By Ian Bremner
A lot is made by a bands’ name. Some are literal, some are simple words, some are homages and some seem quite arbitrary. Mild High Club is about appropriate a name as a band could have. Mild High Club is chillll. Mild High Club is spacey. Mild High Club is a musical collective. The ringleader is Alex Brettin. He is a mild-mannered Midwesterner living in Los Angeles intent on creating “vibes” however soulful, psychedelic and odd they may be.
Brettin has stayed more than busy during his time in California lending his talent and ear to multiple records by the likes of Silk Rhodes, Ariel Pink and Salvia Plath, before turning attention to his own project as Mild High Club, Timeline.
Timeline could legitimately have been made in any one of the last 5 decades. The jangly, poorly-titled, “slacker rock” sound has thrown Mild High Club into the same sentences as some of the genre’s heavy hitters, but Alex and company are their own breed. As he puts it, they’re “a little private. We’re funny characters I guess but we more so like to go out and roll dice, smoke weed. We just like to chill pretty hard. We don’t have too many people screaming at us.”
Since Timeline was released, he has toured all over the country with a somewhat rotating cast of bandmates. This time tour will take them up the west coast with stops in San Francisco, Boise’s Treefort Fest and Seattle’s new venue, Funhouse.
A day before hitting the road, Alex was gracious enough to talk about the making of Timeline, his musical history and the life of a traveling band.
IAN: You call Los Angeles home now, but the band is from all over, the Midwest, LA, Canada, who are you bringing with you on this current tour?
ALEX: The band is from all over the place. At least 3 of us are from generally the same 3 towns in Illinois. Our other guitarist is from Baltimore, and for this tour, my friend Joe from Canada is going to play drums. Its an intercontinental club.
I: I am sure you have a bunch of musically talented friends, but how do you set the band for each tour?
A: Essentially, there’s more or less a core group, but if at any time someone can’t make it, there’s always someone to step up. There’s been so many incarnations of the group, but fortunately for me, I have a lot of talented friends, even if we lose one of our regulars for a second.
I: You recorded Timeline mostly by yourself and then you slowly incorporated more people, were those collaborators on board with your sound from the get-go or did you have to tell them where the parts were and what angle you were going for?
A: Most of the time it came from my own instruction, to be honest. There were moments where other people kind of did their thing and it worked …. I guess it came down to where I had specific ideas, and there were things I couldn’t do myself, so it came from different people. It went a bunch of different ways when it comes to Timeline.
I: Timeline is your first work as “Mild High Club,” what were you doing musically before this project?
A: Yeah, I did a record with Mike Collins and Sasha Desree, one is called the Bardo Story by Salvia Plath and another is called Silk Rhodes. Before Timeline came out I worked on Pom Pom by Ariel Pink. I’ve messed with some other recordings when I was younger with some bands, but nothing really worth noting. My old band kind of evolved into something better than when I was in it, so…yeah, haha.
I: You’re about to head out on tour, playing Treefort Festival in Boise this weekend, which is a really cool festival, but I always wonder about how bands adjust their set for festivals vs. club shows, do you do that, or do you just see how the audience reacts?
A: We haven’t played many festivals actually. Usually, what we do is place the set order keeping in mind key changes and all that, I guess, and tempo shifting and making something that is basically not in-your-face the whole time, or too soft. Just create a way for people to vibe a little bit while not shoving your vibes in their face. I guess if we did end up playing a bigger stage, we probably would not play as many slow burners.
I: I know you’re a lot about “setting vibes” so how would you compare the live show to the album and creating a vibe for the room, is it very different?
A: I don’t think so, [live] might be a bit more jammy, but I think we get most of the sound pretty similar. For this tour, there’s a bit of a change and feel simply because my friend plays the drums a little bit different than our regular drummer. Its gonna sound a little bit different than the album, but the sounds are pretty true, just a little more open, a little more clarity I guess.
I: Stone’s Throw Records isn’t exclusively vintage soul and hip hop, but how did you get linked up with Stone’s Throw Records?
A: Through Silk Rhodes, working on that record. I just dropped into Peanut Butter Wolf’s office and told him I wanted to play my record and he was down.
I: You probably have the whole Tour-thing down at this point. What would be some tips for young bands getting their feet wet out on the road?
A: Yes, 1., be punctual. 2., be nice to the sound guys or girls and 3., I don’t know… Just bring something to do so you won’t get bored. I don’t know, I don’t have tips… just practice and keep track of merch.
Official video for Undeniable
Come see Mild High Club in Seattle March 29th at Funhouse
Listen to Timeline via Spotify