Rhye is a group that has a truly special sound, at the crossroads of pop, soul, jazz, and electro music. Their last album, Blood, had blown us away. It is while promoting their latest work that we had the pleasure of meeting Milosh, to discuss about writing, recording, creation and promotion. Amongst other things.
It’s the middle of the day, and I am awaited in a coffee, in the 9th district of Paris. The weather is particularly not spectacular, I nearly got wet, and I am heading to a neighbourhood I know pretty well. As I arrive, the warm atmosphere is strikingly warm, and the place is quite crowded. I am surprised: I expected way less people, a Friday, in the middle of the day. Leather sofas and wooden tables are facing the huge windows, behind which the light traffic continues. A smell of coffee is in the air. I take place at a small table, surrounded by two club chairs, my questions hand-written on a piece of paper that I folded in a hurry.
Milosh steps in. He is the singer and founding member of the group. Wearing a black roll-neck pullover and jeans, he sits in front of me. We both feel like drinking beer: a pint of brown for me, a pint of blond for him. I must say, I never thought about his general appearance, as I imagined him, without clearly knowing why, that he would be tall. He wasn’t. I know his eyes were blue, but not that kind. His voice is light, and he seems to be at ease. I start recording.
Taha : You seem like you’re on a heavy schedule, you just got out of an interview, and have some more afterwards…The last time you released an album under the name of Rhye was four years ago. You have, alongside, other stage names, under which you are still publishing other albums, including one being your own name. Where comes this need to dissociate what you produce for Rhye from your other names from? Is it linked to the genres that they belong to?
Milosh : I think it has to do with the genres. One will be more electronic, when another one will be more natural… The methodology also influences the diversity of the names: with Milosh, I do a lot of micro-editing, reworking the sounds, creating new ones, whereas with Rhye everything feels more organic. Rhye is recorded in a natural way, it is a very raw process, analogical… To me, Rhye is a fluid entity, and I currently have seven people with me on stage, which means a lot. When I’m in the sudio, I also work with lots of people, who support me on different things. Milosh, it’s only me. I work in complete autonomy. These different entities represent different perceptions and sides of me.
Taha : In a very pragramtic way, how do you proceed to record? Do you record anything in a single take, that you edit afterwards, when recording for Rhye?
Milosh : There isn’t that much editing at all, almost none. I record a part on the piano, it’s cool, we keep it. We try something on the drums, in a few takes, and it’s done. Usually, I do a single take on the drums. Regarding the voice, I mumble a few lyrics first, as I write them while we’re recording. I don’t write them to lay the music on top of it afterwards. We take a pause, get out, get some fresh air, listen to everything, I sing the lyrics once or twice, and done. I then add a layer or two, that feel natural to the track, and finish it. The chords are recorded in one or two takes, usually a few days, even weeks, later. It gives me some time to let the track get some rest, take some distance from it, and possibly come back later and do some other modifications.
Taha : How long did it take you to come up with the core, and to finish it? Because Rhye or any other entity, it’s been a while that you haven’t published anything.
Milosh : This album took me around two years to produce, between the moment I started recording to now. I’ve been travelling a lot, in a regular way, so I recorded at various places. Some tracks were recorded in New-York, some in Los Angeles, some in Berlin, other in London… This album took a while to be released because I had to look after a record and publishing deal. It wasn’t my decision: I had to negotiate with the label for a year, with lawyers, find a deal on the price, find the funds… Once all these steps were validated, and I knew I was able to publish under the name of Rhye, I finally was able to start, and it took me two years.
Taha : You’ve stated that playing live shows has truly influenced, and even changed the way you apprehended your music. What are the most notable changes between Woman and Blood, and what direction did you want to give to Blood?
Milosh : There are some major differences. Woman had been recorded in a bedroom, on a laptop, with few other tools, while Blood was recorded in a studio. It’s a radically different process. You need to gather lots of funds for a studio, but it is so worth it! The sound spectrum is so much vaster, and interesting. One of the main differences is also my psychological approach: I try to remain natural in my editing, I keep a fresh sound. On Woman, I was experimenting a lot. I used a lot of software synths, but they don’t always sound right, so you lose a lot of time playing with the equalisers, controlling the tone and rightness of it all. The album almost sounded sterile to me, as I kept on editing all the instruments. This one is way rawer. I wanted to be able to hear the room, the sounds of the instruments, the keys… You know the Led Zeppelin song I can’t quit you babe? You can hear that kind of noises on it. I’ve always liked that kind of details. If you hear the piano pedals moving, you feel like you are in the room, and can project yourself, imagine what the room is like. I hurt unwillingly a chair, and it was creaking in rhythm. I thought it was interesting to keep this noise, in a completely harmless manner. I let the environment have its own place in my music.
Taha : You said that you were accompanied by seven people on stage, but you also played alone, facing 25 people laying on beds. The next day, you were playing at festivals. How do you adapt your sound to the venues, that have such various capacities?
Milosh : Yes… How do you know? I have mentioned that show only once, you really dug deep to find this! I play the songs differently, according to the venue and the crowd I have. If it is a room that has perfect acoustics, I find myself in a radically different dynamic. Sometimes, I can sing to 2000 people without a mic, and everybody can hear me. It’s impossible, in a festival. Moreover, you can’t have a single silent moment, at a festival. I have to play some songs that I wouldn’t play in a symphonic auditorium, facing a sitting audience. So we tweak the songs, I ask my band to be more silent, reaching a point where I’m almost whispering. We sometimes reach such a low volume that you can hear every single little element, a cable that’s moving, someone coughing… It is so intense, the people are in such a high anticipation… Playing with that dynamic is a real pleasure. The same way, interacting with the public, looking at these people, analysing their answers, reading their emotions and adapting your set on the fly is what I like the most.
Taha : I would describe your music as being kind of chill, on which you could slowly sway, and relax. How does the public behave, at your concerts? Do people dance?
Milosh : [Laughs] I’m not seeing anyone raising their fist, beating the rhythm with my music, it’s not our thing! People move slowly. Sometimes, we have nice surprises, when people truly are in the mood, and feel a deep connection to the music. I feel like I sometimes witness an emotional liberation. Some crowds are so enthusiastic that I was afraid I was about to become deaf, some crowds were so stoical that I wasn’t sure they had understood that we were done. I really had everything!
Taha : And what are the public reactions? Are there still people who don’t know you?
Milosh : We had some! At the beginnings, the reactions were mixed, people stared at us, intrigued, wondering what we were doing. But there has been a huge shift in this. Now, people generally know who we are. I’ve now had crowds of over 10 000 people who knew the lyrics and sang along with us. That felt amazing. There are only now festivals left where we have to conquer the crowds. And we are normally scheduled at a time that makes sense for our music. There was only Coachella that felt really weird, as we were playing at the same time as Run The Jewels for about 15 minutes. It felt endless, they are loud, as opposed to us! It didn’t make any sens, we didn’t even understand how concerts were superposed. At Pitchfork, on the contrary, it was perfect, the crowds had time to move from one stage to another. And you have no idea what your crowd will be like, so you deal with it in real time.
Taha : As I was listening to your album, a recurring question kept going through my mind: what is behind this common thread, that is blood?
Milosh : Actually, I have never explained it. I don’t feel like explaining everything to everyone, or to give it out to the world. What I can tell you is that I realised at a certain point that all my songs referred to blood in a way or another. I think that it was unconscious. In a strange way, my grand-mother came from a community that had been recognised as cannibal. Blood is a fascinating thematic: blood represents life, family, the past, the beauty… Blood is what connects you to your family, what transports your emotion. Willing to give your blood to someone, too, creating someone. It’s unbelievable, even if it sounds like a scary movie, or alien one. The blood pumps in your veins, floods into your heart, that breaks, and goes on again for another love story. From an even more rational point of view, blood is what fills your cavities and allows you to breathe, move, feel, and live.
Taha : Thank you for the answer! You’re also very implicated in the visual aspect of your craft. Women take a preponderant place in the illustrations of your albums and videos. Moreover, in more classical arts, a woman’s body represents a sort of ideal, and a beautiful representation of the human being, for its grace. What led you tu putting a woman, or women, at the centre of the imagery you create?
Milosh : That’s an interesting question, to which I have tried to answer multiple times, but that also illustrates my point of view regarding this topic. I see myself as a very feminine man. I don’t think of myself as a machist, and I let my vulnerability flow. It is a behavioural characteristic commonly associated to women, and I am not afraid of feeling, or expressing what I feel. women have an incredible emotional capacity, when men are taught not to feel. I think we are all born the same way, but the sculptural force is the society makes that many men don’t develop that. And we’re at a turning point in our society where these values are being redefined, in a political way, but also natural and calm. Being homosexual some time ago was synonym of a systematic exclusion. I want to believe that we have, in the occidental world, left that era. No one, in my surrounding, would consider the question in a negative way, or would be condescending on an orientation that wouldn’t be described as perfectly heterosexual. A good look on these thematics is the movie “Call Me By Your Name“, where it wasn’t about the trials and tribulations of a forbidden love story, it was just a love story. It’s the first movie that I saw treat the topic from such a point of view, and I think that it is a sign that our current society is changing. We aren’t paying that much attention to it any more, we’re leaving this holy Christianity. But we’re off topic, what was it again?
Taha : The question was about your relationship to women’s body! [Laughs]
Milosh : Oh yes! On the cover of Blood, that’s my wife. We were in Island, and she’s the apple of my eye. A lot of songs being on this album are a result of the life we share, and the time we spend together. I love taking her pictures. She represents the songs, and I think it is so much more appropriate than having my face displayed on the album. Besides Waste and Phoenix, it all concerns her. Please is for her, Soft too, and so is Song For You. It was out of question to have anyone else besides her as my album cover.
Taha : And where did you take this picture?
Milosh : At about 17 hours of Reykjavík. We were driving for a while, and I realised that the perfect vision of Island to me was this moody, sleepy time in the morning, foggy in the evening. During the solstice, the sun sets for five hours. I use everything, analog and digital… I don’t like to limit myself, as it remains to me a tool, like in music. I use the functionalities and characteristics of each one of these tools to get the best out of them. I have lots of unreleased material, but I don’t know if I’ll ever use it.
Taha : I hope so! Thank you for your time, we can’t wait to see more of you!
You can read more about our review of his album here.