The Milk Carton Kids

15 Sep

“For our band, the greatest part of success rests on the shoulders of a healthy live show.”

When you think of the word minimal, you think of something that is scarce, barely there, but when it comes to music, minimalism is anything but inadequate. The Milk Carton Kids is composed of Joey Ryan and Kenneth Pattengale, two artists who came together to make the kind of music that you don’t hear while flipping through the radio dials. Their latest release, Prologue, has completely won over my heart with it’s tender words, beautiful harmonies, and carefully crafted melodies. I questioned the two about their music, their journey, and what their future holds.

Q. How did the two of you come together to form your band and what is the significance of your band name?

A. We were both hanging around the same Los Angeles music haunts and discovered a mutual admiration of one another’s work. The first time we got together to sing we figured it was worth investigating further. The band name comes from a song lyric on Prologue and serves to stand as a metaphor for the vanishing insecurities and uncertainties of youth as adulthood offers some defining anchor as salvation. A fancy way of claiming we’ve made purchase over coming-of-age.

Q. Your new album, Prologue, just released. What were some of the best memories while recording the album?

A. We stole a few days during the middle of a seven week long summer tour to record Prologue back in Los Angeles. The whole affair was a bit frantic leading up to the sessions – simply the attempt to refocus and acclimatize to a different performance mode (live vs. studio). As the dust settled we were most proud frankly of getting the thing done. Day two proved itself a bit trying, so we scrapped some of that and ended up recording five of the ten songs on the third and final day. That felt good.

Q. If you had to describe the entire album in just three words, what would they be?

A. Summer Radio Hits. Or Cold Hard Cash.

Q. Your album, Retrospect, is available on your website for free. Why did you decide to make the album free for everyone to download?

A. For our band, the greatest part of success rests on the shoulders of a healthy live show. If people are allowed access to recordings as freely as possible we trust they’ll engage in a way that starts with getting in the car and ends with leaving the theater sated. Beyond that, our band plays a particular brand of soft & introspective music that, while accessible, asks the listener for a touch more attention and engagement than a song with a big chorus or large production. We thought the best way to compel people who have, as yet, no reason to take our music in the first place was to tell them, “Take our music for free.”

Q. You’re about to start the first leg of your tour on the West Coast. Any particular states you’re looking forward to throughout the entire tour?

A. The restless state in anticipation of driving 8,000 miles in 3 weeks followed by the sedentary state of doing the driving.

Q. On the Prologue Tour, you’ll be playing alongside Andrew Belle, who is a favorite on the site. What sorts of things can the fans expect at the show? Any surprise guests?

A. If there are any guests it will surprise us, indeed. We’ve taken great pride in our minimalism to date, and in providing a live experience which is consistent with that principle and with what is displayed on our record.

Q. What would you say has been your most defining moment since forming your band?

A. Well, by definition the most defining moment would be, in fact, the moment in which we defined the band itself. So, that would be last December when we came up with the band name The Milk Carton Kids on the way to open some shows for Sara Bareilles.

Q. If you had the opportunity to personally invite someone (famous or not famous) to come and see your band perform live, who would that person be and why?

A. Jesus. That’s a hard question. But yeah, definitely Jesus. Other priorities would be Joan Wilder and Sandy Koufax.

Q. If you could see one zombie concert, (i.e. John Lennon, Kurt Cobain, Janis Joplin, etc) who would it be?

A. I, particularly, am more drawn to the idea of an actual zombie concert. I wonder if zombies play music that you would traditionally hear in zombie movies? I guess zombies are multi-faceted just like the rest of us. Zombie Reggae, then.

Q. If you were stranded on a desert island and could only bring one of your songs to listen to, which one would it be and why?

A. We would probably write a song for the occasion. The prospect of being cast-off to a deserted island is definitely way heavier than what we normally write about. Potential song title: “This One’s Gonna Get Old”

Here is the equisitely beautiful song, “Michigan” which you can find off of their latest CD.


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