Milquetoast & Co. on Trying to Dodge ’90s Nostalgia

Milquetoast & Co. is getting ready to drop a new album.
Milquetoast & Co. is getting ready to drop a new album. Kassy Mahea
Milquetoast & Co. frontman James McAndrew has noticed younger people wearing band shirts that pre-date them and obsessing over the music of his youth.

“My guitarist was born after Kurt Cobain committed suicide, for instance, which is crazy to me,” he says. “It’s just crazy to me. All of the guys in [my] band are younger than me, which is fine. Thank God I wear makeup.”

McAndrew refuses to date himself precisely, but he admits the dirge-like, somewhat mournful sound his Denver sextet continues to refine has a sort of ’90s vibe. The band’s latest single, “Done/Undone,” started with a swaggering, moody bass line that wouldn’t feel out of place on a Cracker or Filter track. The somewhat nostalgic line shares space with a doleful string melody. McAndrew’s vocals evoke a smoother Chris Cornell, and the mid-tempo affair comes across as a less-depressed Soundgarden song.

Why not lean into the ’90s thing? The Zoomers brought back fanny packs, after all, and an MTV shirt — arguably more ’80s — can be had for $12.99 at the nearest Target.

“Stop leading us back there,” McAndrew says. “I’m telling you, we tried some shit out, and it didn’t work. I had some neon-yellow whole outfits, and spandex was a thing. What the fuck? And flipping the bill on your hat was a thing.”

He adds with no small amount of dread: “Z Cavariccis are going to come back.”

McAndrew hasn’t let his not-entirely-unfounded fear of ’90s nostalgia keep him down the past year. His band has been working on new material and refining some old songs. “Done/Undone” will appear on a vinyl release that the band hopes to drop in October. Until then, the act has been slowly releasing the songs it spent the past several months working through and then recording.

“We’ve basically been forcing everyone to listen to the album,” McAndrew says about releasing the songs one at a time.

He adds that he's been taking a more thoughtful approach to the songs that will appear on the forthcoming album, called Shiny (Little) Mind. Not everything was written last year, and he’s been digging into past work and imparting new life to it.

“A lot of it was reaching back into the bag of things I had played for years or was just kind of rewriting,” he says. “I’ve always had a bank of five songs I’ve just been dicking around with. I would attribute a lot of the refinement to the players themselves.”

Milquetoast & Co. was originally a Boston band, and McAndrew reconstituted it in Denver a few years back. He’s played with a varying cast of characters, but says the people playing on the upcoming album are the permanent lineup. McAndrew notes that some members have no music-theory knowledge, while a few might have too much.

“There is a great balance between me, the musical ignorance and the knowledge,” he says. “It’s two languages combined. … All of these guys are musically bilingual except for two of us. They can speak both sides.”

The band currently has vinyl being printed. Getting that classic format, which is experiencing a renaissance, is a tricky affair these days, he says, because of supply issues at the limited number of plants manufacturing records. Nonetheless, he hopes to have the albums in hand in time for the band’s October show at the Marquis Theater. Until then, the band is taking its act on the road, playing across the country, including in Boston.

“We're going to make that the album-release show,” he says of the Marquis gig. “I almost said CD-release party, which is fucking hilarious. That is very ’90s, and I had to check myself.”

Milquetoast & Co. plays at 7 p.m. October 23 at the Marquis Theater, 2009 Larimer Street. Check out the band's new music at Milquetoast and Co. online.
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