The last time I caught up with Maine’s Coke Weed was two years ago. They were touring behind their recently released Back to Soft LP, which had them channeling psychedelic garage rock of both the ‘60s and present day revivalists… and honestly, they were doing it better than almost anyone that comes to mind. However, their follow-up, Mary Weaver, which is out this Friday, October 9th, has them inspired by an equally beautiful, but quite different, sound, primarily the most intellectual and subversive pop stars out of England in the 1970s. And I recently got a chance to catch up with songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Milan McAlevey, who told me all about what prompted this transition in sound, which wasn’t totally out of the blue, as Milan admits that his own personal library of music is pretty massive.
“I have a pretty giant record collection. Back then I saturated what was in the air and all those great bands coming out of San Francisco a few years ago, all that garage rock. And in 2013 I was super interested in Royal Trux, but for this album I went back a bit further. I had always been a huge Roxy Music fan and at the time we didn’t know what was happening for us, so it’s like it doesn’t matter what we do (no one’s really listening), so let’s try to not be a garage band and do like a David Bowie record.”
When I ask if there are any specific works that influenced Mary Weaver Milan tells me, “The first two Iggy records, The Idiot and Lust For Life; T. Rex; The Rolling Stones are always in my DNA; basically what we call art rock or glam, or basically just ‘70s UK records. I’m also really into Chic and Nile Rodgers’ guitar work.”
I’m curious what have been Milan and Coke Weed’s highlights of the past two years, since Back to Soft, and we get into a pretty in-depth discussion about the state of music right now and what it’s like to be in an “indie” band, when there seem to be an endless supply of other, up-and-coming, not-exactly-financially-thriving artists.
“With Back to Soft we did well in terms of press and sales – we were in the top 10 of the CMJ charts in August – and the day after we got off of the road I got a cold call from a super famous indie producer in Brooklyn who wanted to work on an album. And I wrote the album and then it became super clear that he wasn’t that interested in it – this is after I knocked myself out writing the album in about six months. And Nina [Donghia, Coke Weed lead vocalist] and I move from Maine to Massachusetts, because she’s a scientist, but it’s been hard; I mean our booking agent closed his company [laughs]. And I’m glad that the culture is thriving, but it’s super hard. With this saturation of bands, I’m not so sure how far you can get on merit at this point. I feel like Don Quixote, poking at windmills at this point and know that’s just how it is these days, but being a musician, I’m a sensitive guy [laughs]. I mean, I was friends with those guys from The Walkmen from a young age and in 2003 they were making crazy money and now they’re struggling. There’s just too many people in bands, and I can’t complain about that, because I’m one of them, but I want more people to be doctors and not doing Pavement retreads [laughs]. I mean, who’s working at coffee shops [laughs]? Like, one thing a touring band will always get is there will have been a totally rad band who was at a venue the night before and it was packed and that’s why no one is here on a given night. And I like a ton of bands who are doing really well and I’m really happy for them – I wish I knew how to be cool [laughs] – but eventually they’re goinna turn 30 and many of them will want to have kids, and that will get rid of half of them [laughs]. I mean, I decided a long time ago that I would never have kids, because I’m a lifer. And if you really love it, you can do it and put an EP on the internet for free and things like that.”
Coke Weed are hitting the road in November and have a November 9th show at Philly’s favorite batting-cages/All Ages BYO DIY performance spot, Everybody Hits. It’ll be Coke Weed’s first time at the spot and Milan tells me he’s really excited for the show.
“I have some friends in Philly and they introduced us to Myrrias, who are headlining that night, who I really like. Every band that I’ve talked to said that it’s a great venue. I’m excited about that bill. That’s one of the shows I was most excited about booking. It’s going to be an awesome night. Philly has kind of a small town vibe for a big city”
Finally, I ask Milan what the future holds for Coke Weed and, in spite of the current state of indie music, he is optimistic… although not in the most literal sense of the word…
“I’m writing, but I don’t really know where it’s headed. It’s really just up in the air because I don’t know how this record’s gonna do. I’m waiting to see if what we’re putting out will be enough to make another record. In 2013 we self-released and we recouped, but I think that was kind of a fluke and I can’t really afford to put out my own records anymore. I don’t mean to sound so dire [laughs]. This is just the three months of the year I can read about myself on the internet and stress out about how I’m doing in the marketplace [laughs], but I’m a late bloomer, so I feel like I’m just starting to get good at songwriting [laughs].”