Rhye on Molding Real-Life Pain Into Gorgeous Music: "I'm Like My Own Therapist"
The life of Rhye has been filled with trials and tribulations.
Photo by Sarah Hess
Four years ago, a mysterious R&B group suddenly appeared out of thin air to woo and capture the hearts of music journalists everywhere. A few months later, in 2013, they released their debut LP, Woman, and there was hardly a soul unmoved or a libido unaroused. The hype grew, and even Pitchfork, an outlet that famously hates everything worth loving, gave the record an astonishing 8.5 in its review.
Rhye, the band behind Woman and most likely a few unplanned pregnancies, was revealed to be a pair of first-time collaborators: Danish instrumentalist Robin Hannibal of Quadron and Canadian singer/songwriter Michael Milosh. The combination of sparse, jazzy, and elegant synths with Milosh's evocatively androgynous contralto (reminiscent of Sade) made it one of the year's best albums.
These days, Milosh is the sole mastermind behind the project. Ahead of his first-ever visit to Miami this Saturday, he cleared up a few misconceptions concerning Rhye's past, present, and future, including the difficult reality of being self-funded, the sometimes painfully personal nature of his songwriting, and the highly anticipated followup to Woman.
Before all of that, however, it's helpful to know exactly who Milosh is — what makes him tick. He stresses that he doesn't, well, stress because his focus is on the things he can control.
"I purposely try not to have expectations when we play shows because I think that's what creates nervousness, and I don't like being nervous," he says. It's the same philosophy he had with Woman, a low-key affair whose success or failure he never bothered considering.
"I made that record with, like, zero money essentially in a bedroom with a bedroom studio... I'd done three albums before that, and they were kind of quaint, and I just assumed it'd be similar."
Despite the rave reviews Woman received, Milosh still struggled to get support from his label and has remained largely independent, both as a solo artist and with Rhye.
"I don't even have a label," he says. "I actually had to buy out the label I was on so I could do another Rhye record. One of the reasons we kept touring was to generate enough money to buy the record label out. That's why I'm working on the record again. That's why it took so long. I do everything."
The new, as-yet-untitled record, which he refers to as Rhye 2, gives him an opportunity to discuss Hannibal's role, or lack thereof, in the band.
"I haven't worked with Robin in a long time. It's a funny misconception that it's a duo. I've kind of always just let it be, but he's never played a single show with us."
Free from labels and on his own, Milosh describes the forthcoming album as having a "different vibe." He calls it "a little more earthy."
His lyrics have always been intensely intimate and sensual. And it turns out every song is as personal as it seems.
"I'm really, really adamant that if I'm going to write a song, it has to come from an experience that happened to me and that it just happened to me," he admits. Everything I write about is literally like a journal entry because I feel it's fraudulent if I'm writing something that I feel is by design... I'm like my own therapist. It's a form of catharsis. This record coming up is a little different because I'm going through a divorce — there are elements of that. I mean, it's unfortunate, but that's life."
As if emotional heartbreak weren't a powerful enough source of inspiration, since Rhye debuted, Milosh has been circled by actual wolves and attacked by a neighbor who left him with a concussion. The latter incident forced him to wear a bandanna during concerts thanks to the five staples in his head and the occasional bleeding. Considering his penchant for drawing from life, it's a safe assumption the new album won't ignore the physical knocks he's taken.
In the meantime, while he prepares for his show at the North Beach Bandshell, Milosh admits he has already heard the rumors about Miami fans.
"I'll have to play it by ear," he says. "I'm going to try to do the last song possibly without a microphone... If I can pull it off in Miami, that would be interesting, because I've heard it can be quite a boisterous place."
Rhye with Maco Monthervil. 7 p.m. Saturday, November 12, at the North Beach Bandshell, 7275 Collins Ave., Miami Beach; 305-672-5202; northbeachbandshell.com. Tickets cost $25 in advance via northbeachbandshell.com or $30 at the door.
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