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Dublin’s Milk on Embracing Ireland’s Artistic Traditions and the Time They Almost Swam to a Gig

When the Dublin outfit Milk started working on their new release, 3, The EP., they found themselves drawn more to acoustic instruments than synthesizers or electric guitars slathered in effects.

“I think that lended itself a lot more to the sound a lot more,” says frontman Mark McKenna on the latest episode of Rolling Stone’s On Your Radar. “And it made it a lot more unique, in a way that it went outside of the writing. It became its own thing eventually.”

As a creative choice, it was very much about pushing the band in new ways: “I think we were trying to purposely produce stuff heavily at the start,” says guitarist Conor Gorman, adding, “compared to now, it’s more stripped back.” 

But it’s also a sonic choice inherently indebted to the music all four members grew up listening to in Ireland. Not that Milk are suddenly incorporating traditional Irish music, but as bassist Conor King and drummer Morgan Wilson note, those sounds can inform everything from unexpected instrument choices to song arrangements to linguistic idiosyncrasies.

“I think it’s a lyrical thing you hear, these little local quirks you hear,” King says. McKenna adds: “I think Ireland has this very nice culture of everyone really cares about art, and they care about what they’re doing. I think when you do anything creative, and when you commit to it, you need to obviously really care about it, and it can’t be about wanting to be famous or earn money or anything like that. For me, growing up in Ireland, there’s very much the whole culture of you need to care about, and do it, because you love it.”

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Elsewhere in their conversation, the members of Milk share some of the songs they wish they’d written, talk about getting to work on their proper debut album in 2024, and how they bonded through touring. They also reminisce about some of their earliest and most stressful gigs, including their first show outside Ireland in the U.K. — which they actually missed because their ferry got caught in a weather delay. 

McKenna remembers King was not willing to give up hope, though, joking, “I was convinced he was like, ‘If this ferry doesn’t go, it’s a five-hour swim, we’ll make it!’” 

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