When Milburn Met REBEL

Milburn Perform At The Sugarmill As Part Of Huge Comeback

Leah Hamer || October 8th

‘We’re a dysfunctional Kings of Leon.’

Milburn in a sentence. This is according to their singer, Joe Carnall, who I met on The Sugarmill roof terrace, on the dawn of their comeback, sold-out show.

After eight years away from the spotlight, Milburn returned at the beginning of the year to celebrate the anniversary of their hit album, Well Well Well, by performing a handful of exclusive shows in Sheffield. Several months later, the indie legends have somehow found themselves touring again. ‘We were all taken aback by the comeback shows, so we met up after and said Should we do some more? Then with this tour it started with six dates, then eight, then ten.’

The demand for Milburn has never disappeared, especially not in Stoke, where their following are loyal to the bone. ‘We have an affinity with people around here and they do with us, all the best gigs are up North. I’ve got this image in my head of the last time we played here, and the crowd was waved over from side to side. I remember it being one of the first gigs where I thought I like being in Milburn.’

Despite Joe’s love of the band, the dream could not be sustained, and in 2008 the band split, although on good terms. ‘My brother [guitarist, Louis] left first, just because he didn’t want to do it anymore. The other three of us tried to meet up a few times after but it just didn’t work because we are that band. We are those four people. I think that’s why people like us because we’re a bit of a gang, we fall out, but we love each other, whether we like it or not. There’s certain things that we laugh at that no-one else will understand, no-one else can tap into that world.’

In the years apart each member has gone on to experience different musical ventures, Joe himself briefly joined fellow Sheffield band, Reverend and The Makers, which has been a necessary step in the career of the Milburn foursome. ‘It’s only natural for people to grow apart. I went on to write different songs and as did they. It was a case of I like this record and you hate it and you like that, but now we’re back together, we’ve shrugged that off. We know what makes Milburn so we accept that, the band is bigger than any one member.’

Despite their close relationships, getting back into the studio together after so long apart, wasn’t plain sailing. ‘It was weird, really weird. We spent the first fifteen minutes just laughing at each other. It was like going back now to your old school and being in your uniform again. I’ve been back to my old school as a teacher, and that was exactly the same feeling. I was teaching a class and one of my mates who I went school with was a teacher’s assistant, and he came in half way through my lesson to ask me for some glue sticks. All my kids were doing a test, and we just looked at each other and burst out laughing. We couldn’t explain why, it was just the whole situation. He didn’t even get the chance to get the glue sticks, he was laughing that much he just turned around and walked out. That’s the same feeling we had with Milburn.’

Yet after the first wave of giggles, everything else was second nature. ‘You just don’t forget it, we did it for ten years, so all the dynamics of the band were still there- who likes what, who does this and that, it’s all the same from where we left it.’

Along with the tour, comes unplanned new material in the form of their latest single, Midnight Control, ‘We wanted to remain credible and relevant. If we’re pushing gigs any further than Sheffield then we need to give people something that’s more tangible than nostalgia. This is where we’d be if we hadn’t stopped.’

Talk immediately turns to the prospect of a future album, ‘We’ll see where we are after this tour. If it’s done credibly, and it’s not just exploitative, then yes but I don’t want to be back in Stoke in a year, playing the same set. Think about the greatest bands of all time like The Beatles, how much they evolved, that’s who you’re aspiring to be, even though you’ll never come close.’

Milburn were spawned in an era ruled by Northern guitar bands, in a city that has produced the mass proportion of bands on indie nightclub playlists. ‘It’s about momentum and belief. If Alex Turner grew up a mile down the road from you, you think he’s done it, why can’t I? Once you get one or two homeruns, success breeds success.’

Despite the glory days in the mid-noughties, Joe can’t help but feel that today this success has restricted the reach of modern young artists. ‘I think Sheffield bands now are totally in the shadow of noughties bands. The fact that we can turn up eight years later and sell out loads of gigs across the country proves that, and that’s not in an arrogant sense. I think some are trying to emulate that and I don’t think it works because you’re never going to write I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor, it’s been done. You’re never going to write Heavyweight Champion of the World. That scene weren’t trying be Pulp, the previous big band from Sheffield. They created their own world… It’s kind of becomes an albatross and inspiration. It’s hard with guitar music. It takes a special spark, and it just so happens that in 2005, Sheffield had about seven sparks.’

The scene that Milburn said goodbye to all those years ago, has become an alien environment to them- with the surge of downloads and the reinvention of music listening, however, Joe thinks this has worked in their favour. ‘It’s been quite liberating for us because we already have a fan base. We don’t need a label, or this or that, we can just get on. Before we were tied to a major label who wanted us to sell a gazillion records and dominate the world, and it just wasn’t going happen. We should of just enjoyed the experience instead of worrying about these things like chart positions. Who gives a flying fuck what chart position you are? The proof of success is when you’re in the car for four hours going up to Glasgow and there’s a thousand people waiting there for you. There’s nothing more special than doing that.’

In an age of hip-hop and contrived pop ruling the radios, Joe spends no time worrying about the success of guitar bands. ‘There’s only so long this David Guetta dominance can last. He’s going to be retired and running a moped rental place in Ibiza soon enough. Guitar bands are like cockroaches so I wouldn’t worry too much. We may never have anything like Britpop again, but it won’t go away.’