If your of ‘an age’, as they tend to say, and you had any sort of taste in music, you’ll remember The Milltown Brothers. The Colne, Lancashire band, headed by Matt and Simon Nelson hit the scene with an 1989 EP ‘Coming from the Mill’, which was promptly single of the week in NME.
Signing to A&M shortly afterwards, they had a slew of brilliant singles that skimmed the top 40 and a similarly great debut album Slinky that hit number 27 in the UK charts. The follow up, Valve, didn’t fare as well and after being dropped by A&M they split in 1995.
That’s not the end of the story though. Reconvening for further records in 2004 (Rubberband) and 2015’s Long Road, they hit our radar again when we heard their last single Stockholm, which is literally one of our favourite records of the year.
With news of a new album on the way, we track down Matt Nelson from the band to find out more
Hey Matt thanks for talking to us – firstly, how are you coping with lockdown?
It was OK at the start, as time has gone on it has become a bit monotonous. I have 3 kids so keeping them entertained all day can be a challenge. Work keeps me busy, trying to get fitterand eating and drink less is always a constant failure. I’ve caught up with a lot old friends on Zoom but I miss meeting people face to face, we need human interaction
Are you able to talk and meet and maybe do anything creative?
Barney (keyboards) has been busy recording and fiming videos about his lockdown experiences which have gone down well online, we’d just finished the album before lockdown started so have spent time creating the artwork for the singles and album.
And you’re back with a new single ‘Stockholm’ which we love – can you tell us little bit about that?
Thanks for pushing the the song, it is about a member of an early 90’s band who gets picked up by an older woman in Stockholm after a gig, they spend time talking, walking through the city; he is young, naive and free of any responsibilities, her life is more complicated and structured. They end up back at her apartment. In the morning , she wakes him up and kicks him out of the flat before going to work, he goes back to meet the band, jumps on a plane and goes home. They never see each other again.
And there’s a new album on the way? Tell us more?
I wrote these songs over the last couple of years and then started playing them to band. I usually have a fair few songs I’m keen on and then these will get whittled down by the other members until we settle on a batch we all like. We were keen to make the album a bit less lyrical and more musical than Long Road which was quite a personal album, Jim (bass) produced the album in his studio. We used more instrumentation, especially keyboards, it’s definitely still a Milltown Brothers record; melodies , guitar riffs , rock drums back beat , but upbeat , lighter, possibly more modern?
What’s your favourite song on the album?
Well, long suffering friends of the band will know that every song is our favourite song.
You seem to sporadically play and record – is that how it works for you? This is the first album since Long Road – do you just make records when you feel like it now?
Since we originally split in 1995, we were all faced with the prospect starting again. We all have families, and work which keeps us busy but the Milltown Brothers is something that is personal to us all and something that we look back with a lot of pride and fond memories. We get together when the itch happens, we’ve all stayed good friends so getting together is like a lads weekend away and a chance to talk about the stories that bore our wives and kids and maybe create some new incidents to laugh about in the future.
How do The Milltown Brothers write? Collaboratively or does each person have a specific job? Has this changed over time?
Although all the other members of the band write songs, I’ve tended to write all the ones on the last couple of albums. As mentioned, Jim produced this album so the sound of it is very much down to him. Each band member brings his own style and view to the party, there maybe minor disagrements about certain songs/ parts but on the whole we all tend to like the same sort of music, except Barney who likes jazz.
When you look back over your career, what the overriding feelings? Do you miss those early days in a van up and down the motorways, or are you just satisfied you had a whole load of incredible experiences being in a band?
My eldest son is really into music, and lot of music from the past – Dinasaur Jr, The Pixies, My Bloody Valentine, Nirvana. I tell him we played with all those bands, we’d do 40 date tours in a big orange van we’d bought, arrive at gigs with nowhere to stay, end up a having a party somewhere and then moving on to the next gig. Touring Amercia, Europe and Japan were great, lots of crazy moments and lots of laughs. Being dropped was hard – our biggest fan at the time wrote to the NME to compain about our “much ignored demise” which, as demises go, is as good/bad as it gets! Looking back I think we’d had our fill. We made a lot of mistakes in how we were managed – although Tim Paton who looked after us in the early years was great, and we let our relationship with A&M turn sour. No regrets though! Well only a few.
Once this lockdown is over, might we see The Milltown Brothers in a town near us? Any plans to play any dates?
We planned to play live this year and hopefully we will when things return to normal. We always felt at home on stage and it would be great to perform in front of people again. We’ve had a hardy bunch of loyal fans over the years, we really appreciate their support, it would be great to see them all again.
The album Stockholm is out at the end of the month. For now, lets go back and hear one of their finest moments.