Interview: Milwalkie

Milwalkie - Photo courtesy of Milwalkie

Milwalkie – Photo courtesy of Milwalkie

Half of Scottish-born, Berlin-based band Milwalkie is family, with brothers Steve and Matt Morris playing bass and guitar, respectively. The brothers began playing music in their teens, an occurrence that can, in part, be attributed to the band Biffy Clyro.

“We weren’t like a musical family at all, and I just got my guitar once I went mental for…Biffy Clyro,” Matt said with a laugh. “I always liked singing and stuff, but I was, like, singing [their songs] in front of the mirror with a tennis racket when I was like 14. It was actually just too sad…that’s the only reason I bought a guitar.”

Matt’s guitar playing was the impetus for older brother Steve to pick up an instrument as well, and the two began to play music together. Fast-forward to today and the brothers are living in Berlin and playing in Milwalkie, alongside Sam Coleman and Benedikt Wahls.

But it wasn’t as easy as picking up and moving from their hometown of Aberdeen to Berlin. For one, Coleman moved off to Japan for two years, only having recently returned. And personal issues, including the passing of their father, kept the brothers from establishing any permanent sort of situation in Berlin, as they were constantly going back and forth between the two cities since first touching down in September 2011.

In fact, it was only August of last year when the two were permanently situated in Berlin, at which point, they decided to take things to the next level.

“That’s when Milwalkie really properly started,” Matt shared. “And I feel the past two albums are kind of like online albums to keep us busy whilst we were just in a lot of shit, and then ‘Adjustments’ was, like, actually together. We actually wrote something together and recorded it together.”

Adjustments” officially came out on Aug. 15, with the first single, “Black Alexander,” arriving a week earlier.

For the past few months, Milwalkie has been rehearsing at a space not too far from Ostkreuz, on Hauptstraße, which is where the band recorded the album as well. However, only the Morrises appear on the record, which means that Matt also played drums on the recording.

“My favorite thing about it [is] this one feels like it’s actually, like, different,” he said, noting that it feels more representative of the group as a whole. “[In the past], it wasn’t really a band. It was just me.”

Another change is in the way Matt approached lyric writing. He admitted that on earlier songs, he’d struggled with writing lyrics that were honest, for fear of people overanalyzing them, particularly the people they were about. As a result, the lyrics were somewhat vague and cryptic.

“This time, I really really tried not to do that. I really tried to just be like, ‘hey, I don’t care,'” he said. “I really try my best to be…honest and say what I actually want to say.”

The result is an album that very much sets itself apart from the rest of the Milwalkie releases, and one that Matt said is representative of a particular time, place, and feeling.

Now that it’s out, the band is poised to start playing Berlin more often, as the four currently only have a handful of shows—at Antje Øklesund, Monarch, and coffeeshops—under their belts. At that, Matt admitted the band is still trying to make its way in the Berlin scene and get to know other musicians who play similar music.

“I think it’s just because we were so used to how Scotland worked, and just like the scene and everything,” he shared, explaining how he knew everyone, so it was easy to meet bands and get shows. “Maybe I still feel like I’m not in the group of cool kids yet, you know what I mean? I feel like I just moved to a new school and don’t know anyone. That’s kind of how I feel in terms of the music scene, that I’m still like an outsider.”

But the guys are optimistic that this will change once they begin playing more shows and getting better established in the scene. And once that occurs, it will be the final piece falling into place for Milwalkie.

“[I love] the music that I’m writing…and to be [playing together] is absolutely ace,” Matt said. “Nothing could be better, for me.”

Milwalkie plays tonight at Monarch in Berlin. The show begins at 21.00.

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