Mike Milosh, better known as the vocalist and producer of Alternative R&B group, Rhye, brought his comforting, mesmerizing voice to Hong Kong’s Clockenflap festival early in November. Since this was Rhye’s first performance in Hong Kong after the release of their second album, Blood, following the departure of founding member, Robin Hannibal, Billboard Radio China sat down with Milosh to discuss the album and Rhye’s path and identity in music.
When Rhye released their first LP Woman in 2013, their genre-bending approach to R&B and their cinematic videos soon brought them much acclaim. It was only later on that Robin Hannibal revealed he could no longer be a part of Rhye due to contractual reasons, leaving Milosh to grow himself as an artist while continuing in Rhye’s name, releasing Blood in February.
Blood is a “very intimate, very venerable record,” says Milosh, “I’m always trying to create an album that makes you feel that you are in the room when I’m there.” However, what makes Blood different from Woman is that the sonic production is mainly analog, “harkening back to the 70s style of recording and production.”
Milosh played and recorded “live drums instead of programmed beats.” “All the instrumentation is very performance-based,” he explains, “I didn’t want to look at computer screens that much … I was thinking that it was actually constricting my creative process a little bit.”
It’s hard to pinpoint in which genre Rhye’s music belongs. The groovy rhythm and soulful melodies make it R&B by definition, but some also compare Rhye’s sonic character and production to the electro indie pop band The xx. Unwilling to be defined by any genre, Milosh describes Rhye’s music as “gentle,” “beautiful,” and “healing.” “It’s got a soul kind of vibe, but the strings are kind of classical … I’m actually interested in Baroque or Gregorian music sonically, something that just makes you feel a sense of beauty.”
For Rhye’s listeners, the beauty of their music not only comes from the meticulous use of instruments but also Milosh’s high-pitched ethereal voice that caresses their emotions. “I put a lot of energy into the concept of ‘what tone does to you as a listener’,” he says. “People think I sing in falsetto a lot, but I don’t, I have a higher register, but I actually keep it in my air-tone … I like to describe it as ‘letting’ sound out of your throat as opposed to ‘pushing’ sound out, which has a different effect on the listener.”
After the show in Hong Kong, Rhye is heading to perform in Beijing and Shanghai for the first time. When asked if he has any expectations for the Chinese audience, Milosh responds, “I try not to do too much research into what the audiences are going to be like, because I feel that creates expectations, and I don’t want to have expectations, I just like to go into things and be very present, just allow every moment to unfold as I enter it.”
Rhye is currently working on an EP that will be releasing in February 2019, including, so far, 5 piano-based songs. At the same time, there is also another full-length album in the works. Milosh reveals that he is also working on a screenplay, looking to later be made into a feature film. You can find the full interview at Billboard Radio China.