"I don’t want to see another guitarist or drummer for at least five years!" Milk Teeth's Becky Blomfield talks line-up changes and the band's new self-titled LP
In the four years since Gloucester punk firebrands Milk Teeth unveiled their hugely acclaimed debut album, Vile Child, an awful lot has changed.
Back then, they were a four, they're now a three. Not only that, but baring singer Becky Blomfield, none of that line-up remains.
Now the singer is joined by Em Foster and Jack Kenny, both members of one of their frequent tourmates Nervus.
There's a new label too. Their debut was released by Hopeless Records, with a series of EPs coming on Roadrunner, before they hopped over to Sony imprint Music For Nations for their new effort, a self-titled album.
That album comes out today. It's produced by long-time collaborator Neil Kennedy and finds Blomfield in vintage form, delivering an LP full of raw power and vibrant power-punk.
We spoke to Blomfield about her journey to find a steady line-up and just how personal this album is...
When did you start working on these songs? Can you write on tour or do you need to be at home and decompressed to work?
"I started these songs three years prior, they were written to process all the chaos that was going on in both my life in music and in milk teeth as well as the overlaps there in my personal life. I will write anywhere inspiration takes hold."
"Sometimes that is in practical places like at home with a guitar, it’s also been in Victoria station toilets singing into my phone amongst noisy hand dryers, in my bunk on tour again voice recording on my phone, in the shower when touching a phone could turn out like putting a toaster in the bath. It's not always practical..."
Did you have a goal of how you wanted the album to move on from what you did on Vile Child?
"When Vile Child was written it was a very different time in my life. I’d experienced a host of challenges mostly to do with overcoming my eating disorders, navigating my parents' divorce and general chronic depression."
"There was so much more that then piled up during the years that followed where I was tested again in new ways, to points that I can count on my hand it could have been game over for me entirely. I’ve matured a lot both naturally with age and also emotionally had to self evaluate and self soothe the instability that milk teeth brought into my life."
"I knew that I wanted to make a record I could see the progression in and one that was a good representation of who we are now - I think our self-titled album achieves both those goals."
The band’s line-up has been through a lot of changes since the release of Vile Child, do you feel more settled now?
"Yes and no - depends what day you catch me. As a current line-up, I don’t want to see another guitarist or drummer for at least five years! As for settled on a personal level, things that happened have changed me forever and really f***ed me up, I won’t shy away from that, but I’m also not here to be a victim to circumstance. We are all dealt s**t hands and a lot of getting out the other side is how we deal with them and what we learn from these situations to ensure we can limit the damage should they crop up again."
"I’ve learnt in my time in this industry that people will bleed you dry and take - especially if you’re a giving person like myself, often people will abuse that. I try to vocalise more when I’m not happy or I feel let down because I’ve now been let down by so many people that were meant to have had my back. I started to feel like an empty carcass with feeding tubes attached to which everyone around me had sourced nourishment as I shrivelled down to just bones."
You worked with Neil Kennedy again, why did you decide to go with him?
"Neil has always been a positive consistent for me. He’s been there through every amalgamation of this band. He’s honest and knows how to handle me but he’s also incredibly patient and kind. He gives a shit not just about the music we make but that as people we are okay too."
"He and his partner Mel have listened, they helped piece me back together when we recorded a small batch of demos for 4 tracks on this album, they filled our evenings with takeaways and two sets of ears when life took crazy turns. Neil is a good person - he’s great at his job and his moral integrity is still intact. I can’t speak highly enough of him."
What does he give you as a producer?
"Having been a part of every recording with the exception of our very first EP, which we recorded at our former college in Stroud, Neil has quite literally watched this band grow both physically as people and in opportunities, we have been offered as Milk Teeth."
"There is no bravado or bulls**t, he will have a laugh with us but he knows when we can do better. He brings creative ideas to the table but also respects our overall decision if we choose to pursue those, he will also give honest feedback if he thinks something is or isn’t working. You know where you’re at with Neil."
What kind of album is this lyrically? Is there a theme to it?
"Lyrically, this is the most mature and most laid bare I’ve ever been. Writing certain songs on this record felt much more like writing poetry and words and images painted were important to me. I wanted the lyrics to stand up on their own if you read them alone with no musical soundtrack. I love words and language and wanted to give everything, give the best of my brain and write to my fullest potential - not leave anything with room to regret."
"My lyrics have always been autobiographical and personal experiences, that hasn’t changed, but there is a clear theme of resilience and the ability to overcome throughout this record where on previous releases the songs have had the odd cross over but we’re more each their own individual entity. The songs on Milk Teeth have a clear timeline to them in my head."
Which song on the album took the longest to get right?
"I think it would be a toss-up between 'Dilute' and 'Medicine'. 'Medicine', I had the chord progression and melody locked down from very early on but the lyrics I had to tease out of myself and allow myself to open up. I wanted to hide for so long I didn’t want to go to that vulnerable place on that song but it paid off taking its time as it’s one of my favourite songs I’ve ever written."
"'Dilute' took the longest to record in the studio simply because it’s slightly off-kilter for us both in timing. It's a song where we are all playing on different beats and different accents. Also, vocally, it moves between registers at quite a pace. It took a while to get it spot on, but we got there."
And which came together most quickly?
"'Better' was pretty instant from writing to demo to the studio. It’s the most self-assured I’ve been on a track and knowing what it was and what it needed. 'Circles' came together very quickly during my initial writing it and creating the structure and melody. It fell out of me at 3am."
When did you decide that this album was going to be self-titled? Were any titles in contention?
"Back when we were a four-piece it was always going to be called No Brainer. Half to poke fun at the fact it’s always considered a “difficult second album” and we didn’t find that to be the case when creating material, and half because it felt like a no brainer to be creating again. When everything changed it was important that the title was a statement of intent of both simplistic and powerful like the album itself. We knew it had to be called Milk Teeth."
You’ve got a new label for this album, how are you finding the new set-up?
"We’ve worked with a number of labels over the years and found what worked and what didn’t. We definitely got pushed into a commercial route on the last EPs that didn’t feel authentic or genuine and made me feel like a piece of meat at a market than an artist or a creator. There will always be back and forths in decisions when dealing with subsidiaries of major labels."
"We are very fortunate that Music For Nations are willing to hear what we have to say. They were also incredibly supportive in taking the album we submitted in the tracklisting we submitted to them. That's not often the case and was and still is greatly appreciated that they have faith in us knowing who we are and our sound."
What are your plans to take the album out live? Coronavirus permitting…
"Completely up in the air right now, maybe the whole thing will have to be live-streamed or have us go out as holograms like Tupac. Right now my biggest concern is for our well being as a society - it will be amazing to get out again and partake in live music, film, communal exercise, dining out."
"But it doesn’t feel right to make promises in a climate which is currently changing every single day. We will figure it out I’m sure..."