Published Aug 28, 2008For some people, the term "singer-songwriter is a dirty one that evokes fabricated emotion from some mawkish, timid busker with an acoustic guitar. Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson is the antithesis of that type. Raised travelling the club circuit with his comedian father, in his 25 years, Robinson has found himself kicked out of bands, kicked out of clubs, kicked out of homes and trying to kick a drug habit, all the while inadvertently building a blueprint for his self-titled debut. Recorded with Grizzly Bears two Chriss Taylor and Bear as well as TV On the Radios Kyp Malone, Robinsons songs were reportedly forced out of him by his friends, resulting in a torn and battered tapestry about living life on the edge. This creative breakthrough has now opened up a stream of productivity, as the Brooklynite is now on to his fourth LP, and about to embark on a West coast tour with his backing band the Black Boys, supporting TV On the Radio. Miles somehow managed to balance himself and an interview with Exclaim! while riding his bicycle.
So, did I catch you at a good time?
Yep, I'm just riding my bicycle.
Er, you're on your bike?
Yes, I am riding my bike.
Okay... Let's get started then. I read that your friends had to force your songs out of you because you never really wanted people to know of your songs. Is there truth to that?
Well, that's sort of a composite of various things. When I was younger I never really told anyone that I was writing songs. They didn't force me to do it, but I had retired from being in bands, and felt burnt out and frustrated, but wanted to keep writing songs. So, once I found some collaborators in Chris and Chris, I started working on that process. I like recording songs, it's something I'll do regardless of whether anyone will hear them or not. But, they definitely encouraged me on doing it, I had kind of given up on a lot of that stuff, and trying to settle down.
Seeing as you were sort of hesitant, what made you decide to do it under your own name, as opposed to forming your own band?
For me it made sense to go it alone, because of the problems I had in bands. I mean, most bands are highly dysfunctional, and I develop my creative process on my own, and the bands were always just vehicles for my songwriting. And it was always so stressful, because someone would leave to go do a different job, so after that I just wanted a project that would continue on no matter what personnel difficulties I might encounter. Especially in this decade where every band has to come up with a sound, and that sound is defined by some web of words. And then the second album is supposed to be that much better. People get lost in these expectations of bands... It really sucks to be in a band. I mean, how rare is something like the Beatles? And even they didn't really last, y'know?
Your troubled past is is no secret, considering your bio details it and the press fixates on it. What was the turning point was for you, just cleaning yourself up and getting to work on your music?
What was the turning point? Well, I'd like to believe it was when I was about 21, I tried to sober up and was engaged. I got tired of playing every show like a last stab. But shit happens. You think you've it all figured out and there's ups and downs. The best thing you can do is try and deal with it.
Does it get tiresome to keep reading about what you went through?
It's not exactly tiresome to read about it, because these are questions you have to ask me. Sometimes they're like, "Well, I read it here that..." And I just say, "Well, you could be the first not to talk about." And no one doesn't talk about it, because it's an easy package as opposed to talking about the music, which I can understand. It's a very cliched... I feel burdened with my own cliche. Shit happens. Lots of people have far worse ups and downs than me.
Well, I don't actually have any questions about what happened in the past... [Laughs] It's funny, because since then I've been very productive; I've already finished my second album, and I'm working on another one. Lots of what people talk about is from long ago. Although you know, last night I went out to the local bar and I got pretty uselessly obliterated. It's weird to be something that people talk about.
There's a lot of humour in your songs that seems to get lost, judging by some of the reviews for your album. Is that something you notice?
I think it does, but people listen to music and they get from it what they need. It's just funny when people start making personal assumptions about me and what I'm trying to do. They don't really have any perspective of where I'm coming from. You can hear what you want to hear, but that doesn't mean I feel the same way.
You've already finished your second album, you've got a third one written, and a fourth one started?
I've been recording, about an album a year for the last 11 years of my life.
How much of that material would you say you'd like to actually release?
I would do a "best of" for certain periods. I would never listen to that stuff as is, but I would definitely pick and choose. I'm becoming a much better songwriter; the second album is somewhat better than the first one, which is flawed to me in light of where I'm trying to move with my writing. The third album, I feel, is really gonna be my most mature realization of what I'm trying to do.
Summer of Fear, your next album, was recorded with Kyp Malone (TV On the Radio). How would you say it differs from your first album?
The production is very different. There are not as many multi-tracked vocals, and very identifiable things on the first record. I wanted it to be clearer, and so the production is more on the high end. There is a distinct Lindsey Buckingham influence. I love Fleetwood Mac, but I think it's something that's continuing... I feel I'm moving in the direction of intelligent pop music. That's my favourite kind of music.