As the swell of bodies in Bristol’s Louisiana fly across the room during ‘No Fun’ – a highlight from the band’s Sad Sack EP – there’s a look of giddy joy across the four that make up Milk Teeth. The noise from the stage is both ferocious and deft and the band and audience are totally caught up in it, all bonded in the voluminous swell of Milk Teeth’s live show. There’s a real sense of connection in the room. It helps that this is close to a hometown show for the band as singer/bassist Becky Blomfield tells us this is a room full of “friends and family” and singer/guitarist Billy Hutton congratulates a childhood friend on his engagement. The atmosphere is warm and the crowd is lively, singing, shouting and stagediving along with the four-piece. By the end of the show, there’s balloons flying across the packed room, groups of sweaty pals hugging and a sense of excitement in the room: Milk Teeth – completed by guitarist Chris Webb and drummer Oli Holbrook – are an outfit on a rapid ascendancy.
“Playing live is what we live for and what we love doing,” Becky tells me before the show, sat downstairs in the endearingly rustic bar and carvery that makes up the downstairs of The Louisiana. Guitarist Billy expands, explaining “I personally can’t imagine doing anything else; it’s a way for me to get out the angers and frustrations that build up over the day whilst sharing something positive.” Touring their debut album Vile Child, the band appear quietly confident, with the rapturous response from live audiences bolstering their confidence in their first full-length. “For a while I sat around thinking 'I like this album but no one is going to fucking like it' but then we started touring again,” laughs Becky. “There was an intense fear before the album was released – we had the majority of the album written in January 2015 – but the response to the album has been great. The fact that people are still discovering Vile Child and finding it a fresh and exciting record now is a big deal to us.” Billy shares the pre-release anxieties too, drawing on his experience from playing in previous groups: “In past bands I’ve been in you write the songs and think ‘these songs are so good and I’m so proud of them’, then you demo them and think ‘these songs are sick’ and then you record them and think ‘these are incredible’… but then after recording finishes you sit around and listen to the record constantly and start doubting if it was any good to begin with." Becky and Billy’s pre-release angst can now be set at ease; Vile Child is as explosive a release as a young alternative rock band could hope for, from the immediate opening strands of singles ‘Brickwork’ and ‘Junk Food’ to the more expansive cuts like ‘Driveway Birthday’ and ‘Moon Wanderer’ (the latter tracks allowing the live set breathing room and an atmospheric nuance alongside the melodic bludgeon). “People discovering Vile Child has brought new life into the album,” Billy muses. It’s thrilling to watch these songs rise up in a crowded room and bring the entire space to life in a communal and visceral fashion.
One particular part of Milk Teeth’s live set strikes a chord with me and many others in the room – before playing the beautiful and sparse ‘Kabuki’, one of Vile Child’s most contemplative cuts – Becky pauses to address the room and the short, impassioned speech that follows draws the whole room into applause. “Talking about mental health is important and if you’re suffering and feel able talk to someone; and if know someone suffering, please do what you can to help. Please don’t shut them out,” Becky urges, before the song shimmers into life. “‘Kabuki’, as much as it’s quite a depressing song, causes people to come up to us afterwards and let us know that it was an important song and a piece of music that had moved them, which is great for us to hear,” she continues. “For me personally, it’s very humbling to hear that it’s is a piece of music that has moved people. It’s amazing that people can take something from that besides me just writing it for me and that connection is so important. It’s that connection which makes me love touring.”
Milk Teeth’s connected and passionate audience looks to keep growing too; after a successful tour of America – “we were able to reach new people in a whole new way” – the group are slated to play Reading & Leeds festival’s Lock-Up Stage. The Lock-Up is a huge deal for anyone who grew up listening to, and still listens to, alternative rock in the UK. Whatever you may think of the recent direction and booking decisions of Reading & Leeds, the Lock-Up Stage has remained a fantastic curation of the finest guitar-driven groups the world has to offer. “For me, that’s the festival I wanted to play,” Billy excitedly emotes, “and now we’ve been announced for it and we’ve seen our name on the poster… it’s crazy. And to also see kids on the internet posting ‘I’m so excited to see Milk Teeth’ has made me think ‘oh fuck there’s actually going to be people there!’” Becky shares Billy’s excitement at being part of festival: “Reading & Leeds is a big deal and the festival everybody knows. We honestly didn’t know if it was going to happen or not but we’re so thrilled it did. Daniel P Carter has been really good to us as a band too and has championed us for a while. It may sound like a cliché but it’s honestly a dream come true.”
Milk Teeth’s vivid connection with their audience has lead to an uplift throughout Bristol’s Louisiana and the band members themselves. “I’m a new member but what I’ve learned from this Milk Teeth to have more fun,” Billy clarifies. “In all the bands I’ve been in before we were focussed on being very serious and each performance had to be perfect. Now, in this band, if I screw up I look at Olly who’s just laughing to himself and looking at me like I’m a dickhead. It’s taught me to enjoy myself more onstage and not worry about little fuck ups you’ve made. Milk Teeth has been great for me.”
“I’d agree with that,” Becky continues, “this band has taught me to be more honest in my writing. I’ve gone on a bit of a journey – I used to be cagier, especially on Sad Sack, where I’d write about things in more of a roundabout way. Now on Vile Child I was able to be more to-the-point and able to wear my heart on my sleeve which has helped me massively. Milk Teeth has helped me grow in confidence from the day we formed it as we’ve toured more regularly and played more and more shows. The band has really helped me as a person.” On the basis of this electric evening we’ve all enjoyed, it seems that Milk Teeth’s powerful live show is helping others just as much as it’s heartening the band members themselves.
Words by Joseph Fuller