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Millionyoung
Photo by Jessica Gibbs

After Almost Ten Years, Millionyoung Is Still the Voice of Miami

For almost a decade, Miami-born artist/producer/DJ Mike Diaz has remained at the forefront of the city’s indie music scene. Just don’t remind him of that fact — the milestone has yet to sink into his brain.

“[I’m] just kind of thinking about it now,” Diaz laughs from Coral Springs, where he lives nowadays.

Diaz broke out in 2009 with his self-released EP Sunndreamm as Millionyoung, his one-man-band alias, under which he produces sparkly, indie-leaning electropop. As early as 2010, he was lumped into the nascent chillwave scene — the internet-born microgenre defined by lo-fi bedroom-pop productions with retro glow and psychedelic playfulness. He made the sound his own by adding house undertones, '70s-tinged funk, and '80s-inspired synths over layers of guitars and his own dreamy vocals.

Sunndreamm was Diaz’s first attempt to wholly discover the Millionyoung sound. But Rare Form, his album released last month on Mishu Records, displays a more robust producer with a years-in-the-making confidence that stems from all of those learning experiences in the studio.

“[My sound has] changed a bit with [me] learning things,” he says. "I’ve definitely learned more, as far as production and stuff like that goes, over the years. When I started out, I was really just using like GarageBand and a laptop. I’ve put a lot more time now into the recording process and tweaking things.”

It shows: Written between 2014 and 2017, the songs composing Rare Form are each tied to a specific memory. Combined, they thread a collective narrative, according to Diaz. It’s his most cohesive work to date.

“I had written a lot of music that was kind of all over the place,” he says. “When I was putting the record together, I wanted to pull something from that that was a little bit more focused. The songs are a little bit more about myself and what I wanted to do as far as career-wise... It kind of spills over into the second half of the album, which is me in a more comfortable place.”

Rare Form still follows his penchant for bright, tropical beats that reflect his sun-soaked South Florida surroundings. Diaz is of Cuban and Puerto Rican descent. He grew up on a healthy diet of Latin music via the salsa sounds of Celia Cruz and the Latin pop of Miami Sound Machine, thanks to his parents. Now he retains the Miami influence in Millionyoung.

As he inches closer to a decade on the local Miami circuit as Millionyoung, Diaz remains committed to the city’s growing scene. Last year, he donated proceeds from his single “Huracán” (Spanish for "hurricane") to relief efforts following the destruction caused by Hurricane Irma. This Saturday, he’ll performing at RAW Pop Up, a three-day multisensory art, music, and technology event taking place at the Moore Building in Miami’s Design District.

He remains hopeful about the city’s growing independent scene too, citing local artists and friends such as Firstworld and BayRan and developments in the area as the fresh blood for Miami.

“There are always new things [and] new projects and new bands and new venues popping up to really showcase stuff around Miami,” he says. “There was Vagabond and PS14 and stuff like that. Those venues have gone, but now that whole Wynwood area has grown so much. There [are] a lot of places to play around there, and a lot of different types of music are welcome in different places.”

Just don’t expect him to leave South Florida anytime soon.

“In playing music, I’ve been able to visit a lot of really cool places,” he says. “But even when I’ve gone and toured for a few months at a time, I always miss South Florida and Miami and the culture that’s down here and how diverse it is... I feel like down here is where the lifestyle fits my speed.”

RAW Pop-Up. With Millionyoung, Salomon Beda, French Horn Collective, City of the Sun, and others. 8 p.m. Friday, May 11, and Saturday, May 12, and 5 p.m. Sunday, May 13, at the Moore Building, 191 NE 40th St., Miami; 305-722-7100; rawpopupmiami.com. Tickets start at $10 via eventbrite.com.

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