It was a neither dark nor stormy night in Sheffield. The Harley was going to host a night of fuzz drenched garage (review) and an offer for an interview with Milk Maid‘s Martin Cohen had been offered by their lovely label, FatCat Records.
I meet Martin Cohen by the bar and we haphazardly get ourselves placed in the entrance of the Harley hotel, where it was supposedly quieter. Sadly, the recorded interview sounds garbled and slightly distant, which in hindsight feels like one of their songs; full reverb on, ghostly voices and a crunchy fuzz.
Martin Cohen has a pint of Guinness from which he gulps from time to time, letting it rest in the desolation of postals, flyers and magazines peppering the table. He’s really friendly and down to earth and comments he’s happy and excited for the gig.
He does wonder how I found about the band since I’m from Mexico, I mention FatCat records. He also asks if I’ve seen Mazes before and I mention the previous gig I saw with them, Spectrals and Best Coast (review). We continue chatting then get down to business.
So, where does the name Milk Maid comes from?
I had a couple of songs and needed a name, really, I thought it sounded funny.
Cool, how about the album name, Yucca?
I liked how the word looked. It shouldn’t be a word but it looks great and sounds better. There’s a road in Los Angeles we had to drive when we were recording and we passed several Yucca trees. There ya go!
Ah, I thought it was something geekier, like the film “The Monster from Yucca Flats”.
No, not really (laughs).
From what I read, you recorded must of the stuff by yourself?
Yes, we had six songs with drums in the album and about three drummers for those. I recorded everything else. I had an 8 track recorder and then mixed it. It’s all analogue, I liked recording by myself.
How’s touring treating you?
Good! Really good! We did two small, headline things but now it’s a little more stressful, but it’s fun. We stay with Mazes and we are playing new songs on this tour. We’ll be playing some new tonight!
Let’s go geeky for a moment, what gear did you use?
For recording? I got a Tascam for recording and one microphone, that’s it. Very cheap microphones, of course (laughs). For reverb effects, room sound I think was the best for me. A reverb pedal might try to simulate how a room sounds but doesn’t quite get it, and I like the reverberation of a room, specially for vocals.
Now that you mention new songs, are you recording after this tour?
Hopefully! We’ve got about 8 songs right now, we’ll try to finish some more for the rest of the album. We might recording soon as the new songs are being played during this tour. I hope so!
Do you have any particular process or ritual when composing?
Ah, no, I like having the time for it, though. I work so in the evening I’ve got to put my mind into writing again, you need to concentrate, even if it’s for ten minutes, but then you get into it and play.
So, of all the effects which one do you prefer for your sound?
I like the mixing qualities of distortion and I guess I like how it gives some body to the music. Sometimes the vocals are a little hidden because I’m still trying to get used to sing and play. Some of the songs are simple pop songs if you play through reverb, it sounds weirder and darker.
On that subject of being darker, the lyrics are darker and the music upbeat, any reasons for this approach?
(laughs) Ah, I don’t know why. I usually hear stuff that is not poppier but heavier. I like to do songs with stories that are suggested by the lyrics.
I like ‘Kill me again’ quite a bit!
I recorded that one the day before the album was going to be mastered! I had it for ages, thought it would be a great chorus but didn’t have anything else but ended up getting attached to it and so it went!
What did you enjoy best with Yucca: writing and recording it or the live renditions?
Uh, I don’t know… I like playing a lot, touring is good for one or two weeks. The last band I was in, I wasn’t that involved in the writing process, we’d only arrange as a band. I enjoyed playing live with that band but now since I’m fully involved in the process, I enjoy it quite more.
You found a sound for yourself, what would drive you to find newer approaches to your own writing?
A slightly better tape machine! Seriously, I’d like to record a little better, get more gear…There’s always a time when you get too panicky about a song but you need to accept how they come. I like to think about writing and how the songs fit together. I lay guitar, the band joins and we build upon.
Who got you into writing?
Which one of the songs in Yucca are you the most proud about?
Ah, I like ‘Back of your knee’, also like to play it live quite well. Also ‘Not me’.
Thank you very much, hope the gig goes well.
And the gig did go quite well. It’s been a good year for Milk Maid and we really hope the new recordings are that far away in the future!
Words: Sam J. Valdés López