Milky Mile and Milky Mile Two are separate albums of nine songs each. They are the finishing of a large batch of songs I started recording in South Dakota.
They’re totally free - download them from the players below!
These songs started to come in Sioux Falls, SD, in the fall and winter of 2007. Sioux Falls is where I grew up - I had returned there in the spring, after 10 years of living in Colorado and Philadelphia.
I re-explored all the country roads that surround the city, and lead to places like Salem, Baltic, Menno, and Vermillion. I followed thunderstorms to the KELO radio tower and watched lightning strike the tower again and again. I re-visited the sanctuaries of my youth, the places in country or city that I would meet my friends and have freedom from our parents or the cops.
Untethered to much, basically in full life-reset mode, I wrote and recorded like crazy all spring and summer, and a couple of those wild songs end up on Milky Mile Two. But as the days grew shorter, and the old familiar bite of hard cold began in the air, the real meat of this material began to emerge.
All of it is extremely wordy. I found solace in this, allowing phrases to blurt out next to each other, enjoying the jarring imagery, the raw expression and the delayed understanding of meaning. The place was stirring up every image set I had collected out in the rest of the world. The poetry was thrilling, coming free and bawdy, beautiful and subconscious-materialized …
With old and new friends in Sioux Falls, I rented a warehouse outside of town, in Tea, SD. It was a 7000 ft2 shop space, with a balcony area, wide open with cement floors and metal walls. It had three garage doors. It had a golf cart and riding lawnmower. It had a workbench, a double-barrel woodburning stove, and coolant-heated floors. We cherry picked the best recliners and sofas (and stand up ashtrays) from the thrift stores. We filled a clothes rack with snowmobiling suits and warm gear for the winter.
A community of artists and musicians sprung up around the place; we had designs to become a super-group, called Cities of the Red Night. The Cities name stood for any number of things: the band we hoped to form, the umbrella for South Dakota-revolutionizing creative events, or maybe the whole of us, our total power. All of us loved where we came from so much, and wanted to channel our energies into a give-away for the community.
I would often be at the warehouse, all night, recording a song. Most of Milky Mile comes from this first batch of winter-songs. I can hear the reverb space of that vast, cold building in the final recordings, preserved in the drums, guitar, or vocals. I often left a microphone high on a stand in the center of the space, recording the whole building along with whatever I was doing. Hearing that depth brings me back: standing there alone, yelling into the microphone, or running back and forth to the computer between takes - in an industrial park by the interstate, in the middle of the night.
There is nothing like being re-welcomed into the community you came from: providing, of course, that the community you came from rules, like Sioux Falls does.
My friend Matt McFarland showed up with his drums one day and totally killed it: you hear him on Black Device, Classmate, Milky Mile, After Hours, and Bottom Fruit. His back against the corner metal walls, with one mic set over the drum kit and another 100 feet away in arching space.
I laid the foundations for most of the other songs into the spring and summer of 2008. Cities of the Red Night had not quite gelled - but there was great fruit from our individual efforts, and some of those fantastic characters ended up in a From a Fountain touring band come 2010, when Shale and Sandstone came out.
In late 2008, I moved to Los Angeles, then Joshua Tree. I set to work in earnest on honoring my time back home and what it gave me by bringing the 20-25 songs to high-quality completion.
The place I was renting in the high desert was an old drafty cabin with a white Steinway baby grand improbably sandwiched into the small living room. Jonas Oesterle of The Purples, ex-The Teeth, came out to visit from Philadelphia. He laid down incredible drums and percussion on everything that hadn’t been ready for Matt. I recorded my good friend John Goraj's stunning song Grape Juice. I resurrected a couple very old songs, Hold on to Him and The Nature System - as long as I was cleaning up the past. Milky Mile Two has a lot of this: the full sweep-out before leaving the house again.
I moved up to Northern California and put the finishing touches on everything in a farmhouse on a bluff over the Pacific.
In the spring of 2010 I flew to Philadelphia and mixed 22 songs with Nick Krill of the Spinto Band. We were at their Garden Center studio for two weeks, a few songs a day. We used a reverb room they had set up there to add some depth to songs that weren’t recorded in the warehouse.
Finally in 2011 I mastered it all with JJ Golden in Ventura, CA.
There are outtakes and early versions of songs that will be fully presented via this website, the shop, etc. They are filled with exuberance and creative joy. But these two finished albums represent the long devotion to honoring a time that I was very lucky to have. I re-absorbed what had made me come of age in the first place - and saw how it was a part of me as I had gone out into larger America. And I found I could re-direct it with new power.
One night I walked out of the warehouse to the end of the driveway, out to the dirt road - probably with a cigarette. It was dead center of January. There was a stripping wind and a couple inches of hard drifting snow that had been there for a couple months. I could see nothing that was alive. Trucks roared like beasts through salt and road grit on the distant interstate.
The next summer I spent the night there, on the sixth of July, recording all types of fireworks and looking at the vegetable garden my friend was growing in the yard. I could hear more fireworks and parties at neighboring farms in all directions. I could hear cicadas. People were getting their last ice cream cones of the night at B&G Milky Way. There was a coating of pollen and fertilizer-sweat from the heat of the day on my skin. Maybe it was going to storm.
It’s important that this music is free. What that really means is that I want you to have it. In 2013, if there’s a price attached, too often people just don’t download it. And more than anything, I want you to download it. Especially if you’ve gotten this far down the page! So do that!>