- Fri, 2013-03-01 13:33
Toronto native Mike Milosh and Robin Hannibal of Danish electro outfit Quadron have found almost instantaneous success for their collaboration as duo Rhye. Hypnotic vocals oozing with intimacy draped across minimal, clean cut grooves, Rhye's laid back sound was born unintentionally. A spontaneous jam session the first time they met resulted in the heady, heartache soul of The Fall, and the ease of their partnership continued, forming exactly ten songs, all of which appear on debut album Woman.
Created in response to love, Rhye are reluctant to reveal too much more. Our only key to the source behind the tracks lies in a series of captivating, cinematic videos directed by Daniel Kragh-Jacobsen and created following lengthy, in-depth discussions with the pair divulging "what the songs are really, truly about." That's not for us to find out though, Rhye are adamant their music remains open to interpretation, "we want people to have an experience with the song that's their own."
With Mike and Robin both keen to remain in the shadows, we were delighted when they agreed to a joint interview just before the release of the album. We found out how Rhye came to be, why it happened with such creative ease and what they plan to do next. We can also confirm that Robin was just as shocked as us when he first heard Mike sing, "fuck. This is what comes out of his mouth?" Yes. It's Mike's voice in Rhye...
ILM: Hello, how are you?
Robin: Just got up a couple hours ago, made myself breakfast and now I'm multi-tasking! I just received one of our singles for Record Store Day, I'm also bouncing some different songs and stuff. Later I'm tracking steel drums from my apartment.
ILM: Is that where you created Rhye?
Robin: Yeah actually, everything we pre-recorded we did in my apartment in LA. It's not the best circumstances, but it's fine. I have a little extra spare bedroom and it gets the job done. I didn't think about this until now, but it might have influenced the music because there's neighbours around so I'm always a little concerned about making too much noise. Maybe that's actually why everything is so subtle and laid back!
ILM: Right. If you'd been in dingy warehouse studio you might have ended up with a punk album...
Robin: Exactly! Haha! It does have an affect on the music you make. Here there's not really room for more than two or three people. Sometimes limitation is the mother of all invention I think.
ILM: I understand Rhye came together very naturally. Mike visited you in Copenhagen and after a few days things were underway?
Robin: Yeah, the first three songs we ever did happened the first time we met. The first real song we did was The Fall, right? Which we were just jamming in my studio, then Woman, then Major Minor Love.
ILM: Did you immediately feel you were on to something special?
Robin: It was very immediate. I remember jamming The Fall. I was playing the piano and you were playing the drums and we were just in our own zone. It was something very easy, a very direct access to something very creative and really, really good and special. Then we started tracking your vocals and I'd never heard you sing live before, I remember thinking, "fuck. He sounds like this? This is what comes out of his mouth?" We did that Fall song, then we did Woman.
ILM: How did you feel the first time you listened back to it?
Robin: We went back to my place, we sat and listened and yeah, I just remember both of our faces! We were like, "what is this? What the fuck is this? How did we just create that?" We both felt it was different from anything else we had ever done. It wasn't Milosh, it wasn't Robin, it was Rhye. It was a new thing. A new entity. It felt very special immediately I think. That was the beginning.
ILM: Once you'd created those first three tracks how easy was it to write the others? To recreate those sounds, those feelings?
Mike: I would say not too easy but very easy. We never had a backlog. I was flying back and forth, we'd meet, work on a song for a bit, I'd leave, come back, we'd pick up. We had these natural breaks in between songs so there was never an exhausted period or a tired period of having done too much. It was all very simple.
Robin: And we only made those ten. No demos. We only made the songs that are on there. We gave everything we had into those ones. Those suckers!
ILM: How have you found people's response to the music?
Mike: For me, it's been really great. There's been no moments where we've been trying to get attention, it's taken a little life of its own.
Robin: Totally. I think it's a testament to the fact that people really still connect with sincere and honest emotional music. We didn't have any plan or concept. We didn't care. We were just making music for the sake of making music and for the sake of creating it. That was the high. So it's been very reaffirming that people connect with that.
Mike: Robin and I didn't write this in the hopes of creating a commercial project. We didn't write it by design to accomplish anything specific but we did stick to our guns with making everything very honest, very vulnerable. We were happy in our lives so we let that affect the songs. I guess that ultimately people connect to things that are very sincere. I'd like to hope they do. I think that might be the connection people are having with the music, the sincerity behind it.
ILM: The music displays such an intimate expression of love. How did you manage to continuously bring those feelings, that purity of expression into the recording process, into the songs?
Mike: Simply...um...by being completely honest with what was happening in our lives. I mean, the only way you can bring something as big as love into a song is by being with it, you know? Just allowing it to happen.
ILM: Honesty in music is important to you?
Mike: I think it's really important to be honest in art in general. If you're not honest about what you're going through and what's happening, what's the point? Art is an expression of the actual artist. I think we've both learnt to stick to our guns on that and not worry too much, to just trust where we want to go artistically, to just...trust it. We didn't write things from an egotistical place. We wrote things from a dangerous place in terms of how exposing it is to write the way we wrote. Maybe, I think...that's something people can have their own experience with. It makes them reflect on their own feelings or it allows them to feel something they would like to feel, you know?
ILM: That honesty has been beautifully translated into your captivating music videos, which are a real triumph. How did you achieve that? Also, the actors are wonderful! How did you manage to get them to act so well?!
Robin: Haha! Yeah, well, the secret behind the actors is that they're actually actors! They're professional Danish actors that are in some of the biggest movies in Denmark. It's a little bit different in Denmark. Even though the acting profession is a very respected one, it's easier to access some of the stars than if you wanted to get somebody big here in the States.
ILM: Both videos have been directed by Daniel Kragh-Jacobsen, how involved were you?
Robin: It was very important we were involved. We had lengthy discussions with Daniel, who is actually a Danish friend of mine. We submitted story lines, ideas, thoughts about the lyrics and how it could be portrayed, then Daniel went away and created something on his own. He had time to live with the record too. I think he had The Fall for four or five months and Open for maybe over a year, so a lot more time to get into it compared to what usually happens when artists commission a video.
Mike: Whenever we're approaching someone else to be involved, artwork, videos, anything, Robin and I take the time out to write, not an essay, but a small little work for that person specifically. What the song is about, eveything that's supposed to be there emotionally. We'll even talk to them about actual experiences in our lives. We try to have them really understand what the songs are really, truly about. If you don't really tell people a feeling, it's hard to get them to a place we're happy with. You've got to communicate what it's about. I think that's something Robin and I will always continue to do.
Robin: It's the same thing for the musicians for live. We were explaining to them what the songs are about. Not, "play an A here or an F sharp there," no. What are the feelings behind the songs, what are they actually about? So they can interpret them and understand the intention behind the music as well.
ILM: Do you think your audience, the listeners, should receive that same level of information? Should they know the exact details behind each song?
Mike: I think it's a great question, I find it a really, really interesting topic. I fall on the side of it's more interesting to not tell everyone everything. Both Robin and I feel really strongly about the imagery of the project as well. There's a reason why we're not in any of the publicity shots and we're not trying to take centre stage and let everyone see our faces, it's simply because we want people to have an experience with the song that's their own. If we were to lead too far and say "this is exactly what the song is about," I think it would ruin that ability for the listener to relate to it in their own way. Maybe Open means something completely different to someone else than it does to me. That's really valid. If our music can go out into the public and people are able to have their own experience with it, sad, happy, whatever, as long as it's their own reaction, to me, that's a total victory on our side.
ILM: Well, it seems that is already happening on quite a large scale...as that continues, will you? Will there be more music as Rhye?
Robin: Right now, every minute is going into prepping the album and tour set up. It's surprised us a little how much work behind the scenes not making music, there actually is when you're putting together a release that's also on a major label. Hopefully we'll er...this will go really well. People will accept it and they will ask for more.
By Kim Hillyard @kimhillyard