Mild High Club is our new favorite synth infused psychedelic funk. It is a genius creation by the band’s frontman, Alex Brettin, and it’s to die for. We at Chicago Music got the opportunity to sit down with Brettin, before the band’s incredible show at Subterranean. Here’s what Brettin had to say about chilling out, the band’s latest album Timeline, and their current tour:
How would you describe Mild High Club to someone who hasn’t heard your music?
Mild High Club is this theoretical lounge in my mind, and the music that plays there is a mix between jazz and pop music, and library music, and exotica, and trumpicalia. Basically all the things I ever thought were cool.
You started recording your latest album, Timeline, in 2012, on a four-track cassette recorder. Do you think the evolution of the recording technology you used affected the songs you created for the record?
I think doing the tape thing was an experiment of sticking to my guns and not being able to go back and do it a million times. When I first started making music ever it was on a laptop, so going from laptop to tape back to laptop, I learned quite a bit about the fidelity of both and the advantage of each, but also the importance of really knowing when you hear the take that’s the right take.
The album name Timeline is a reference to a Facebook timeline, and I know you dislike the gap that technology can put between human interaction. Was there one specific instance that inspired the album, or was it just the general annoyance with technology that inspired you?
It’s not necessarily that I dislike it, I’m not necessarily upset, it’s not an angsty sort of thing. It was more or less an observation. I do still participate in the internet and social media and different routes, but I think it’s hilarious. Although it might sound serious and such, I guess I’m just making notes for the time I’m alive. If there was a specific instance, I guess it would be when the timeline feature itself came out, because up until that point it was just a “wall” or something like that. As soon as the timeline came out, it got me to start thinking about indicators of time and what life you create for yourself.
You have said that a melody or lyric will pop up in your head and you need to write it down. Where is the weirdest place you were struck with a song idea?
Oh, it happens all the time. I can’t think of anything especially weird, probably the bathroom. The other day in New Orleans we were walking down the street to this place called the Under The World, and it smelled pretty terrible, and I had some music in my head. I don’t know, maybe there’s an olfactory element to it.
When you first started recording music, did you ever dream of this, or think being this successful with your music was even possible?
Not really, I sort of just wanted to make records, just to have a vinyl. I started collecting records in seventh grade and for some reason it was always something that I felt the need to have. It evolved since I started with that. At some point I thought I might maybe have a little bit of skill making music; I was pretty good at playing guitar as a kid. So eventually I thought I might as well do something with that.
What has been your favorite live performance thus far?
New Orleans was great, our last show there was really good. I’d say one that was really fun was Copenhagen. It was great – great sound, and the audience, like everyone was gorgeous, even the old people. Nobody was upset. It was our last tour and it was where I first realized that people are coming out to see us who are already familiar with the music. That’s something that’s been really fun to experience. But I’m really fortunate, I have a really good band, and all of our shows go really well. It’s hard to pick one when they all go so well. Not to sound pompous or anything, but for my sake, I don’t feel upset after a show usually.
How was dealing with the whole Levitation situation?
It was fantastic actually. It turned out really well for us. We got to play three shows instead of one, got to play with some amazing bands, and it was a blast. To all the people who didn’t get to make it to the shows because of the whole logistical issue, we’ll see you guys again and sorry!
Yeah, you were supposed to have Levitation Fest and you have some other festivals coming up. How do you feel about performing at festivals compared to performing during your own shows?
I guess it depends on each scenario. For instance, Levitation, some of the shows were a little bit smaller and it felt like club shows. Some of the bigger ones are a little bit hard to judge, because it’s such a massive stage. I’d say it’s always fun to come to a small town and turn up and see what people think, because most people don’t even know who we are. It’s fun to surprise people
Chicago is definitely an open enough place to this kind of music, that they’ll just wander into Subterranean and see who’s playing.
I hope so. I hope someone shows up. I hope at least our friends show up, the ones that are still living here.
What can we expect to see from Mild High Club in the future?
More records, more touring, more complex arrangements, just going deeper into the wormhole of composition and recording, more hypnotic mind-warping and stereoscopic music. I’m hoping that eventually we can make some really cool, cinematic type music videos, doing some cool ultra-modern fine arts stuff. Hopefully encompassing as much as we can, maybe start a bar one day. I’m open to anything. I’m trying to get to not quite Jimmy Buffett status, but I want my hands in a few different mediums and that kinda shit.
If Mild High Club was an actual club that anyone could join, what do you think the initiation would be like?
Well, it would first start with a gigantic dab, and once you survive the dab, you have to go to this room with a huge collection of records. You have to be able to read the room and understand where people are at. You’ll have to choose something good, and that won’t be overbearing or anything. You’ve gotta be funny. Then you just have to chill and not take it too seriously. There’s such a thing as too much chill though, you’ve got to reach the perfect chill. You can’t chill too hard, you can chill with your body, but you know, you’ve gotta keep your wheels turning. You have to be willing to work your mind.
You used to live in Chicago, do you have any places you’re going to hit up while in town? Any walks down memory lane?
Besides my friend’s houses and the place I used to live, not quite yet. I’m going to be here the next few days, so I’m probably going to go to Feed, and I’m going to go to Cole’s.
Like the clothing store Kohl’s?
Yeah, I didn’t think so
Yeah, yeah, I’m going to go Khol’s with my mom later, get some new underwear! Ha, no I’m gonna go to Cole’s Bar, and I’m going to go to Feed, and then I’m probably going to see my friend Adam who’s down there, see what’s up with that stuff you know? Probably take a drive up LSD, slip out, trip out.
Download a copy of Timeline, it’s the perfect album to listen to while you’re taking “a drive up LSD.” Just don’t slip out or trip out while you’re driving. Stay chill everyone!