Dec. 13 2013 12:00 AM

City Pulse checks in with Matthew Milia of Frontier Ruckus on inspiration for the next album

Matthew Milia of Frontier Ruckus. Courtesy photo.

Friday, Dec. 13 — The members of Frontier Ruckus cut their teeth in the Michigan folk-rock scene while attending Michigan State University, though today they spend much of their time on the road or flying overseas playing gigs. The band, formed in 2003 by its 28-year-old chief songwriter Matthew Milia, is in the studio working on a fourth full-length album. 

The band headlines an all-ages show tonight at The Loft. Milia checked in with City Pulse to recap 2013, discuss touring and inspiration for the new album.

What has Frontier Ruckus been up to in 2013? Where did you tour?
It was the year of our 20-song double album, “Eternity of Dimming.” We released it at the very beginning of the year. It was a dense and indulgent work that I am incredibly proud of having made. We toured a good bit, went to Europe twice this year, got a good amount of new people on board with what we do.

Can you tell me about your collection of art and “Song Illustrations?” 

The record after the one we're working on is already written. So I like to draw or write poetry to experiment with how expression changes within different formats and where that can lead my fancies. I started this art “brand” called Sitcom Universe which is really just my outlet for any art that is primarily visual — whether it be drawing fan art for my favorite episodes of “Cheers” or “Frasier” or 15-foot wide polyptychs adorned by childhood POGs and grotesque depictions of the female form or this new series I'm doing of “Song Illustrations.” The people that buy my art are basically Frontier Ruckus fans firstly, so I like to incorporate that universe as well — it being so chief to my artistic life.

Is the new record underway?
We are currently in the midst of recording our fourth record in Detroit with Chris Koltay. This record directly opposes the context that “Eternity of Dimming” established — shorter, hookier songs, only 10 songs on the album — that were more deliberately written to have choruses and trappings conventional to your classic pop tune. Not in a modern mainstream sense, but more in celebration of our pop influences from ‘90s radio and ‘70s guitar rock bands. Everything from Big Star and ELO to Gin Blossoms and Oasis has informed the melodic sensibilities of the new record.

What inspired the lyrics?
It's a break-up record, but it deals with themes of adult relationships in a very up-tempo and energetic way. It was meant to be a more immediately gratifying experience for the listener, contrasted with the way “Eternity” kind of demanded a lot of effort and engagement.

What record have you been listening to the most these days and why do you dig that particular LP so much?

I’ve been obsessed with basically all of the records of Teenage Fanclub for the past few months. Only recently got into them, but I fell hard. They write just such pleasing and incredibly melodic pop songs. And there being three different singers keeps it fresh for longer. I think I prefer the bass player’s tunes though.

How has the band’s sound changed/grown since the “I am the Water you are Pumping” days? Has it?

We were limited to acoustic, folky sounds then, but we also had a certain purity and rawness from being young and a little rough around the edges. As we've developed, we realized what interested us was being as diverse as possible, while still retaining and being faithful to the intrinsic parts of our identity that should remain un-tampered with. That said, we've become more interested in entertaining the environmental influences of polished pop ‘90s radio that we grew up with, yet doing so by mixing it with our love for lo-fi, or our love for the more organic sounds of ‘60s and ‘70s folk rock.

What are the best and worst parts of touring the country and beyond?

Best: checking in with faraway friends on a regular basis, well-balanced partying, cool used-book shops, meeting fans, playing music, regional foods, pretty girls. Worst: losing touch with the intense sense of locality that spurred the songs I’m out singing in the first place.

What is next for Frontier Ruckus?
Finishing this record. Doing a short winter tour between records, which marks the return of our dear band mate Anna (Burch) singing harmony vocals. We are very excited by that, which our fans seem to be as well. These shows will be super intimate, no drums or bass — just the trip of Dave, Zach, and I, plus Anna. When the new record hits I want to tour again as a dynamic rock group pulling off these super energetic new tunes in the most stunning fashion possible.

Frontier Ruckus
Friday, Dec. 13
@ The Loft
$14, $12 adv.
7 p.m., all ages