Mike Diaz of MillionYoung talks about his background, "chillwave" and Replicants
Laura Gray Mike Diaz of Million Young
"Chillwave" is a buzzword used to describe a sound built on brezzy melodies with songs heavy on electronics. Even a short list of artists that have fallen under this umbrella, including bands like Small Black and Washed Out, reveals more diversity in approaches to songwriting than a genre title generally conveys. MillionYoung (due tonight at the hi-dive) from south Florida, is another such band that loosely fits the handle, only it started making its form of hybridized music before there was a clever name for it.
In the relatively short span the band has been around, it has released two EPs and is on the verge of releasing its first full-length album, Replicants. We spoke with MillionYoung's singer and primary songwriter Mike Diaz about his background in Florida, the virtues and vices of genre titles and what ideas and sounds went into making the upcoming record.
Westword: You're from Fort Lauderdale? What's the climate like for being an independent songwriter where you live?
Mike Diaz: We live in Coral Springs, just outside of Fort Lauderdale. I remember, growing up, that there used to be a lot more bands. It changes a lot; people move around a lot down there. In the last couple of years, a lot of the venues closed down that local bands used to play at, but it's picking up again in the last year. We would never get good shows, but there's a much bigger attempt to bring bands down there and building the community up a lot more. We play in Miami, mostly. Sometimes we go up to Orlando. Usually just clubs and bars, small stuff. They opened a new one called Grand Central with a five or six hundred cap.
Did you have musical projects before MillionYoung, and how did you first get interested in making electronic music of your own?
At some point in high school we dabbled in keyboards and stuff. I was in a band called Control Control. We were doing similar stuff to what we're doing now. Even a couple of the songs, including "Hammocks," we put together in high school. It was different before, and we kind of revamped it. MillionYoung started off as a side project from Control Control, as a solo thing.
Why did you call this project MillionYoung instead of just using your name?
It's the name of an American Analog Set song. It stuck over time. I was into that band at the time, and it had a cool ring to it, and the song has a cool vibe, and I related well to the lyrics.
You obviously use more than electronic instruments in your sound. Why do you use both straight ahead electronic sounds, and what some people would call "organic" instruments?
We mix a lot of keyboards and guitar and more natural-sounding drum sounds to bridge the gap between all that technology that's available to making music and good old natural sounds.
I've heard hints of critics referring to your music as "chillwave" - how do you feel about a genre designation like that?
I think the genre name is a little silly. In reality, I think most genre names are silly too. When most of my friends are talking about music, we don't refer to genres so much as saying something sounds like a mix between X, Y and Z and stuff like that. But having a genre is cool in the sense that it creates a little of a community. We got to meet a lot of bands we've been compared to and met a lot of cool people along the way. It's a cool little community that's been building up now.
There's kind of a soul or R&B feel to some of the music on your new album. Was any of that music an influence on what you do, and do you draw inspiration from any particular artists from that realm of music?
Oh yeah, I actually got pretty into Motown and '60s rock and R&B stuff. There's a bit of that peppered through there. I got into The Ronettes and anything Phil Spector produced. Diana Ross. A lot of social vocal stuff, anything thick and expansive.
Maybe this is my own perception, but I hear just a hint of IDM in your sound like Boards of Canada or Squarepusher. Was any of that kind of music an influence on your own sound and if so, in what ways?
I love Boards of Canada, too. It's not a conscious influence, but it makes its way in there subconsciously.
On Replicants, there seems to be a futuristic theme of one sort or another. Why that kind of imagery, and why the straight ahead appropriation of the Philip K. Dick term "replicant" for one of your song titles?
It goes back to using electronic stuff with organic elements too. Trying to make things sound alive. I did get that term from Philip K. Dick, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and Blade Runner. It just fit at the time. Lately I've also been reading a lot of H.P. Lovecraft. Right now I'm reading At the Mountains of Madness.
On "Sentimental," you have a really smooth guitar sound. How did you accomplish that when you recorded it?
There are two main guitar parts in that song, but the part I think you're talking about has a lot of auto filter and delays that carry the tone through smoothly.
Million Young with Flashlights, Sunglasses and The Great Mundane 8p.m., Wednesday, December 15, Hi-Dive, $10, 720-570-4500, 18+.