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Byron Shire
October 23, 2021

Getting the milk for Bello

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The Milk Carton kids are an American indie folk duo from Eagle Rock, California. Headlining Bello Winter Music, Joey Ryan spoke about recording Monterey, their latest album release.

Reflecting on the tone of the recording, Joey said, ‘I think it was a part of our intention to have our album feel like its own universe, for it to be a world that you would be invited to for 38 minutes and that would feel like yes, this is a different place from where you are. It had to be its own separate world.’

For them recording is an instinctual thing. ‘I think it’s purely an intuition,’ says Joey ‘I don’t think it’s rational, it doesn’t come under the purvue of rational intention. For us it’s simple, specifically sticking to the instrumentation of two guitars and two voices, and writing with a common focus throughout all the songs, not with a common theme, but with a common feel. The hope is that everything will coalesce in the end.’

Being a folk duo, there have of course been comparisons to Simon and Garfunkel. Not surprising seeing as their brand of acoustic guitar and harmony has them well in the zone. So what’s their working relationship like? Does one acquiesce to the other? Does one have to Garfunkel to the other’s Simon?

‘There is no compromise,’ says Joey ‘We are not allowed to compromise, we are only allowed to do things that both of us want to do; we have mutual veto power. We are not allowed to stand up and sing a song on stage that we don’t both believe in… We are definitely not democratic. We are totalitarian. Fortunately it’s just the two of us.’

Monterey was made on the road. ‘The whole making of this album was to do with process and eliciting a certain looseness and genuiness of performance. We always write about places and every one of our albums probably has too many placename references. It’s not supposed to be a road album. Maybe it is naturally because that’s how we live our life. It’s not as though we are out there listening to Jackson Brown’s Running on Empty. One of my favourite songs is Paul Simon’s America. For us the travel is just mundane.

‘Although we can’t deny that a sense of place comes through very, very strongly in our music – it‘s an artefact of how we live our lives.’

So who appears in the music along
the way?

‘I think some of the characters in our songs are compounds of other people. We look outward at social issues or societal observations rather than personal observations. I think it is important to avoid dogmatic or cliched things about stances, and to try to illuminate and capture in an emotional sense what it feels like to be on the wrong end of some of these policies, or what it feels like to witness injustice.’

Milk Carton Kids play Bello Winter Music in Bellingen this weekend.

For program and ticketing information go to www.bellowintermusic.com – opening on Thursday with music in the streets and halls of Bellingen until late Sunday.

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