Milk: Presents #2012: The Milk Manifesto
Liverpool promoters/think-tank/recording/rehearsal studio curators Milk:Presents talk to Richard Lewis about their upcoming event at Binary Cell Studios and their future plans.
Anyone passing the imposing white painted building that occupies the corner of Bold St and St. Luke’s Place may have noticed an increased number of visitors to the address in recent months. Situated on the top floor of 132 Bold St above the recently opened Rare dance studio and the venerable Cabin Club beneath that, Milk: Presents have their headquarters.
Founded by three friends in 2011, initially describing themselves as a ‘label/events/recording/design’ company, Milk’s remit has steadily increased to take on even more creative ventures. Founding fathers Mike Bennett, Tom Smith and Sam Marshall, the trio of graphic design graduates referenced in the three points of their triangular logo, have already made a significant impact on the city’s music scene.
With The CUC and The Masque closing their doors along with The Static Gallery and Mojo falling by the wayside as live music ventures during Milk’s short history, the company have already witnessed a several huge changes in the city’s music scene.
Opening their account as promoters with a show by cult Liverpool-LA rocker Pop Levi at Mojo in July of last year, Milk: Presents signed a tenancy agreement with the owners of 132 Bold St soon after. Moving in on August 5th 2011, with arts funding drying up in the current economic climate, the quartet scraped the necessary funds together via bank loans, help from friends and dipping into their own savings.
All decorating and repair work was handled in house, along with cleaning and day-to-day maintenance. The office/War Room situated towards the back of the building features the three almost constantly tapping away on laptops, fielding an endless stream of enquires surrounded by work-in-progress pieces of art, gig posters and demo CDs from Liverpool bands.
Strongly reminiscent of Factory Records’ music/art/promotion approach in Manchester thirty years ago, Milk offer a new spin on Factory’s concept. In addition to the likes of Tony Wilson’s groundbreaking venture, the company is partially inspired by near-legendary grassroots venue/hangout The Kif that operated on Seel St last decade.
Mike recalls the inspiration behind Milk. ‘It was almost ‘Create a movement’ instead of ‘Start a company’, but without thinking too much about anything at all. We always prefer to be hands on. So the DIY ethic is there, I think it's natural to looks backwards even though we are Mac monkeys.'
‘There needed to be a hub where people could turn up and simply create art without it being headed by a business mind’ Mike explains of Milk’s initial set-up. ‘We needed an open platform where creative types could be creative. We’re full now to the brim, always, but we still have people asking ‘Have you got space for this or that?’ and we’re like ‘Let’s just make space. There’s always space, we're fucking in space.’
‘We wanted to open something where everyone’s on the same level, everyone has the same input’ Mike says, explaining Milk’s non-hierarchical structure. ‘We want it to be an open gate for creative types. It wasn’t thought of as ‘Let’s start a design company and make some money.’ It was more like, ‘How can we show people you can create your own world and make your own money and you don't have rely on the fucking job centre or education.’
Unsurprisingly, with the endless number of projects Milk has on the go at any one time, the three put in long shifts. ‘We’re here nine til about midnight’ Mike says of Milk’s opening hours. ‘It’s heavy salad this, it’s like a second home.
The first live event held on Milk’s premises saw Mancunian shoegazers The Louche FC headlining with Lucky Beaches and Wet Mouth in support. Packing the Milk Loft (the performance space) with revellers, attendees were treated to the Milk visual aesthetic, the looped mesmeric footage that backs all of their events, on this occasion vintage film of milk bottling plants beamed onto the walls as the bands played.
All of Milk’s events are scrupulously pegged at £5 advance and calculated to break even and turn a reasonable profit that is ploughed back into the company. ‘You’re not paying to get in’ Mike emphasizes, ‘You’re paying to keep us alive!’
The rehearsal rooms at Milk HQ, charged by the session including the full backline drumkit, amps, PA currently play host to acclaimed singer-songwriter Dan Croll, sublime psych-folk trio Stealing Sheep and superb lo-fi garage-pop quintet Death at Sea at present.
The photography studio towards the back of the building presently occupied by Chris Everett gazes out across the city centre, as the view from the front showcases the reactivated St. Luke’s/Bombed Out Church, another shining example of the city’s ability to reinvent existing spaces into something new.
The company’s most recent venture, their first outside Milk HQ was their most audacious yet, their co-promotion of Little Panther & Milk: Presents #001, staged at Binary Cell Studios on Seel St.
Initially invited to help stage an event put on by new Liverpool promoters Little Panther, who booked shows at the now sadly defunct Masque, Milk came onboard as equal partners for the night. The original event, aligned with the Mangone Blog increased to a seven strong line-up of acts including international garage rock consortium Wet Mouth, Beefheartian prog-pop ensemble Lovecraft and dance-rock alchemists Fonetiks.
The immersive gig experience the company favour, (‘We aim for complete sensory overload’) is ratcheted up several notches by Milk designing the interior of the shows including all the visuals and lighting, preview clips on YouTube and posters. Effectively, entrance to the Milk: Experience begins with purchase of one of the embossed gig tickets. As the name indicates, the night was the first in a series, with the follow up penciled in for June with a slew of ideas already swirling around for the next stage.
Milk: Presents visual/organizational skills were recently showcased to dazzling effect at the GIT Awards at the Leaf Café. The group were responsible for visual design on the night, which included lighting and helming short videos of all the nominees shown between performances. The mementoes for each of the acts on the shortlist presented after their set were also created by the company.
The replicas of 7” records made from thick card with matching sleeve showed off the design flair that the group have rapidly become renowned for, the stenciled artwork a hallmark of Milk’s instantly recognisable style, largely assembled by graphic designer Tom.
Beyond the dizzying progress the company has made in under 12 months, a minor but hugely welcome knock-on effect of Milk: Presents tenure at 132 Bold St is the improvement of the building’s exterior. With The Music Consortium’s newly scrubbed surfaces recently opening a few doors down and St. Luke’s Church putting on events almost daily, the far end of the street has improved greatly.
As part of this, Milk are determined to do something about Bold Street’s most beloved eyesore, the empty Antiques shop with the steel grates on the windows, an inexhaustible supply of empty crisp packets swirling around the door and the nasty seventies signage above. ‘That fucking place has looked like that since 1979!’ Mike remarks incredulously.
Publishing is also another field the group are aiming to conquer over the next year. One concept in the pipeline is Life Sentence, a quarterly publication the company currently have on the drawing board. Aiming to distribute the mag throughout the North West, Mike describes the project as a ‘a really good quality fanzine without all the in-jokes’.
After blazing through the past 12 months with yet more projects in the pipeline for the remainder of 2012, the second year of Milk: Presents’ journey already holds even more promise than the first.
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