Becky From Milk Teeth on Forming a Band in a Small Town
Look, we get it, starting a band in a small town is pretty much a total nightmare. Compared to big cities, there are fewer venues, terrible rehearsal spaces, a smaller pool of people who are down with the same music as you and an even smaller pool of people who are into doing a band. It’s not easy but also, it’s not impossible: Milk Teeth are proof of that.
Milk Teeth are from Stroud, a small market town in Gloucestershire, UK, with a population you could fit into a medium sized sports arena. After growing up in nearby Gloucester, frontwoman Becky Blomfield moved to Stroud in her teens and struggled to settle, living amongst unpacked boxes in her room for months, such was her sense of transience. Eventually, however, she found a band and, with that, a group of friends that made her feel welcome. Now, an alarmingly short time later, that band are signed to Roadrunner Records, dancing on the graves of their enemies (possibly) and touring the world.
Ahead of the band’s headline show in London a couple of weeks ago, we hung out with Becky in Soho so she could tell us all about starting from nothing and how it worked out pretty great in the end. Maybe what she has to say will inspire a few of you to keep at it even if you feel like you’re from the town in Footloose sometimes…
You have to make your own fun when you live in a small town. Going out is very much a local scene thing. You meet mates through going to gigs and everybody kind of knows each other and knows each other’s business.
We weren’t ever sheltered, as such. But everything is much bigger here in London. There’s definitely less to do back home. I come to London for a day and it feels like I could spend a month here and not manage to do everything I want to do.
It was tough to find places to play when we started the band. Our very first show was an end of year performance at college. In our music class, we were told to form bands to play this thing, so we did that, but in addition, we asked our teacher if we could also play a set with our other band, Milk Teeth, since Chris [Webb, guitar] wasn’t in our college. The teacher was super supportive and gave us the opportunity and that was our first stepping stone.
It was a room full of people that were all just super stoked we were doing something. There’s a real sense of community and everyone was rooting for us, cause, again, everybody knew everybody else. Even if we played a completely shit show, they were never gonna bring us down about it. They’d be honest, but they would still support us. It was really nice to have the protection. Here’s a video of that show:
Early footage of Milk Teeth from 2013!
After that, we were left wondering where we could play next. We did that show in college and loved it, but none of the pubs in Stroud were going to pick us up, since they were all most singer-songwriter and folk open mic night kinda things. There was nothing for what we do. We were lucky because our friend Liam Evans promoted shows in Cheltenham. There’s this place called 2 Pigs there, which is where I used to go and watch shows when I was 16/17. It was really him that gave us the step up.
We shot the Vitamins video in our old rehearsal studio. It was this tiny little beat up room and we couldn’t really hear the vocals through the PA. We kept rehearsing there until really recently, actually. That’s another thing as well, coming from a place like that means that you don’t expect loads and you learn to make do with what you’ve got. So although things have changed now and we’re less of a DIY band now, that ethic is still there because we’ve always had to fight our conditions to get anything done.
We took every chance we could - I think that’s a sign of a small town mentality. We had no snobbery with it, we just wanted to play first band. When people ask if there’s a secret to this or whatever, it’s just doing it because you love it. You need to get out and do this because you love it, you need to get along with people, and you need to just put in the work.
Being a girl from a small town as well, I think you have to work even harder to prove yourself, to a degree. I played guitar when I was 13, when I first started, and I used to go and jam stuff out at lunchtimes. All the boys in school had already formed bands and I guess they never really considered me an option. They had a very clear idea that they wanted to be in an indie-rock band that was all guys. But that spurred my determination. Whenever someone has ever thought that I couldn’t do something, I’ve always wanted to do it even more and show them that I can. That’s really driven me.
I haven’t written any songs specifically about Stroud yet, but just being from there has shaped my lyrics and who we are as a band. I wrote a set of lyrics that I haven’t used yet, that are about this spot near my college where I used to go. It’s like a big concrete water tank thing, and that’s like my thinking spot.
There are also some lyrics about this local skate part. There’s always this little line of girls sat around watching the guys, and I always think that that’s really sweet. Like, that whole teenage flirting thing. It reminds me so much of being a teenager. To me, that’s so small town and I love that.
Milk Teeth’s latest single, Prism, from their Be Nice EP.
There are always weird stories, too. There’s a guy that went across the lake in his pants to save his dog. That made the front cover of the local paper. Chris is actually banned from the Dursley town hall. He and some mates ordered loads of drinks and ran off without paying. They got chased through a forest, and Chris lost his shoes going up a hill. Then his mum was driving up, wondering who this drunk mess was and then she realised, ‘Oh my god, that’s my son!’ Then he vomited everywhere.
I’m proud of coming from Stroud. It’s all I know. The fact that the band is starting to do well makes me even more proud of where I come from because we never had the role models around locally to pave the way for us. So that identity is super important to us, because we can maybe become those role models for someone else. Not in a way that I want to be put on a pedestal or whatever, but if we could give any kind of hope that you can get out and do bigger things, that’s great.
Interview by: Ryan De Freitas – follow him on Twitter
Photos by: Sarah Louise Bennett – follow her on Instagram