James McAndrew’s Boston-based band, Milquetoast & Co., released three albums before its burned-out members called it quits around 2010.
After its demise, the group received a publicity boost when one of its songs, “Pause and Rewind,” was used to score the beginning of a porn flick. For some reason, people who watched the movie found the song on YouTube, and the comment section lit up with people chiming in on where they first heard the tune.
McAndrew finds that kind of fan base somewhat unnerving, and not only, he jokes, because all those people only had one hand free the first time they heard Milquetoast & Co.
“It’s weird that someone heard it, retained it, heard it again and remembered where they heard it the first time,” he says. “It’s really weird, and it wasn’t just one.”
The band also seems to have a fairly large fan base in Poland. McAndrew attributes this phenomenon to the "sad, dirge-y" quality of the music.
The 50,000 or so listens on YouTube weren’t enough to make McAndrew want to be in a band again. He was living out of his 2007 Toyota Yaris for a period of time — and anyone who's ever been inside of a Yaris knows this is no small feat — and taking showers at a Boston YMCA. Finally, he he'd had enough, and struck out for Denver to pursue business interests.
“We were all burned out,” McAndrew says. “We were approaching our thirties. We walked our miles and that was it.”
His wife has been bothering him to take up music again for quite some time, but he resisted at first.
“I said ‘That’s what I did in my twenties. I’m all set, thank you,’” he recalls. “I swore I’d never go back. But I ended up finding four incredible guys who get along extremely well, which is the most important thing.”
He says that a friend in Denver, Rocky Chase Anderson, who had always offered to play bass in a new incarnation of Milquetoast & Co., died suddenly last year. That provided another reason to start up the band again. The track "Lost Coffee" on the group’s most recent EP, Kashmir the Great, is dedicated to Anderson’s memory.
“That was kind of the final driving force,” he says. “Fuck it. I’m going to do it. Let’s just do it. When you're a musician, you're a musician. When you aren’t doing it, it’s an empty feeling. I’m wondering why I’m so angry all the time: because you aren’t doing what you want to do.”
McAndrew reconstituted Milquetoast & Co. in May, and released Kashmir the Great last summer. He says the EP was mostly songs written a decade ago, and the musicians who performed on it include two original members of the band; Dana Colley from Massachusetts alternative-rock band Morphine also appears on the record.
McAndrew includes Morphine among the bands that influenced his act, as did Amy Winehouse and earlier soul artists like Otis Redding. The music also shares some of the sonic gloominess of mournful English trip-hop trio Portishead.
“It’s sad as shit and slow,” he says of the latest EP. “It’s not my favorite thing I’ve done, but it sounds really great.”
Members of the new lineup are working on new material, and it’s more of a collaborative effort than the previous albums, for which McAndrew did most of the composing. Fans can expect a new EP from the current lineup later this year, as well as West Coast and East Coast tours.
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“It’s probably going to be less dirge-y,” McAndrew says of the upcoming EP. “It’ll pick up a little more. I hate to critique my own shit. I can leave that to lots of other people. But it will be a little more upbeat and a little more energy. Less lulling.”
As for a live show?
“We don’t live the life of the music and lyrics,” he says. “We are pretty fun people. We get the sadness out of the way with the music.”
Milquetoast & Co. appears with Big in Japan at Lost Lake Lounge, 3602 East Colfax Avenue, on Saturday, January 25. Doors open at 8 p.m. Tickets are $13 and available at eventbrite.com.
Listen to Milquetoast and Co. and more favorites from Westword writers on our Westword Staff Picks playlist.