Milk Teeth hail from Bristol. Possibly. At least, according to the tags on their Bandcamp releases. The truth is, Milk Teeth are pretty hard to nail down. I stumbled upon them at a standard hardcore gig at the 2 Pigs in Cheltenham. You know the type – couple of okay bands, couple of absolutely dire bands but they’re all local so you play nice and pretend you like everyone. But these guys were not your standard hardcore band. Instead, four kids who looked like they’d just stepped out of the 90s slung their instruments on and started to play post-hardcore inflected grunge that ripped the whole room a new one.
Undeterred by the terrible breakdowns and dirge-like vocals of their peers, Milk Teeth came out swinging with something completely different. Keen to make sure that I wasn’t just overawed simply because of that difference, I went onto the internet, found a handful of songs and ended up spending my afternoon with them on repeat.
So, as it turns out, Milk Teeth are Olly (drums), Becky (bass/vocals), Chris (guitar) and Josh (guitar/vocals). They started out in the summer as just Josh and Olly before they recruited the others and found the perfect mix. “Milk Teeth comes from a Japanese Voyeurs song… maybe,” they say, and it’s hard not to hear a hint of influence from the neo-grunge revival that Japanese Voyeurs brought about, something the band admit themselves – “As you would expect, you’ve got Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, Japanese Voyeurs, Daylight, Title Fight… but at a band, we listen to a wide range of music so the sound we get is an amalgamation of all the bands we listen to.” When asked if they’d side with punk or grunge, they said “It’s pretty hard to say for us as we do encompass both styles heavily in our sound, but as we have to choose, I’d say grunge because none of us have a mohawk!” Basically, Milk Teeth are the band I wanted to be in when I was 14. Hell, they’re the band I want to be in now.
Take ‘Vanilla’, for example. Three minutes of hyper-distorted grunge, with vocals that sound more like Touché Amore than Nirvana, which has an atmospheric approach to melody that’s unrivalled by any other band in their field at the moment. It’s visceral, haunting and engaging, an effect that’s achieved through a fairly tight-knit approach – “Songwriting-wise, one of us will usually come to practice with a riff or a full song and we’ll jam it out between us. Changing parts, adding sections and so on until we have a full song. It’s a very shared affair.”
On the EP Smiling Politely, you can see this organic approach really come into fruition. It’s a fully accomplished record, full of serious riffs, punk attitude and extremely 90s guitar effects. It’s a far more balanced record than their earlier material and Becky’s vocals are featured more on ‘Forty Six’ and ‘Swear Jar’, her sweet verses countering Josh’s angst-ridden screams perfectly. It’s refreshing to see a band as raw as Milk Teeth, but with the musical know-how to back it up. Smiling Politely is simple, but accomplished, and the crowning example of that is ‘Wizard Battle’. These guys know how to throw down, but also how to craft a tune.
The 90s aesthetic that’s present in the songs spreads into their stripped-down live appearances too, although the band haven’t modelled themselves on anything in particular – “We’re all kids of the 90s and that decade spawned some of our favourite TV shows, movies and music, stuff we still love today. Consciously, we haven’t set out to recreate anything, but there are definite influences and similarities to bands of that era. It’s music we grew up with, and there’s definitely a resurgence of 90s influence currently; we just lucked out with it coinciding.”
That resurgence might well be to their advantage, as big things are on the way for Milk Teeth. Recently starting to work with Ian Dickinson of Sink Or Swim Management has been a particular highlight – “Yeah, we are fucking stoked on that! Ian is a hell of a dude and completely understands how we want to grow as a band! We already have things we are working on with him – I ain’t gonna tell you what – but it’s good, so keep an eye on us!”
However, they can reveal that they’re working on new material and playing shows in-between – “We are currently writing new material and are already playing a new song in our live set. Hoping to get in the studio around Christmas time if it all pans out and yes, lots of gigging! Come check us out; we promise a good time!”
Milk Teeth are Olly (drums), Becky (bass/vocals), Chris (guitar) and Josh (guitar/vocals). Their EP, Smiling Through, is currently available on cassette and MP3 from their Bandcamp page.