It's always rewarding to see a local band shift from anonymity to across-the-board accolades. Although Brooklyn's Milagres have been around for about five years, lead singer and songwriter Kyle Wilson re-shaped the band and reconsidered his music after experiencing a serious climbing accident in British Columbia.
The incident was weirdly fortuitous, compelling Wilson to write an album's worth of songs while slowly recovering from a back injury. The result is Milagres' powerful, tender second album - what they perceive as their real "debut" - Glowing Mouth, out now on Kill Rock Stars.
Milagres - Wilson, guitarist Eric Schwortz, drummer Steve Leventhal, bassist Fraser McCulloch and keyboardist Chris Brazee -recently visited The Alternate Side for a particularly uplifting, rowdy live set which included "Here To Stay" and "Hereafter." Milagres mark Glowing Mouth's release with a special gig at New York's Mercury Lounge on September 30 with Peter Wolf Crier.
Alisa Ali: Your second album has been picked up by Kill Rock Stars, a pretty cool label, but you recently released an EP yourselves.
Eric Schwortz: Did we? It’s funny because it’s a tour EP which a lot of bands and musicians create, but I think we’ve gotten some press where they don’t quite understand that it’s a tour EP. That why we called it The Tour EP. We didn’t release a record called Spring Tour EP. We just burned some CDs and brought it on tour with us to sell at a very economical, recession price.
Alisa: Are you guys good sales people?
Eric: Some of us. We’re okay and we occasionally have help from friendly friends who are better at it than we are.
Alisa: You have another album, [Seven Summits]. Were you not selling that on tour?
Kyle Wilson: Actually we weren’t. I have no idea why. It’s available online but we had made limited edition copies of it when we first released it. They were all hand made and we ran out.
Alisa: What did they look like?
Kyle: Eric was in charged of making them.
Eric: There was a lot of vellum. Layers of vellum that you could see through and a custom-made rubber stamp. It was natured-themed.
Kyle: Vellum is a translucent paper so there were so many layers of the image that if you folded the image, you’d see different things, clouds, a skyline, people moving.
Eric: At some point we might re-release it or make copies, but that was a very labor-intensive project.
Kyle: Eric was the workhorse but it was a collaborative project. Including someone who isn’t in the band anymore. Our very first release we made about 200 limited edition copies of it. They were very labor intensive; it took us a couple days to make them.
Eric: A couple of weeks.
Kyle: It was a project that seemed a lot less ambitious than it actually was.
Alisa: I like it that you guys are getting into the arts and crafts.
Eric: Very crafty.
Alisa: Guess what, Milagres. I know what your name means. It means “miracle.” Do you know how I know that?
Alisa: No! I had a friend in grammar school growing up named Milagres! And she would tell us all the time that her name means “miracle.” We used to call her the Miracle Whip.
Kyle: She’s probably our Facebook fan.
Alisa: I’m sure she is. Why did you guys choose that miraculous name?
Eric: We wanted to attract people from Brazil and Portugal.
Alisa: You guys have been in other bands. What’s the genesis of your current lineup and sonically how has your music changed from when you first started out? Maybe you were in a ska band earlier?
Eric: Maybe. It’s possible.
Kyle: Top secret information.
Eric: We were all in high school once and you do stupid things in high school. Sometimes you make terrible music.
Alisa: Sometimes people in high school makes great music.
Kyle: Maybe instead of playing another song we should listen to Fraser’s high school musical exploits and we can all write Pitchfork reviews. Alisa: Your just jealous because your high school band sucked.
Fraser McCulloch: Our high school band did financially better than any band that I’ve been in [since being] in New York.
Kyle: Fair enough. That’s true for me as well. I’ve just been making music since I was a child. Done a lot of different things. Back in the day before people learned to play guitar on YouTube or whatever, you had a guy with a moustache who was your guitar teacher and he taught you Eric Clapton songs whether you wanted to learn them or not. Those were the days.
Alisa: Talk to me about the recording process. There’s a lot going on. Was it a laborious process? Did you record in the same room?
Kyle: Yes, we worked with what we had and recorded in a lot of different places. It was a long process. Some of those songs came together with a lot of us working together and then we kind of put the finishing touches on in the studio. Some of the songs just came together in the studio. They were written almost like a studio project.
Alisa: Is that stressful, writing something in the studio? Studio time is pretty expensive.
Kyle: Well Fraser here is a bit of a tech genius so he produced the record and engineered it himself and he has a lot of his own equipment. We were really fortunate not to have as much time constraint as other artists do. There was some tracking that we did in studios and those were pretty long days. We’d buy out the studio for the day and you’d just go in, first thing in the morning, and you don’t leave until you’re done doing whatever you’re doing. So those were intense, long days. But we were lucky to have as much time to work on it as we really wanted.
Alisa: You guys have been touring a bunch. Did you try out the new material on the road?
Kyle: Yes, we actually only played new material on the road.
Alisa: Did you find that things changed by the time you actually recorded it.
Eric: Do you mean before we recorded it?
Eric: We didn’t tour to much on it until after we recorded it. But things, here and there, changed after. I’d say the live versions are similar but not always the same as the recorded versions. There’s something a little more visceral about the live performance that’s always hard to capture in the studio, whether it’s added drum fills or guitar parts. Energy that comes from playing live in a space together and coming up with ideas that maybe wouldn’t work on a record.
Kyle: In the case of this album, a lot of the songs had to be redesigned to work well live.
Alisa: You got a really nice compliment from a journalist that although you’re a young band, you play like you’ve been playing arenas for a while.
Kyle: That can be a bad thing too. Like when you see a band playing for nobody, but they’re acting like they’re in front of a million people. Alisa: It must be all the pyrotechnics you bring.
Eric: Steve does have a fog machine. We’ve never used it, but perhaps now is the time.
Steve Leventhal: It could have been so foggy in here.
Milagres' North American Tour Dates:
27 -- Boston, MA @ Middle East Upstairs -- w/ Peter Wolf Crier
28 -- Philadelphia, PA @ Kung Fu Necktie -- w/ Peter Wolf Crier
29 -- Washington, DC @ The Red Palace -- w/ Peter Wolf Crier
30 -- New York, NY @ Mercury Lounge -- w/ Peter Wolf Crier - Glowing Mouth Record Release Show October 2011
03 -- Raleigh, NC @ Local 506 -- w/ Peter Wolf Crier
04 -- Atlanta, GA @ Drunken Unicorn -- w/ Peter Wolf Crier
05 -- Savannah, GA @ Livewire
07 -- Austin, TX @ Lamberts -- w/ Peter Wolf Crier
08 -- Denton, TX @ Dan's Silver Leaf -- w/ Peter Wolf Crier
10 -- Norman, OK @ Opolis -- w/ Peter Wolf Crier
11 -- Columbia, MO @ Mojo's -- w/ Peter Wolf Crier
12 -- Bloomington, IN @ The Bishop -- w/ Peter Wolf Crier
14 -- Madison, WI @ UW Madison -- w/ Peter Wolf Crier
15 -- Milwaukee, WI @ Club Garibaldi -- w/ Peter Wolf Crier
17 -- Minneapolis, MN @ 7th Street Entry
18 -- Kansas City, MO @ Riot Room
19 -- Omaha, NE @ Waiting Room
20 -- Denver, CO @ Larimer Lounge
21 -- Fruita, CO @ The Cavalcade
22 -- Salt Lake City, UT @ Kilby Court
24 -- Seattle, WA @ High Dive
25 -- Portland, OR @ Mississippi Studios
26 -- San Francisco, CA @ Rickshaw Stop
28 -- San Diego, CA @ Soda Bar