Mildlife take the musical canvas, rip the lids off the paint tins, and throw vibrant slashes of colour into kaleidoscopic jams. Old friends, the four-piece bonded over the desire to push musical boundaries, developing tight live shows bolstered by wild improvisation and a debut record that mines jazz, psych and disco for its irresistible groove.
Taking cues from pioneers Can and Herbie Hancock, creating a Mildlife song is a constant process of teasing and tugging, expanding and refining. Occasionally, they start with an individual idea, but most often, they come from moments of spontaneity, jamming together in the studio to find the seed of a strong notion, plucking it out of the session, and nurturing it to see where it grows. Some of those seeds were planted as far back as the beginning of the band, forgotten and rediscovered in the process of defining this album.
But Mildlife are adamantly not a studio band. Between 2014 and 2015 they took a year off playing shows to figure out how they could produce as much of their music live as they possibly could without losing its complexity. “It makes the performance, the composition, more malleable,” says guitarist and multi-instrumentalist Adam Halliwell. Bassist Tom Shanahan adds “It feels more authentic. The energy can be in the song rather than sitting on top of it. We wanted to leave a lot of room for improvisation.”
It’s that energy and excitement for the live show that drives the band. With their background in improvisation, those stories change in the retelling. Bringing the songs alive on stage is a process of transformation, the audience moulding the songs, the songs moulding the audience. Sharing bills with the likes of Krakatau and Harvey Sutherland,these beguiling sets have developed a reputation for drawing crowds through an epic journey. But this isn’t just music for the head -their emphasis on rhythm, led by Shanahan and drummer James Donaldworks its way into the bones, Mildlife casting themselves as the cosmic funk house band for a party at the edge of the universe.
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