Alone at St. Hugo is the forthcoming debut album by Matthew Milia—lead singer and songwriter of Frontier Ruckus. With Frontier Ruckus, Milia has tirelessly toured the United States and Europe since 2008—garnering a devoted cult following and performing at major music festivals such as Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza, and End of the Road in the United Kingdom. Known for his thematic obsession on memory, domestic minutiae, suburban redundancy, and the fragility of family dynamics, Milia has written over 100 songs constructing an intricate personal mythology based in his lifelong home of Detroit, Michigan.
Recorded to the reel-to-reel of a Tascam 388 tape machine in a small Ypsilanti, Michigan spare room, Alone at St. Hugo captures the sound of two friends setting out to find a harmony-laden, power pop backdrop for Milia's signature lyricism. This bedroom-fi analog approach resulted in something both classically lush and intimately raw at once. Each track began with Milia on guitar and Ben Collins on drums, playing live in the room together. From there, they divided a small galaxy of overdub responsibilities between themselves evenly—mellotron, pedal steel, Hammond organ, cello, mandolin, and horns being a few of the textures wrangled in giddy, all-night sessions. Coupled with vocal layers verging on Big Star grandeur, the most poignant aspect of the musicality's sweetness is the foil it serves to Milia's vocabulary of domestic American heaviness—a world of decaying suburban landscapes and the desperate hope still residing therein. At its core is a set of finely honed songs—a dense but deliberate catalog where memory is obsessed upon. A cast of waitresses, youth soccer coaches, grandparents, and young lovers occupying the ailing station wagons and birthday banquet halls in which these songs reside. Milia sings about real human beings in all of their glorious mundanity. Perhaps he is singing there alone, in St. Hugo, the Catholic grade school he attended from K-8. The way a selection of our memories will ring forever in some evacuated mental building, lights-out in endless night. But through it all, a wry sense of humor winks its way through the pathos, atop chord changes displaying a level of precision and classic craft uncommon to the habits of today's songwriters.
New Haven's Sam Carlson writes with an acerbic punch. With incisive and often satirical lyrics he explores a fascination with the mundane, good and bad uses of time, and a fistful of bummers. He has worked in different capacities with a variety of bands including but not limited to: Ports of Spain, Laundry Day, The Proud Flesh, 10K Blades, Rob Carlson and Benefit Street, and Winter White.