Mike Milosh would prefer that you know nothing about him. And, for a while, it was an easy task. When he released his debut album for his calming, seductive R&B project Rhye in 2013, keeping bands mysterious was particularly in vogue. Everyone from The Weeknd to Chvrches capitalized on this trend, even if it all seems a bit silly in retrospect. But to hear Milosh discuss it as we get coffee near his apartment in the Arts District of Los Angeles, any mystery around the Rhye project was never meant to be a marketing ploy. He just really wanted everything to be about the music.
“It becomes a gimmick now if I don’t express who I am,” Milosh tells me over the chatter of a busy street on the kind of December California day the rest of the world envies. “The whole point off the top was to not be a gimmick because I didn’t want people to care about me.”
For Milosh, it’s a memory of adoring Dark Side Of The Moon and being disappointed when he later read an interview with Pink Floyd. It’s the same reason he says he wouldn’t want to meet Thom Yorke, even though he adores the songs of Radiohead. Music can be so profoundly affecting that it can easily stand on its own without context. And Rhye’s music is a perfect example of that, so much so that some people couldn’t even tell whether the voice they heard on that first album, Woman, came from a male or female artist, or whether it was crafted in the ‘90s or in the present day. It’s the kind of music that doesn’t need explaining.
On Blood, Rhye’s stunning sophomore album set to be released this week, Milosh delves further into timeless, universal beauty, underscoring and amplifying what he views as music for people of all ages and backgrounds. The melodies are front and center, with songs given plenty of breathing room and each musical flourish carefully considered and necessary. When much of pop music is glossy and maximal, Rhye’s music stands out by making each recorded decision count; a sharpshooter in a world full of carpet bombing.
If you didn’t know who made it or why, Blood should still be easy to enjoy, but it’s also a risk to remain cloaked when success in the music industry is harder than ever. Milosh doesn’t want his preference for the shadows to take away from his songwriting. “If I were to hide myself now,” he says, “that would feel cheesy. I’d feel like I was something fraudulent.”
Five years after his debut album, Rhye is back on a new label (Loma Vista) with a sophomore record that truly needed the gestation time to become fully realized. Sure, he’s more comfortable being a focal point now, and meeting him proves that some of the reasons an artist can be shy of attention from interviewers — they’re boring, they’re not well-spoken, they’re unpredictable — aren’t true at all with Milosh. He’s as sensitive and kind as his music would suggest, completely in tune with the idea of being an artist, and relishing every moment of the creative life he has built for himself.
Speaking also allows Milosh to straighten out some facts about Rhye. Biggest among these, to the point where it’s clearly exhausting to keep talking about, is that Rhye is not a duo. When the project first appeared, it was credited to both Milosh and producer Robin Hannibal. Though those earliest recordings did come from a collaboration between the pair, the truth is that Hannibal was never really a member of Rhye once it left the humble recording spaces that Woman was created.