The Milk Carton Kids at Eddie’s Attic – 4/18 – Interview
The Milk Carton Kids will be making a much anticpated return to Eddie’s Attic in Decatur, Georgia on Thursday, April 18th. Having returned from a European tour only hours ago (literally), Joey Ryan of the group was able to speak with David about their newest record, The Ash & Clay, recording with Ryan Freeland, and their favorite experiences in Georgia. They’ll be joined at the Eddie’s Attic show on the 18th by Aoife O’Donovan. Shows are at 7:30pm and 9:30pm.
Ya’ll are from California but your harmonies and chicken pickin’ sounds like you’re are from Boone, NC. Do you feel like your west-coast origin brings a different perspective to Appalachia folk?
(Joey Ryan) The Appalachian aesthetic coming mostly from Kenneth’s picking is something we’re both naturally drawn to. The juxtaposition of the traditional with modern themes and lyrics arising from our present-day Californian perspective has been the topic of conversation before. It’s an unintentional but perhaps powerful combination, born of our desire to do something both true and beautiful.
In 2011, you released Retrospect and Prologue within 4 months of each other. Are these albums compilations of solo material translated to the duet or the products of collaboration in the early stages of the band’s inception?
Retrospect is exactly such a compilation – our respective solo material arranged for the burgeoning duo. Prologue, though, was the first result of our endeavoring to write together.
How did the writing and recording process for those first two records differ from the writing process for 2013’s The Ash & Clay?
The Ash & Clay benefited from our having played an extra 175 or so shows since the recording of Prologue. The intensity of the collaboration can be heard in the writing, the arrangements, and the performance, in my opinion. In that way, The Ash & Clay feels like the first collection to come out of the relationship formed between us, whereas Prologue and Retrospect function as introductions to it.
The Ash & Clay was recorded, mixed, and mastered by 3-time grammy award winning producer/engineer Ryan Freeland. (Bonnie Raitt, Ray LaMontagne, etc.) What kind of influence on the tone and direction of the album was Ryan?
Ryan had a profound impact in several ways. Tonally his first instinct on the first day was the high water mark for the entire record. I’ll credit him here with making the record sound as it does, basically single-handedly. More significant, though, was his influence on our process and psychological approach to performing the record. He allowed us (encouraged us, even) to place all the microphones as close together as possible, embracing the bleed and interaction between them in a way that sacrificed control, emphasized performance, and captured something spontaneous and natural between us. The spirit behind that approach stays with us even now as we perform the songs each night on the road.
Was the decision to use Ryan ya’ll’s decision or that of your label, Anti-Records?
Ours (we hadn’t begun working with Anti- when we made the record). And working with him was a long time coming, too. We’d dreamed of it for a while.
The Milk Carton Kids is one of very few acts on Anti Records’ roster that is traditional folk music. Do you feel like this hurts your touring options or helps? What artists from the label do you look forward to touring with in the future?
We’ve never wanted for tourmates; something for which we’re very grateful. And while we’ve not toured with any of our label mates yet, Sean Rowe in particular is one we intend to spend some time with on the road. More to the question, if there’s a lack of traditional folk on the label and we fill that gap, I’m sure the sympathies between the artists on the label are deeper than the divisions, which are merely aesthetic.
In the last two years ya’ll have played at Eddie’s Attic three times as headliner acts and once at the Fox Theatre in support of Old Crow Medicine Show. Do you prefer the intimate setting of the small Decatur venue or the lights and shimmer of the historic downtown Fox, and why?
They’re incomparable experiences. Our show opening for Old Crow at the Fox and our subsequent headline show at Eddie’s last Fall both stand in our minds as two of the best shows we’ve ever had. The opportunity for interaction with the audience, for conversation, for intimacy, is heightened in a room like Eddie’s. At the same time, 5,000 people cheering thunderously at the end of songs is not something one soon forgets. I’m not sure which one I would trade if I had to.