Name: NCY Milky Band
Members: Louis Treffel (keyboards), Antoine Léonardon (bass), Quentin Thomas (saxophone) & Paul Lefevre (drums).
Interviewee: Louis Treffel
Occupation: Musicians, improvisers
Current release: The NCY Milky Band's Burn'IN is out now and available through their bandcamp page.
Recommendations: Books - Michael Finkel: The Stranger in the Woods; Film - Tatsushi Omori: In a garden that looks like eternal
If you enjoyed this interview with the NCY Milky Band, visit them on Facebook, Instagram or soundcloud.
When did you start writing/producing music - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What was it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
I started to write music in high school. I was playing guitar at this time and influenced by guitar players like Prince, Hendrix or Stevie Ray Vaughan. It's very cool when you start to rehearse and you feel for the first time the loud sound of your band around yourself. It creates a warm atmosphere and it's an unbelievable feeling!
How do you feel your sense of identity influences your creativity?
I just try to be honest with the music I make. I try to share, through the music, a true feeling that I once had in my life or a truly magical moment that we had in studio.
What were your main creative challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
In the beginning I think there was no creative challenge as such. Rather, I was more focused on technical stuff. Playing without mistakes, trying to understand how to record the drums, guitar etc ... Now I have a little bit of experience and I can focus on the creative side of things: What do I want to say? What emotions do I want to share?
As creative goals and technical abilities change, so does the need for different tools of expression, be it instruments, software tools or recording equipment. Can you describe this path for you, starting from your first studio/first instrument? What motivated some of the choices you made in terms of instruments/tools/equipment over the years?
I once listened a record by Shawn Lee to try and understand what it takes to make the drums sound like that ... I asked him and he told me: "On this track, I just put a stereo microphone on the floor directly in front of the drums to record them.” At this very moment, I understood that you can do anything you want in the studio to create your own sound.
So I started to buy old stuff, a Sansui 6track cassette machine, an old dbx compressor, a soundcraft mixtable ... After all these years, I also understand that Shawn Lee is an incredible drummer with a great feeling and this is transmitted trough the cable ... When you dig into music, you understand that sometimes a great track can just be done on a laptop with cheap equipment and with only one person. On the other hand, a great track can also be done by an incredible composer with an incredible arranger with incredible musicians in a beautiful studio. There are no rules!
Have there been technologies or instruments which have profoundly changed or even questioned the way you make music?
For me there are two ways to create and more specifically record music: Using tape or using a computer or using both. Using tape is very cool to go forward but at the same time you cloose some doors. Using a computer is really cool to search for a new sound, a new structure and build and "destroy" your analog instrument or composition.
Collaborations can take on many forms. What role do they play in your approach and what are your preferred ways of engaging with other creatives through, for example, file sharing, jamming or just talking about ideas?
With the NCY Milky Band, it was about talking about ideas. A bit of jamming, too. Our music is written with some improvisation parts built in.
Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work, please. Do you have a fixed schedule? How do music and other aspects of your life feed back into each other - do you separate them or instead try to make them blend seamlessly?
I have a fixed schedule. If I don't stick to it, I can totally loose myself.
I go to my studio almost every morning at 8:30 am. I'll first try to learn some piano stuff, then I take care of some stuff for other people, for example a mix that I need to do for a band. And then I try to be creative. (laughs) I am always looking for the best routine, but I feel like I will never find it ...
For certain, if I learned new ways of thinking about a new track of new chords or if I had new equipment, I would be able to do even more creative stuff. When I feel it's too “routine” I try to do other stuff that is not connected to music: sports, see friends, cooking. And of course, it's sure that if I see something special on my journey it will inspire me.
For example, I went to help my old neighbour. She's very endearing and she has a very strange appartement ... So I ended up making a track that describes her & this atmosphere.
Can you talk about a breakthrough work, event or performance in your career? Why does it feel special to you? When, why and how did you start working on it, what were some of the motivations and ideas behind it?
The first Album (Drowning for Love) I did with my trio M.A BEAT! After that, I knew that I can produce an album!
But there are also examples from my current album with the NCY Milky Band. Some pieces are improvisations, studio experiments, like the track "Magic Polo". Paul, the drummer, started to play this pattern and I added these simple chords to it, while we were recording ... and we kept it like that! This piece was done in 10 minutes. Other pieces, on the contrary, were written a long time ago. Take, for example, "Burn'in", where I wrote a theme as a form of question/answer with bass and piano. For me, sometimes, a bass sounds like a person talking and it makes me laugh.
What we were looking for on this album is a balance between production and live sessions. "Young Fiasco" is a good example. I tried to make the first part sound like a production made by a computer or an MPC, but it's a live take where I added some production ingredients to create this ambiguity: is it a band? is it live? This piece is also interesting because it takes people by the hands with an "actual trap sound" to bring them into a jazz moment ... Sometimes people are afraid of jazz or instrumental stuff and it sucks!! (laughs)
We had a great time recording the album with this team of great people! It's a merry mix between jazz, funk, soul, hip-hop & eletronica! What's interesting is that I don't come from jazz, I have a very naive approach and the rest of the team are all jazz killers. So we mix our two points of view and I think it adds up to something huge! For me, an album must be sad, happy, deep, light and serious at the same time ... which is almost impossible to do (laughs).
The meaning of this album is to not be afraid of being happy and to love what we do. Trying to approach life and music with maximum lightness, no matter what personal and societal problems exist. Having adult responsibilities, but still keeping your child's gaze is very important in life and music!
There are many descriptions of the ideal state of mind for being creative. What is it like for you? What supports this ideal state of mind and what are distractions? Are there strategies to enter into this state more easily?
I feel that self-confidence helps to be creative. But apart from that it's really a hard question. Learn things, live basic moments, have fun with friends, be contemplative. I love to do nothing and just watch people too ... Setting some deadlines helps a lot, too.
Music and sounds can heal, but they can also hurt. Do you personally have experiences with either or both of these? Where do you personally see the biggest need and potential for music as a tool for healing?
For certain, when you finish an album as a producer/composer, it hurts you a bit. Making tracks or making an album is an exhausting event, because listening to your track again and again is like watching yourself in a miror for hours. At the end you only see defaults. Moreover, it is difficult to keep the basic spirit of the piece. The song can take a lot of different paths, you have to make a lot of choices. If you've been honest and deep in your emotions along the way, a small part of you has left and become a part of the album. At the end of this whole process, you're mentally exhausted.
When you are a listener, however, it's different. Music can really motivate you to do basic stuff like cleaning, can help you understand things or see things in a way you never conceived ... It's also a given that it can make your mind travel and push your own feeling in a good or a bad way.
There is a fine line between cultural exchange and appropriation. What are your thoughts on the limits of copying, using cultural signs and symbols and the cultural/social/gender specificity of art?
You can copy everything. But then you have to make it personal.
Our sense of hearing shares intriguing connections to other senses. From your experience, what are some of the most inspiring overlaps between different senses - and what do they tell us about the way our senses work?
I would say sometimes I have a picture in mind and I try to translate it.
Art can be a purpose in its own right, but it can also directly feed back into everyday life, take on a social and political role and lead to more engagement. Can you describe your approach to art and being an artist?
To me being an artist just means translating into music the feelings that every single person of us can have. It's also about understanding people and pushing them into what they really want and love.
What can music express about life and death which words alone may not?
I think music can share the energy of life. Music is more connected to the heart and soul than words. Words are connected to the brain. It's difficult to explain with words what music can bring. You have to experience it.