Set in the middle of endless green, sheep-flecked hills, Stroud – a market town in Gloucestershire – is the sort of place where it’s entirely reasonable to find a different vegetarian cafe serving variations of tofu every second step. People pairing tweed suits with monocles isn’t even considered outlandish in these parts, and nightlife-wise, there’s a single sticky-floored club called Warehouse with a light-up dancefloor. Otherwise, the local music scene consists of born and bred bands gigging around the pub circuit, a man dressed as a jester playing keyboard covers on the high street, and the occasional failed attempt at hosting rural music festivals; before the fields are overrun with underage cider-swiggers, that is, and the whole thing gets closed down.
An anomaly to Stroud’s decidedly quiet reputation are Milk Teeth. Breaking the countryside hush with their raucous debut album ‘Vile Child’ last year, the band left behind their tranquil hometown to make a right beautiful racket around the world, supporting a dream roll-call of acts – from Refused and Against Me! to rising cult heroes Creeper – along the way. Now back where it all began, Milk Teeth are sat around their beloved park bandstand where they host regular meetings. Inexplicably, somebody nearby has a tame owl perched on their arm. A gaggle of baby swans are drifting lazily down a stream. And Becky Blomfield – Milk Teeth’s chief vocalist and bass-wielder – would quite like a cider, to be honest. “There’s a Tesco across there,” she says. “I’m down.”
Following the rip-roaring success of their first full-length, Milk Teeth are clearly in no rush to leave Stroud. Over the course of a searing-hot summer’s day, the band amble around town hosting an informal tour of their most treasured landmarks, from the infamous “stoner bench” of Stratford Park (very idyllic, for the record) to Becky and guitarist Chris Webb’s former music college, where Milk Teeth still record the majority of their demos. Taking stock of it all in their local Wetherspoons (“the spiritual home of the band”) they reckon that starting out here has gone on to shape them in the long-run. “There’s nothing here really, is there?” Chris laughs. “Country life,” he adds putting on a thick West Country accent for effect, “is a bit different. You’re making your own fun, really, and making your own music was a good way of doing that.”
“I think it keeps you down to earth, because it is more community-based,” Becky points out. “We’ve always said we’re not very cool. I like that. It’s so important to be yourself and to show people you don’t have to fit a certain image to do what we do.”
“Sometimes I see pictures of us together,” laughs Chris, “and we don’t even look like a band. It looks like we met at a bus stop.”
“There’s nothing here really, is there? Country life is a bit different.”
Despite Chris’ claims, Milk Teeth certainly seem like a proper band, roaring around town crammed into drummer Oli Holbrook’s car, enthusiastically greeting their old music teachers, and making fun of each other at every opportunity. These days they’re a close knit bunch, with the sudden departure of former band member Josh Bannister – who left immediately before Milk Teeth’s ‘Vile Child’ tour in the States - well behind them. “He definitely quit at a time to try and fuck us…” reflects Becky. “And now,” Chris picks up, “we sound better than ever.”
With that period of uncertainty firmly consigned to history, newest recruit Billy Hutton is now a fully-fledged member, and an integral part of new EP ‘Be Nice’. “Billy’s a triple threat,” Becky grins. “He can sing, play guitar…” “and he’s devilishly handsome,” Chris finishes. “If Bill was on ‘Vile Child’ it’d be way better.”
“That’s my biggest regret,” Becky admits, “that we couldn’t have him on [‘Vile Child’]. I’m very proud of it, because it’s our first album, but it’s almost quite bittersweet, isn’t it?”
Looking ahead (with Milk Teeth’s second album “in the very, very early stages of planning”, according to Becky) there’s a definite sense that this lot want to right the turmoils of the past, and go bigger and better than ever before. From the bright, brash pop-punk of ‘Owning Your Okayness,’ to ‘Fight Skirt’’s furious, unrelenting pulse, it’s an EP that shows all Milk Teeth’s different facets at once, painting them as a band unafraid of trying anything. And “if anything,” Becky adds, “more work went into these songs that are coming out now than went into the last album.”
‘Be Nice’ sees Milk Teeth signing to rock institution Roadrunner Records, and they’re still pinching themselves now. ‘When I was growing up,” Chris enthuses, “I would go to Roadrunner, and think, who’s on there? What bands should I listen to? Nickelback, for one!” he laughs. “Obviously Slipknot. But it’s not just all metal, they’ve got Code Orange, and Turnstile, and Marmozets.”
“Tell me we’ve sold out when we do a commercial with Pepsi”
“For us, it made sense,” adds Becky, of the move to Roadrunner, and the varied sound – at times, verging on pop – of ‘Be Nice’. “We faced a lot of backlash,” she explains. “In any other job if someone got a promotion, you’d say well done, but for us it’s like ‘oh, you sold out’. Tell me we’ve sold out when we do a commercial with Pepsi,” she snorts. “‘Owning Your Okayness’ is a radio banger and we don’t shy away from that. I hate that people box you in. We’ve never shied away from the word pop. Never. Why wouldn’t you want to make a catchy song? We want to make them heavy as well, but people forget that you can love Code Orange and Carly Rae Jepsen.”
“We don’t just want to make one album,” she continues, “be a flash in the pan, and disappear. I’d love to be able to say I wrote six great albums. I try to base our path on older bands like Placebo, bands who had careers where they consistently put out good music over time, and they’re just being themselves the whole time. Why wouldn’t we strive to do that?”
“If we sold out, where’s my money?” Chris hoots. “I don’t give a fuck about people like that. Should I make the same song 100 times? Nah. Jog on.”
Milk Teeth’s new EP ‘Be Nice’ is out 28th July via Roadrunner.
Photos: Emma Swann.
Taken from the July 2017 issue of DIY. Subscribe below.