While on tour, and right before the release of the new Summer of Fear, Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson answered some questions for QRO. 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.