Mike Diaz (AKA Millionyoung) has asked to meet at Mary's Cafe & Coin Laundry near Coral Way, where, in addition to getting your clothes clean, you can find a good cortadito and a proper tostada made with the right amount of love and butter.
He arrives right on time, wearing black jeans and a loose T-shirt. He places his order at the ventanita and sits at one of the side tables. Diaz's tone is calm, polite, and laid back. He's been releasing music as Millionyoung since 2009 and has helped put a national spotlight on the local indie-pop scene more than once.
Still, it's hard to picture Millionyoung outside of South Florida.
Listening to his music feels like the true definition of the Miami sound: analog synths, layered dreamlike vocals, and soft guitars. All those elements are highlighted in his new album, Ocean View, which will be released on September 22.
"It's a bunch of songs I've made over the last three, four years. There are a lot of different sounds on it, but I feel it all ties together," Diaz shares.
The album features nine songs that lean slightly heavier to the rock side than Diaz's previous dream-pop work.
"I have been listening to a lot of yacht rock and bands like Steely Dan, Doobie Brothers, and stuff like that," he says. "I wouldn't say it sounds like that, but there are definitely little things here and there that I tried to pull from the way they work on the harmonies, their focus on different chords, and different things that maybe I didn't focus on as much before."
The last time New Times spoke to Millionyoung was ahead of the release of his EP, Moments. "That last EP I wrote very quickly since it was during lockdown. It was a very specific moment in time," he explains. "Whereas this new one, I wrote it over a longer amount of time, and I had more time to really think about things a little bit more."
There are far more guitars on Ocean View. "It's funny 'cause people think of my music being very electronic, but most of the time, I'll write songs starting on guitar, and then I'll add the keyboards and sing and stuff like that," Diaz adds. "But this time, I was more like, 'Yo, let me just keep the guitar part and then add just a little bit of the synths.'"
When writing music, Diaz tries to take himself out of the initial connection with the song, sharing it with the rest of the band to get the other members' perspectives on things. (Besides Diaz, the band comprises Sebastian Hidalgo on bass and keys and John Olin on drums.) "I'll write maybe three, four songs in a week or something, and then I won't listen to them for a few weeks, and then I'll come back to revisit them," Diaz says.
Ocean View was recorded at Diaz's home studio, where he keeps a collection of analog synths and keyboards.
"My wife is really into estate sales and going thrifting and all this stuff, and she'll find keyboards, sending me pictures of what she finds, and there's a lot of stuff from the '80s and '90s that you can get for 50 bucks that online on eBay would be $500 or $1,000," he says. "I have a lot of equipment that I like to use, but I never have it all set up at the same time. During all this, this downtime, I was like, 'You know, I'm gonna actually set everything up and actually organize it.'"
Along with Ocean View's dreamy tone, the album's cover and music videos showcase a nostalgic, pastel-toned view of the city.
"I gravitate more towards the sides of Miami that are not touristy or the Hollywood version. For the album art, too, that was a picture from an apartment in Bal Harbour I lived in for a little while, but that building's not there anymore. But I love that aesthetic of that neighborhood or Normandy. I like those areas a lot more than South Beach. I like the old Miami, the '50s, the retirement Miami."
Millionyoung. With Wan and Firstworld. 9 p.m. Saturday, September 23, at Gramps, 176 NW 24th St., Miami; gramps.com. Tickets cost $15 to $20 via eventbrite.com.