MILKK’s Pat Kiloran shares the inspiration behind the rising pop band’s new EP and explores relationships, both in the music industry and with fans.
Within the last year, pop band MILKK have seemingly popped up overnight, and become a force to reckon with ever since. With numbers growing on their Twitter account daily, the band stands out as a success story in today’s new climate of consumption.
Though MILKK’s three members are split up between Nashville and Minneapolis, the three have used the modern digital landscape to gain a following as well as keep everything they do (writing, production, etc.) in house. Being no strangers to the music industry, MILKK come to the table with experience and passion, and have made it a point to stay honest, transparent and relevant in all that they do. Whether they be working on new music, interacting with fans or sending out hundreds of emails, the members of MILKK never seem to quit, which aids in helping them stand out among the crowd.
Having worked together after the release of “Ice & Sugar,” it only seemed fitting for us to talk with them about their new EP, If You’re Reading This, I Love You (released June 15, 2018 via Good Time Records). Often abbreviated to IYRTILY, MILKK’s new EP is a record about relationships; romantic, professional and musical. Lead vocalist Pat Kiloran sat down with Atwood Magazine to further discuss MILKK’s sophomore EP, as well as the band in general.
A CONVERSATION WITH MILKK
Atwood Magazine: Hey Pat! How are you?
Pat Kiloran: Good! Just working all the time on sending a thousand emails. Today we were emailing Spotify curators trying to get them to consider of us for their playlists.
Oh! I never thought of reaching out to curators yourselves. There’s so much to do behind the scenes.
Pat Kiloran: Yeah!
Now, you all live in different places, right?
Pat Kiloran: Me and John live in Nashville and Jack still live in Minneapolis.
That’s interesting. How do you guys make it work?
Pat Kiloran: Since our first year, a lot of our work was trying to grow via the internet so we didn’t have to be in the same spot. For recording, we’ve all been in the industry for years so it’s not hard to send a session around. The only difficult part is that we can’t really sit in a room together and write. I write stuff and send it around and get thoughts. That might change as we grow… Jack said once we’re making most of our income strictly from the band, then he would possibly move down. It’s definitely a unique process, but it works fine. For touring we’ll be driving up there and rehearsing.
That’s cool that you can make it work, though. I actually wanted to talk about that a little later. Can we talk about the new EP?
Pat Kiloran: Yeah, of course!
Can you tell me a little bit bout the inspiration and purpose behind it?
Pat Kiloran: Basically, because of the way we kind of got going, it was supposed to be intended as a side project… The first EP was more fun feel-good songs, but for the new EP we wanted to write something more meaningful and dig into the artist side of things and pull something out of that. The new songs came out of that realm. Some of them, at least part of them, were written a few years ago and were re-worked. “I Hate This Song…” I recorded the chorus for that two years ago and I wanted it for my solo project but that never happened, so it really all came out of a place of, how do we want to present ourselves as the artist that we want to be perceived? With the songs too, the whole point of it was, using those artistic factors – whether they be music, artistic visuals, or clothing or whatever – to communicate a feeling that you can apply wherever you are. We wanted to express ourselves, after realizing this was a thing we were going to pursue, clearly as artists
For the new EP we wanted to write something more meaningful and dig into the artist side of things and pull something out of that
Can you briefly break down each song of the EP for readers?
“Secret’s Out”: I wrote it four years ago pretty shortly after I moved to Nashville and I was working in country music at that time, but my core thing was pop and alternative so I wrote songs like this for myself, and it was originally called “The Dream.” Basically I wrote this song about me literally in that moment four years ago feeling stuck and not knowing if I was going to achieve what I wanted to achieve with my music. I would be like waiting for something every day, but am I really doing something about it? A lot of the lyrics are very literal. And some of them alluded to me and Jack growing up and playing in bands together and now we’re adults and wanting to make this career long-lasting and profitable, but it took me back to high school when we were playing and it didn’t matter, it only mattered if people dug it.
A lot of this EP was about relationships in general, whether it a romantic relationship or my relationship with the artistic process and music industry, which ties into “I Hate This Song” which is literally my message of my frustration with the music industry. It’s about me battling with my own inner frustration with making music and my frustration with the whole fact that doing this has become a business, which is important, but at the same time, it’s so hard when you’re combining fan relationships with art with business with money, which makes it so convoluted. This whole song was one big middle finger to the process and business, and I obviously don’t always feel that way, but it’s frustrating.
“Leaving” is pretty straightforward. It’s just inspired by past relationships I’ve had. I’ve only had two relationships that went that way but they affected me and still affect me in a subconscious way of not living up to someone’s standard, and it just messes with your brain and heart. It’s just a breakup song and the emotions that go with that. We weren’t really planning on going with that, but Jack really loved this one, but now it’s one of our favorites and I’m glad we did it.
“Forever 17” is pretty straightoforward as well. It’s just a super feel-good pop love song about falling in love and staying there. That’s, for me and my personal life, that’s the place I’m at now, so that was more about my immediate state. There’s not much to dig into with that one, it’s just about summer love.
Overall, the whole EP is about the feeling with different relationships.
Let’s talk about the title and the art! Where did you get those ideas from?
Pat Kiloran: You can read into the title as a positive or negative way. I don’t remember where it initiated, but I think I just tweeted that one time, and I didn’t mean anything by it, I just tweeted it and I thought “that’s a cool name” and we had been going back and forth on names at the time, so I threw this out and we sat on it and it worked. It sounds so happy and soothing, but in my brain it’s more like a sad, leaving visual, like someone left and they wrote that and they’re gone. We were trying to figure out what to do with the art and I texted John “can I just write on my mirror with lipstick?” We didn’t have a budget so I thought, “what can we do ourselves,” so I had an idea and John’s girlfriend came, and she’s helped us with a lot of stuff, and shot it just to get the right vibe ad the framing. I just bought dollar store lipstick and wrote it on the mirror and made sure it looked right. It always touches back to, you can take that picture however you want. You can take it romantically or a breakup or whatever you want.
I like all of that a lot. I really like the visual, so I think it’s cool knowing it was done on, like, a $3 budget.
Pat Kiloran: Yeah!
You began to mention this earlier, but can you tell me a little bit about the creative process behind creating the EP? Recording, writing, production, etc.
Pat Kiloran: The way we’ve been doing things lately is basically, I’ll write an idea for a song and maybe throw down a rough demo, or sometimes me and John will write together, and after that we’ll send it up for Jack and either lay down a part on it or give feedback and then sit on it and see if we feel good about it. If we do, we send the options that we send to our label and ourselves and we all, surprisingly both on the label and our end agreed on the same four songs. So, we took the pieces we liked from those and went up to Jack’s studio and took a day for each song and stripped the songs back and re-recorded different parts with different sounds and added flourishes and did some live drum stuff and tons of things like that. We do everything in house, so after that, Jack mastered that and that’s it. It’s not the traditional band dynamic, but we all have our parts to play and we all have our input on everything.
Let’s talk more generally. You guys have collected a pretty big following in the last year. How have you used social media to your advantage?
Pat Kiloran: The way I think of it and thought of it, and I’ve expressed this online before, but I don’t feel like we’re owed anything. I know our songs are good and our package is good, but I don’t have any entitlement. I don’t think you need to listen to this or need to buy our merch: it’s about having an honest connection with our fans. I just try to be straight up with everyone, which is great because I don’t have an expectation to have anyone listen to our song, but they do because we’ve built up that trust and rapport. That’s why we do little gifts or incentives to do something because I’d like there to be a mutal aspect to it, because even though it’s as simple as clicking a button, we’re not entitled to it but we’re thankful for it. It’s really about building trust between the artist and the fanbase. We know that they’ll listen to our stuff and share our stuff, and they know that we won’t let them town and lose our quality or become irrelevant. It’s a symbiotic relationship so to speak. I think it’s fun to interact on that personal level because it creates a deeper connection with the people involved. That’s something I haven’t seen anywhere else from other artists and have been told that a lot, so I carry this around because it’s part of our thing. Without that, I wouldn’t find it as rewarding.
I love that a lot, and it’s definitely something I’ve enjoyed watching on your social media.
Pat Kiloran: Yeah! I’m looking forward to meeting these people on tour this summer. It’s an important thing and I think a lot of people overlook it. You need to be transparent and be yourself, otherwise people can see right through you and it won’t work. It’s way more rewarding to spend time online with the people who are supporting you. You just appreciate it more when you know the actual people to some degree. You really value that and there support more than if you turned an eye to it.
What are some upcoming plans for you all?
Pat Kiloran: The main focus right now is the tour this summer. We’re in the process of seeing what other touring situations are going to happen this Fall. We have been all year and are still writing, and the plan at this point is to take a few days before tour and record some new stuff.
And, because you’re only getting bigger, what are some things you’ve learned along the way so far? Whether they be music-related or just for you in general as you move about this process?
Pat Kiloran: From the artistic side, it just goes back to just do your thing and be yourself. I think people can smell out when you’re doing something that’s not really you. That’s why we tried to hone in on this EP who we are and introduce MILKK going forward. There is an audience for every artist, it’s just finding them and how to find them. We knew almost immediately the age range and demographic of our audience, which is why we took it to Twitter and took it directly to the fans. It’s proven time and time again that if you know your audience you can take it directly to them and don’t have to shell out tons of money.
In general, just be nice to people and not on a general level, but be nice to people especially when you’re working. Not only should you just be a kind person, but also you will leave a mark one way or another, either as an artist or person, and I’ve already seen artists who have made the wrong choice and shot themselves in the foot. Treat people with respect and kindness, not only because it’s the wrong thing to do, but as an artist, you never know who will want to come support you. We’ve made it a point to be very positive and kind with people.
One thing I would say to people who are struggling to find their place, either in music or any other artistic realm: it’s really important to learn more and more how to be self-sufficient as someone doing something. Learn how to do things yourself vs. relying on others to do them. Not that you shouldn’t trust others, but learn how to do it yourself. When you’re growing, you don’t need all the bells and whistles. We’ve built up a strong foundation in a year just by doing our thing and doing things ourselves. We keep most of what we do in house. I think a team is important as you go, and it’s important to have the right people who support what you’re doing but jump slowly into it. If you’re passionate about anything, you need to be going 120 mph in the 60 mph. Between doing other freelance music stuff to make extra money and focusing on the band, I probably work twelve hours a day most days on something, and that’s because I’m not going to stop until I get to where I want to be. I’ve made a lot of sacrifices. But that’s the message, especially to younger people who want to get into some sort of artistic career: you’ve gotta just go and don’t stop.
I love all of that. I think those are some great takeaways.
Pat Kiloran: Thank you! Yeah, it’s just about doing your thing.
Well, thank you so much for talking to me! I’ve really enjoyed speaking with you and working with you.
Pat Kiloran: You as well! Thank you! Have a great rest of your day.
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📸 © Ryan Smallhands