Just in time for the remaining lazy days of summer comes Materia. It's the newest, breezy, leisurely-paced electro effort by Coral Springs' Millionyoung. The EP comes out today on Brooklyn-based Old Flames Records and already received considerable blog love.
Millionyoung, and its creator Mike Diaz, is no stranger to the affection of music blogs of course, considering its first home-produced foray, Sunndreamm, caught the attention of discerning music arbitrators Pitchfork and Gorilla vs Bear, with little to no publicity push. Posted simply on Millionyoung's Tumblr, the record's hazy vocals and mid-tempo flow won over the hearts of music fans far and wide. It's led to Milionyoung being one of the first acts branded with the tongue-in-cheeck "chillwave" trademark.
Materia does nothing to detract from the relaxed vibes either. Its blissful atmospheric production comes off,well, as cool as sipping on a frozen concoction in the sweltering Florida sun.
It does take a more organic approach than previous efforts, though, dabbling in a similar retro disco realm as Daft Punk's last release. Diaz is joined by Kristof Ryan on the record, making Millionyoung formally a duo this time around. Kristof provided vocals, bass, and drums on two of the tracks ("Tell Me" and "VII") with Diaz taking care of the chords, leads, and melodies.
In light of Millionyoung debuting tracks off the new record tonight at Blackbird Ordinary, we caught up with Diaz and shot the breeze about his place in the music critic's mockingly flattering chillwave label, contemplating a move to Brooklyn, and his fondness for South Florida.
New Times: When did you team up with Kristof Ryan?
Mike Diaz: Kristof and I have been playing music together for almost six years on and off. I played guitar in his band, Dulcinea, from 2008-2009, and in between then and now, we've worked on our own projects. He started playing as part of the Millionyoung live show in late 2012, and we've got a project called Chévere where we collaborate on writing, as well as performing together.
How has being a duo helped the Millionyoung outlook?
Since the first few shows I played, I've had my friends join me on stage whenever possible. It's a different experience for the audience and myself, and I enjoy when my friends improvise live as well. Even though I write the music, it's about more than just me live, it's about the friends playing music and the people listening. It's tough to keep all your friends in one place though, especially in your twenties, but while the live show has changed over years, each new form (solo, duo, or five-piece) offers a chance to approach performing the songs in an exciting and fresh way.
You have been on Old Flame since releasing Replicants in 2011? How did they find you? How is it going with them?
Yeah, we met through mutual friends at SXSW in 2010, I think it was. Rob Mason is one of my favorite people, and he's always advocating for his bands, and motivating us. The family keeps growing.
Are you still living in Coral Spings?
Yep, I love it here! I was born in Miami, and grew up in Coral Springs. These days, I spend my time evenly in the two places, and driving between them. I've considered moving elsewhere several times, but it just takes a few weeks on the road to remind me how much I would miss everyone. South Florida will always be home to me.
What are your feelings about being branded a chillwave artist, do you ever wish you could move beyond it?
People only come up with a name for something when they want to talk about it, so I find it flattering. Those of us who were tagged as that early on, are lucky to be a part of a new type of music that makes a lot of people genuinely feel good. I just try to make interesting music and change up the formula from time to time. People still dig it, and as long as even one person does, I'll keep making music for that one person and they can call it anything they'd like to.
What's it like now, after having received the attention of blogs like Gorilla vs Bear and Pitchfork so very early on?
The first few weeks after you get exposure like that are a bit surreal, but you're not magically set for life from a few, or even a lot of good blog reviews. Life sort of just goes on, and I keep working hard. That being said, I'm extremely grateful to GvB, and to Pitchfork --even despite the latter's less than favorable review that one time. I'm not raw about it, and regardless of what their opinion was, they helped my music reach an audience it never would have on Tumblr alone.
You took a turn at playing guitar and other instruments recently with Millionyoung, is that a trend that's going to continue?
I would love to play more guitar on future releases. For awhile, I took a break from it to focus more on piano and production techniques. But just the other day I reverted to being 22-years-old again, and recorded some acoustic guitar with layered synths for fun. I was most influenced to take that approach by the Pet Shop Boys and Joy Division. I've always been a fan of anything that explores the possibilities of technology, while holding true to the human element. I won't flatter myself by saying that's what I do, but it's what I strive for.
Would you ever consider making the move up to NYC and being closer to your label?
There's nothing like playing at home in South Florida, the crowds are easily my favorite here as far as energy and dancing goes. NYC has a special place in my heart though, the turnouts are always excellent and I have so many good memories from places like Glasslands and Bowery Ballroom. I've stayed there in spurts of like a week or a month here and there over the last few years, but always get homesick.
How does this album differ than previous Millionyoung projects?
I knew going in, I wanted to minimize as much as possible. I was listening to Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On," front to back on repeat and really drew a lot of inspiration from that. It's full without ever being too much. I've also always sought input from friends, and the fresh ears of other producers to help with the finished product. Eric Rizzo and Will Croucher provided the input on everything up until "Variable," which Nick Stumpf produced, and the new EP was co-produced by Kristof Ryan and myself.
Millionyoung at Ladies' Night, tonight, July 29, 10 p.m., at Blackbird Ordinary, 729 SW First Ave., Miami. No cover and ladies drink free all night. Visit Facebook.