your favorite acts in the scene right now?

Dan: My favorite local act was Gaza. I can't tell you how bummed I am that they split up, but I hear some of those dudes are still playing; can't wait to hear the new group. I also really dig on what the guys in Koala Temple are doing, that whole garage/shoegaze/psych kinda thing, it's awesome.

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Gavin: What's your opinion of the current airplay on community radio and how it affects local musicians?

Sean: I feel that community radio, even today, is one of the strongest avenues for an artist to get real world fans, especially in the infancy of a project. There are, however, certain aspects of our local community radio scene that I feel should be addressed, mainly community radio's role in taking a chance on local artist's releases. Much of the local music I hear on the radio exists in a very safe and palatable area that, in my experience, doesn't get the audience to engage any further than, "Oh, it's a local band ... okay." People on both sides need to take risks in order to advance.

Dan: Community radio is very important for local musicians, simply in that it gives them exposure. I was a college radio DJ when I was in school up in the Pacific Northwest, and that's how I found all of my favorite local groups in that area. A good community radio station can make a huge difference in a scene.

Gavin: What do you think of file sharing these days, both as musicians and a music lovers?

Dan: There's a lot of artists who wouldn't be where they are today if it weren't for file sharing. Music spreads faster and farther if it's free. Usually, if I get an album of a group I respect through file sharing, I go to their show when they come through town and buy some merch to support the band themselves, rather than the label that puts out their records. I think we're going to see a shift in the music industry, from mostly label releases to the online DIY, pay-what-you-will approach.

Sean: I am a huge proponent of file sharing. I am a head, and if I had to pay 99 cents for every single song I have on my computer, I would be in the hole $130,000. People like to argue that filing sharing destroyed albums sales, which in turn destroyed the industry. My experience has led me to believe that anachronisms in the music industry are leading to a downfall of the industry. Because of the Internet, people are now, more so than ever before, becoming avid music fans who are willing to pay for the right stuff that is actually applicable to the sustainability of the artist. The real question is, what is that stuff, and where will it take us in the long run?

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Gavin: What can we expect from all of you over the rest of this year?

Dan: For the rest of the year, we plan to get some recordings cut, and keep playing shows. As I said earlier, we're looking to track an EP within the coming months.

Gavin: Is there anything you'd like to plug or promote?

Sean: Be on the lookout for more shows, a Grass Facebook page, and recordings. We're starting from square one and taking our time with this project.

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