How Milagres Happened
Published June 24, 2011
MILAGRES. PHOTO COURTESY OF CAMERON WITTIG
To form the Brooklyn-based band Milagres (Portuguese for “miracles”) as we know it today required just that: a real-life miracle. After lead singer/songwriter Kyle Wilson left New York for British Columbia on a rock-climbing trip, he thought he wanted to leave his band behind. Wilson suffered a rock climbing accident and was left bedridden—but began writing songs again. He returned to New York with a heap of melodies from his time in Canada, leading to the new and current lineup of Milagres.
The band’s sound is something like a spiritual experience: lo-fi and heartfelt. With influences ranging from Prince to Peter Gabriel, the band could just as easily be compared to Radiohead, Grizzly Bear, or Bon Iver. We caught up with Kyle Wilson, and bassist/keyboardist/vocalist, Fraser McCulloch, after their performance at Mercury Lounge this week.
ILANA KAPLAN: How did you come up with the name Milagres for the band? Did that have to do with your rock-climbing incident?
KYLE WILSON: I stumbled across the word Milagres in an art museum.
FRASER MCCULLOCH: An exhibition of “milagres.” Milagres is a Portuguese word. There’s actually a town in Brazil that is called Milagres. A lot of people in Milagres friended us because they think we’re the town. So, we’re very popular in some remote town in Brazil, which is cool.
WILSON: Because you look at their music taste and it’s, Lady Gaga, U2… and Milagres.
MCCULLOCH: What do we have in common with Lady Gaga?
WILSON: A lot.MCCULLOCH: A lot. Tons.
KAPLAN: How did you think of “Glowing Mouth” for your debut album title?
WILSON: It’s from the lyrics from the song. The song is very stream-of-consciousness. It’s from somewhere in the jar of the mysterious depths of my psyche. Interpret it how you will.
MCCULLOCH: Visceral images, you know?
KAPLAN: What would your ideal band lineup, alive or dead, be?
WILSON: That’s really hard, because, do you want to play with people who you’re way better than, or do you want to play with people who you’re not way better than?
MCCULLOCH: I discussed a similar question with my friends that if you had a time machine and you could jump into it and see any show in time, who would it be with. I decided I would want to see Iggy Pop on his 1977 tour, where David Bowie played with him. I would love to play with them just so I could watch it every night. I feel similarly about Deerhoof. I would gladly go on tour with them every night and be blown away.
KAPLAN: What’s been the most interesting tour experience you’ve had?
MCCULLOCH: Maybe getting caught in a snowstorm where we almost died on the road, That’s happened to me a few times on tour. You can’t see anything, and you’re driving in a 12-passenger van, which isn’t very safe to begin with. Driving down a highway where you can’t see anything, and there’s six inches of snow kicked off the ground. Praying for one of those milagres I guess.
KAPLAN: So, are you excited to open for We Are Scientists in Brooklyn this week?
WILSON: Yeah! Although, there might be some thunderstorms. I think it’d be fun to play in the rain, as long as I don’t get electrocuted and my beer doesn’t get destroyed.
KAPLAN: Can you tell me a little bit about your rock climbing accident in British Columbia?
WILSON: It’s pretty difficult to explain. I was out there for some time on an expedition. A mountaineering expedition. It was crazy. It was a crazy place to be, but I think it just led to me realizing I had a lot of physical ideas that led to the record, which is not what I was expecting at all. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to come back.
KAPLAN: What do you mean that it led to the record?
WILSON: The record was written over a long period of time: before that period, during that period and also after that period, which I think explains why it has a pretty broad scope, which I like. Some people like a record to be very specific. It has a mood, and we want to have that particular mood all the way through. I don’t know if I have enough distance from our record to say whether that was the case for us or not. To me, it seems like it has a pretty broad spectrum.
KAPLAN: What were your influences for the record?
WILSON: I tend to pick bits and pieces from stuff that I know and appreciate, but I’m not that familiar with. On this record, I think Prince was an influence. Peter Gabriel was kind of an influence. For a lot of the period of time that I was writing the record, especially when I was in British Columbia, I wasn’t listening to music at all. I felt sort of emotionally isolated.
KAPLAN: If you could do anything with your music, what would you do?
WILSON: Do anything with it? Wow! I think I would love to have as much time as I wanted to write music and whatever players or instruments I could have at my disposal. I studied music in school, so I would love to write for a chamber orchestra. I think that’d be really fun. I suppose I would make another album with Milagres.
KAPLAN: What’s the weirdest thing that has happened to you guys as musicians so far?
WILSON: God… I don’t even know. I think the story would be so long. My van broke down in Hatch, New Mexico, which is in southern New Mexico. I’m originally from Santa Fe. We were just five hours from home. We had toured the entire United States for six weeks. The van broke down and this really sketchy guy named Pete agreed to change our alternator. He was some dude who came around. We were basically trapped at a gas station. He didn’t have very many teeth. We really didn’t have any other option. We let him change our alternator, but then, he wanted us to ship some Hatch Green Chili back to Santa Fe. He wanted us to ship five bags of green chili, which we refused because we figured that there was something else in the bags of green chili that we maybe didn’t want to ship. Then we proceeded to drive towards Santa Fe. Our alternator went out about three hours later. We were stuck again. I don’t even remember what happened after that. That’s one crazy thing that happened.
WILSON: What was that dude in San Diego’s name?
MCCULLOCH: I met the scariest man of my life.
WILSON: You met really, really weird people. Sometimes you meet really, really weird people who love your band. It’s great, but it’s really strange.
KAPLAN: Have they heard of you guys before?
WILSON: No, sometimes they’re just like some random person at the show and they love your band, but they’re also really scary.
MCCULLOCH: If somebody doesn’t know the band, some guy was like, “Hey man! Hey man! You guys were just so good. It was like the earth, it shakes.”
KAPLAN: Is this what you’ve always wanted?
WILSON: I think Kill Rock Stars has been one of my favorite labels since I can remember buying albums. Absolutely. When I heard back from them, it was like a dream come true.
KAPLAN: What’s been your biggest challenge thus far?
WILSON: Sticking to it. I think especially in a place like Brooklyn, it can be very difficult to sort of make yourself through the crowd. There are so many good musicians. It’s tough to rise to the top, and it should be.