In the interview, ‘MBAR’ discussed Summer (QRO review), working with producer Kyp Malone (of TV On the Radio – QRO live review), how it compared to making his self-titled debut, his current tour with Bob Mould & upcoming national tour, where he found his current band, what happened to his last band (it’s a doozy…), why he doesn’t play many Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson songs live, and growing up, more…
QRO: What was making Summer of Fear like?
Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson: I was given an amazing opportunity at a time when I was going through a fair degree of personal tumult. It was very real.
QRO: How did it compare to making your self-titled debut?
MBAR: We did Summer of Fear in professional studios, one of which featured a very relevant view of the lower Manhattan skyline through a wall of windows in the live room. Me and Kyp spent about 50 days sitting on leather couches making it. The self-titled album was recorded using the other bedroom in my apartment as a control room while my roommate was in California; the view from my living/live room was of a lovely tree in my backyard. Chris Taylor and I spent two weeks sitting on the edge of his bed in his apartment finishing it.
QRO: Did you record with this current band playing, other people, and/or just yourself?
MBAR: One member of my current touring band, David Morrin, played on the record. The rest of that band was gone by the time I went on my first tour for the MBAR record.
QRO: What drew you to [label] Saddlecreek (Tokyo Police Club, Land of Talk)?
MBAR: I think a better question is: What drew them to me?
QRO: How is Kyp Malone as a producer?
MBAR: Well, if you’re talking about skill then I think the record speaks for itself. I feel incredibly fortunate that he and Dave Sitek (also of TV On the Radio) were so aggressively supportive about doing the record. Given the slightly skewed state I was in, we might have benefited from him being slightly less permissive and indulgent of my whims.
QRO: Why are you doing these dates with Bob Mould (QRO live review) before the record comes out?
MBAR: We wanted to warm up before the record release tour since this band has never played live together. So, as always, I will be playing a bunch of big shows with a totally under-rehearsed band. Such is life.
QRO: Do you at least sell it at shows?
MBAR: The Summer of Fear CD [is] available beginning at the Boston show. It is also available online.
QRO: How did these dates with Mould come about?
MBAR: I don’t know, but I’m psyched. I am a huge Hüsker Dü (QRO spotlight on) fan.
MBAR: I haven’t been to a CMJ show since I was 18 or 19. They are generally a pain in the ass to play but worse things have happened to better people. I’m not playing six shows a day this year so hopefully the showcases won’t be drunken disasters like last year. I hope people have fun. It was fun hanging out with a bunch of people from Brooklyn in Austin during tour but I imagine SXSW is far more annoying for the population of Austin than CMJ is for New York’s.
QRO: Do you think being from New York makes CMJ less special to you?
QRO: Have you ever had to play venues at CMJ that you knew, as a New Yorker, that you didn’t want to/wouldn’t play otherwise?
QRO: What do you have planned after CMJ?
MBAR: A month long national tour.
QRO: How did you find your current band?
MBAR: As I said before, David has been playing with me since spring 2006, the rest I met through my friend Holly Miranda (QRO photos, with that band) [of The Jealous Girlfriends - QRO spotlight on], who they also play with.
QRO: Did you always perform with a band, or did you start doing shows solo?
MBAR: I have always largely written and recorded alone (or with a single collaborator), and then taken those songs and played them with brilliantly incompetent bands. It felt safe but wasn’t good for ‘business’. I am trying to be more straightforward these days. My last band fell apart and I ended up doing a bunch of solo shows over the last five months, it was probably good for me.
QRO: Do you do anything differently when you play outdoors, such as last year at South Street Seaport (QRO venue review)?
MBAR: Longer guitar solos.
QRO: Why do you go by all four of your names?
MBAR: Indecisiveness and a generally contrarian nature.
Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson playing “Always an Anchor” live at Mercury Lounge in New York, NY on November 20th, 2009:
QRO: Are there any songs that you particularly like playing live?
MBAR: "Trapdoor", "Always an Anchor", and "Boat" are usually a good time.
QRO: Are there any songs that you can’t play live, because of the arrangement, or just don’t like to?
MBAR: I feel very disconnected from the songs on the first album because I built them as a home recording thing and audiences have often been dissatisfied with my horribly-under-funded attempts to translate them to a live setting. I’ve never really had the money or the band to make those songs sound like they do ‘on the record’. Plus I wrote all that stuff when I was 20-22.
Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson playing MBAR‘s “The Ongoing Debate Concerning Present vs. Future” live at South Street Seaport in New York, NY on August 8th, 2008:
QRO: What cities or venues have you particularly liked playing?
MBAR: I like Schuba’s in Chicago. Bowery Ballroom (QRO venue review) in New York was a big personal milestone. All the big places we’ve played opening for better bands…
I’ve played a lot of pretty small and random venues over the past year and a half and honestly, after doing that in New York for a decade, I’m not really sure how much of a stomach I have for that anymore. Too bad the music industry died.
QRO: Finally, do you have a favorite tour story?
MBAR: Have you heard the one about the guy who added two women to the two dudes in his band shortly before embarking on two and a half months of touring… Then everyone except the dude start sleeping together resulting in two ended relationships a divorce and the eventual jettisoning of one of the sobbing members poolside in L.A. on tour? It’s a doozy. Good luck.