Milton Star are Alan Wyllie and Graeme Currie who write and record their unique blend of indie and dark country in a converted church ‘Milton’ located in darkest Fife, the building not only inspired the band name but, as Alan explains, is pivotal in the writing process. “The thing that feeds the ideas and make the sound are the environment and acoustics here in the church and setting of the surrounding countryside. To have that on tap every day is just wonderful, we’ve been writing together for maybe 30 years and nothing before has come close. We tend to work independently on ideas initially, bouncing ideas back and forth and then come together to flesh things out, but there’s no set pattern, sometimes it’s the words, sometimes the music, sometimes a story or a visual, it’s a pretty fluid process once we get going though.”
Each of their tracks is drenched in atmosphere – think Velvet Underground meets vintage Glen Campbell via Rick Rubin collaborating on the next David Lynch movie or soundtracking the latest HBO crime drama…
Alan and Graeme’s collaborations date back through many incarnations of live bands to the early days of post punk and a band called Thursdays who were signed to Fast Records. After some years spent out of the music scene, they came back together in 2010, reinvigorated by a mutual dissatisfaction for what they describe as a “mostly insipid modern music scene”, picking up the gauntlet to produce sweet structured melodies carried by an expansive tremolo wall of sound and a dark soul.
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With such rich musical experience the duo’s influences are wide and varied, as Graeme says. “Being the age we are we go back to punk and beyond, that rich seam of creativity with Marc Bolan, Roxy Music, Bowie and Velvet Underground. For me I was always drawn to Beefheart and a lot of left field guitarists. That whole American CBGBs thing with Television, Talking Heads, Patti Smith – Marquee Moon is still my favourite album. If you go back further though to some of the pioneers, Scotty Moore, what an innovator, Link Wray – that sheer power, you listen to Rumble, blows you away every time…”
Alan adds “It was such a focus for me, the music, the visuals, I remember being fourteen and my older brother coming in to my room, throwing the 69 Velvets live album at me and saying, “learn that, you’re joining the band…” Every week having new music to buy and bands to see, we were spoiled and that sticks with you. But equally I love a lot of old country – its easy to dismiss Hank Williams, the Everlys, Cash – Roy Orbison especially, what a voice and the musical tension he generates is unique on something like In Dreams, where it just changes all the way through, no verse chorus standard structure… The great songwriters too – Jimmy Webb “And I need you more than want you and I want you for all time.” Beautiful – but you take that beauty, you scratch the surface and you mix in a big chunk of darkness, pain and sorrow…”
With shades of Soulsavers and Mark Lanegan evident, Milton Star’s debut AA side single tracks ‘Salvation’ and ‘Sorryville’ are the perfect marriage between brooding vocals and shimmering guitars underpinned by a driving beat. Wonderfully atmospheric guitarscapes paint vivid images of love, loss and regret lived out in one no-hope town to the next, in the bars, in shady motels and the highways and byways inbetween.
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