of the South Florida Sceneis a weekly column devoted to the
artists thriving within Broward and Palm Beach counties featuring
interviews with the folks making it happen. This week, Coral Springs' Millionyoung.
A proper interview with Millionyoung's Mike Diaz is long overdue.
Since getting his start barely a year ago as a purveyor of ethereal
soundscapes suited to a dance floor or a head-trip through space
portals, he's transformed his project. No longer just a one-man,
in-bedroom affair, Diaz's live performances are with a band, which has made his
sound more complex -- plus he added and then removed a space from his name. A
Coral Springs native, his name spread suddenly and almost accidentally but
earned him a spot at this year's SXSW. From there, it's been a consistently
impressive repertoire of energetic live shows from Miami to London,
with ANR and Toro y Moi, surprising covers (Satie's "Gymnopedie no. 1"
is noteworthy), and a consistently lengthening set list. His music is
particularly dreamy, and blogs have not shied away from discussing its
distinctly "tropical" sound, but it's obviously adaptable to all sorts
of environments. He's even been placed in mashups with the likes
of Biggie. We got to talk to him about how his band has grown and when
we can get our hands on a full-length album.
New Times: Tell me, first, what you want to
talk about: I interviewed you before, way early in the year, and since then, so
much has happened. Tell me about some of those recent updates.
Mike Diaz: Well,
for starters, the live band has expanded and will probably gain another member
or two before the end of the year. Right now, my friend Eric Rizzo has joined,
playing bass and guitar live. He also helped write a lot of what's going to be on
the full-length. We're also about to add live drums and possibly a second
guitarist. As for the full-length, it's completely done being written, and we've
found a label to release it but can't really say whom just yet. Really excited
about it, though, and the release date will be near the middle of December for
digital and the middle of January for physical (vinyl and CD).
Yeah, when I interviewed you, you were thinking about
expanding the band but mostly keeping it minimal. I remember you were working
on the album before you had a "band" -- so has the album changed at all now that
your sound is bigger?
The sound has definitely grown a bit. The newer songs have
a lot of dynamics and go a lot of places. A lot of it remains the same as far
as vocals and melodies, but there are a few Motown moments, a little Italo, and
even some old-school dub elements thrown in. I wrote the two previous EPs without really thinking too much about playing live, but that's definitely a bigger
part of what the new stuff is.
Agreed; even from what I've heard, the texture and flow
of your songs sounds denser, more complicated. So I'm guessing some of those
changes come from the fact your live act has changed, but is anything else
contributing? Has your songwriting style just changed in general?
Yeah, definitely. For the first two EPs, I sorta just
fired the songs out without putting much retrospective thought into them. I
love how they came out, but for the full-length, there was a lot more
calculating and just hours of tweaking that went into each song that just
wasn't there before. We wanted to aim at making something that wasn't quite as
lo-fi as previous recordings but still kept a lot of the texture and melodies
that people are used to from the last few releases.
What else can be "revealed" about the full-length?
Primarily I'm curious about the material it's going to include. Will it have
any reworked versions of tracks from your EPs, or is it all new? Anything
you've played live yet?
It's all unreleased material. We've been playing about three quarters of it at shows for the last month or so, and there's even a couple of
tracks on it that I've been playing live for a year or so. Three of the songs
on it were actually songs that I was thinking about putting on the Sunndreamm EP last year but decided they'd fit better on a
In the same vein: You've been recording a lot, even a
beautiful and unexpected Satie cover and a really good Neon Indian cover. Are
these just personal random projects, or do you plan on hopefully compiling
these sorts of things on a physical release?
The Erik Satie cover was a bit of a personal project I was
doing. I actually made two other renditions of the same composition, and one of
them might find its way onto the first single we release for the full-length as
a B-side or something. I was asked to do the Neon Indian cover for the
remix/covers compilation they did recently, but they had a lot of other people
do them as well, so I just posted mine for free on my Tumblr. There's quite a
few songs left over that didn't make the full-length cut, but they'll probably
come out in some form over the next couple of months. I just did a remix for
Dream Cop's "Warm Thrash" recently that should be coming out soon too. Really
excited about it.
Anything you've been
listening to, reading, or watching as of late that has proved influential on
what you're recording and writing?
Definitely. Well, while writing the full-length, I got
really into a lot of jazz and oldies and Motown kind of stuff: Duke Ellington,
Ella Fitzgerald, Phil Spector, and Jackie Wilson -- even a bit of Sun Ra (and Araw
too, actually). I've also been watching a lot of Lynch, Miyazaki, and
Kubrick movies. Kind of an odd mix, but I love the way they tell stories and
create these dark worlds and scenarios that can at times still be inspiring. I
love incorporating that notion into the things I write. The conflict between
happy lyrics and a sad melody has been something I've loved since the first
time I heard the Beach Boys' "Don't Worry Baby."
How have things been around
home -- since you've gotten more exposure, do you notice a change in the crowd
here in South Florida? How has
your reception shifted in Miami, West Palm, Fort Lauderdale?
Well, to be honest, Florida in general is a pretty tough
scene. There's definitely been a consistent following since the beginning, and
it's been growing, but Florida is so expansive geographically that it's tough
sometimes to get everyone out to the same shows. For example, people from West
Palm seldom drive down to Miami to see a show unless it's like one really huge
thing that rarely comes through. But I've been really happy with the quality of
the crowds that we get at home. There's always a lot of movement, and the people
respond really well. Out on the road, you can run into a crowd every now and
then that just sorta stands around, and that's fine, but we love it when people
dance the way they do at home.