Music Interviews

Interview: Milburn

Milburn’s debut album, Well Well Well, is set for release this autumn, following the singles Lipstick Lickin’, Send In The Boys and Cheshire Cat Smile.

Having a place like Sheffield on your musical CV is a green light forthe press to dredge up comparisons and make wild predictions for thefuture. “This band will be the next (insert obvious name of ice coldsimians here) by the end of the year”, for instance.
Milburn, it seems will be more than happy to remain themselves. Thequartet are cramped round the table in a King’s Cross pub, beers in handand conversation flowing almost as freely.

Present and correct aresinger/bassist Joe Cornall, a young pretender to Danny Goffeyperhaps, who has achieved four top-grade ‘A’ levels but turned downCambridge University for his shot at a pop career. Opposite him is brotherLouis, a rhythm guitarist who enjoyed a short stint as an electrician, andthen in the middle sits guitarist Tom Rowley, recently shed of hisbanking responsibilities. Finally on the end is Joe Green(‘Greeny’), the down to earth bassist whose previous includes lossadjusting and working on insurance claims.

Together the band’s aggregate age is comfortably shy of one hundred,they’ve just signed to Mercury records and the album’s finished, in the bagfor an early Autumn release. Time for a holiday then!

“Well we’ve been off for the world cup – purposely!” says Tom, “so we’vebeen practising but watching all the games as well. We’re getting ready fora load of live dates and festivals too.” At the time of speaking the bandwere preparing for their T in the Park appearance, The Fratellis and The Automatic thereabouts on the bill. Already an affinity with theScots is clear, as without hesitation the band agree on Edinburgh as theirfavourite gig from the last tour. “You just don’t expect people to know youthere”, says Tom, “but they went totally mental for us, and knew all thewords to the songs. Actually the whole of the last tour in general peoplewere fucking brilliant. We loved it in Edinburgh though when Louis jumpedoff stage, the crowd parted and he fell flat on his face!”

Their festival roster is full for the remainder of the summer, as Joeexplains. “We’re off to Japan for the Fuji Rocks festival, and we’re doingLeeds – can’t wait for that – and then I imagine we’ll be touring round thealbum when that comes out.” Due last September, the as yet untitled debutis something the band are happy with. “We’re not sick of the songs yet!”says the singer, “although we’ve been playing them loads we just want toget them packaged and out to people.” “The B-sides are still my favourite”offers Greeny, and the band nod sagely in agreement. “The crowd are properbarmy when we play some of them.”

So what do they write about? Louis considers. “Well them two (he pointsto Tom and his brother) write most of the songs. We do bits and bobs butthen it gets to band practice and we all chip in until we get bored oruntil it’s good. Normally our songs are short though!” “We write aboutanything and everything” says brother Joe, “some are observational, butthen for me truly observational is the sort of stuff Mike Skinnerwould write. But what are you supposed to write about? We just find thatwriting direct is the best way for us to go. With Coldplay‘s firstalbum or Oasis, you don’t always know what the songs are about, butthere’s a direct communication there.”

“It’s only 20 minutes to getinto. Not like London, where in 20 minutes it seems like you don’t getanywhere…”
– Joe compares Sheffield with the capital

The band are closely linked to the Arctic Monkeys, and not justgeographically. It becomes clear they are keen to stay away from thissubject for now however, understandably preferring to talk about themselvesrather than their mates. A simple “yes” is all that’s required from Tomwhen asked if they know them well, followed by complete silence. Latertheir manager confirms the closeness of their relationship – almost ofsibling intensity.

Instead the band are more forthcoming on Sheffield’s attractions. “It’sjust a big village”, says Joe Cornall, “and it’s only 20 minutes to getinto. Not like London, where in 20 minutes it seems like you don’t getanywhere. People are a lot more honest in Sheffield as well, more willingto help you. Down here everyone’s too busy.” His mild issues with Londonextend to the music business. “People who you meet here just put you off,and we find that up north the fans are miles better, fans that’ll come andsee you for the music rather than anything else.”

The band formed at school and are all childhood friends, so they takeheart from the successes of bands like Ash. “We do”, says theaffable Greeny, “and also inspiration from bands like Supergrass,even The Coral, who’ve been around for three, four albums now.Muse, too, they’ve been going for twelve years. They’re a hardworking, established band who deserve everything they get. Everyone thatsees them knows they’re good live”.

“My mum was pregnant with me when she went and saw Queen live, so we reckon that made it for me.”
– Greeny on his musical roots

Such judgements are made with authority rather than arrogance, for it’sclear the band know their music, and value what they do. Not for a minutedo they sound like Muse though! Joe offers “northern romanticism” as adescription of their sound and songs. Greeny adds more. “We take theJam as one of our influences – every modern band should – butthey’re one of many. The Specials, they’re another.” And then,rather less predictably, “I actually like Bobby Brown, I think he’sa lyrical genius!”

At which point he starts singing R Kelly‘s She’s Got That Vibe -cut from similar cloth, admittedly – with a gusto that suggests it could bea bridge too far on the beer front, or, more likely, that his recordcollection already has an impressive depth. “My mum was pregnant with mewhen she went and saw Queen live, so we reckon that made it for me.I think Prince is such a legend as well, and not just for being amusical talent but I really admire him for when he changed his name! TheRed Hot Chili Peppers too, we like them collectively – it’s notreally reflected in our music but more because of their musical talent,they’re some of the best musicians in the world.”

And with that, on to the next interview and accompanying pint, theband’s confidence later proved at T in the Park not to be misplaced. Theirsound may be similar to one or two of their Northern contemporaries doingthe rounds at the moment, but the sharpness of their songwriting anddelivery, coupled with a lyrical aptitude, seems to have put them in a goodposition. Now for that debut album…

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Milburn – Well Well Well
Interview: Milburn