11:50am

Sat March 2, 2013
Music Interviews

Rhye: Men Of Mystery Find A Feminine Sound

Originally published on Tue March 5, 2013 7:39 am

Last year, an unknown band called Rhye started posting exquisitely produced videos online. The clips were sexy — erotic even — and the music matched the images. The identities of the band members were a mystery, intentionally shielded from view.

Listeners started wondering: Who is that woman singing? Why don't they show her? Once information starting leaking about the band, admirers were shocked to learn: That's a dude!

"Personally, I don't view myself as sounding like a woman," says Toronto-born Mike Milosh, the voice behind Rhye's sensual songs and one-half of what has now been revealed as an all-male duo. "I think I just have a soft quality to my voice, and then people immediately associate that with something extremely feminine."

Rhye will release its debut album, Woman, this week. But even as Milosh and his collaborator, Danish songwriter-producer Robin Hannibal, have begun to surface in the media, they have remained visually enigmatic. Consenting to a photo shoot for a New York Times profile last month, the duo requested that their faces be obscured.

"I can't say it's not intentional because we made a conscious decision to stay out of things," Milosh says. "But it wasn't a PR scheme. It's not something that we created out of gimmickry, or whatever. We just didn't want to be in the imagery of it because we wanted people to have their own experience with the songs. Robin and I talked about it at great length. That's how we both love exploring music, especially when we were younger. You hear something, you're intrigued by it — but because of the song, not because of the image around the song."

Milosh and Hannibal spoke with guest host Celeste Headlee on Saturday's All Things Considered. To hear more of their conversation, click the audio link on this page.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

CELESTE HEADLEE, HOST:

If you're just joining us, this is WEEKENDS on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Celeste Headlee. And it's time, now, for music - in this case, a bit of a musical mystery.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE FALL")

HEADLEE: Last year, an unknown band called Rhye started posting exquisitely produced videos online. The images were sexy - erotic, even. And the music matched the images.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE FALL")

RHYE: (Singing) Make love to me...

HEADLEE: The names of the band members were unknown, intentionally shielded from view. And listeners started, wondering who is that woman singing, and why don't they show her? But once information started leaking about the band, admirers were shocked to learn, that's a dude.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE FALL")

RHYE: (Singing) Don't run away. Don't slip away, my dear.

HEADLEE: Rhye is the all-male duo of Robin Hannibal and Mike Milosh. That's Mike singing there. Their debut album, "Woman," comes out on Tuesday. And throughout, Milosh sings in that same soft voice.

MIKE MILOSH: It just felt right for those particular songs, to be in that part of my register. It wasn't like, an intentional thing. We would be working on a song; I would start singing some stuff, and they just - that's what felt right to do.

HEADLEE: Some of the initial reactions when your music was anonymous, when it first started appearing online, people immediately compared you to Sade. They compared your voice to Tracey Thorn's or Sinead O'Connor. Those are, obviously, all female. What did you think?

MILOSH: Personally, I don't view myself as sounding like a woman. I understand a lot of people have. I think I just have a soft quality to my voice, and then people immediately associate that with something, actually, feminine. And, I mean, that's fine. I mean, it's not like I'm offended or anything like that. But it's an interesting thing to have people think you're a girl, and you're definitely not.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE FALL")

RHYE: (Singing) There should be words, there should be words that explain the way. But I'll talk time and twisted. Don't run away. Don't slip away my dear.

HEADLEE: Well, let me address this particular air of obscurity that surrounds you guys. Your first time your music appeared on the Internet, you were anonymous. You didn't appear in those videos yourselves. Other people appeared in them. I understand that for The New York Times interview, you requested that your faces be obscured. I read an interview in Interview magazine, in which they said they weren't sure which one of you was answering the questions. If it is part of your PR scheme, congratulations. It's very effective. But it has to be, in some way, intentional, right?

MILOSH: I can't say it's not intentional, because we made a cautious decision to stay out of things. But it wasn't a PR scheme. It's not like something that we created out of gimmickry or whatever. We just didn't want to be in the imagery of it because we wanted people to have their own experience with the songs. Like, truly - I mean, Robin and I talked about it at great lengths. That's how we both love exploring music, especially when we were younger.

And so you hear something, you become intrigued by it - but because of the song, not because of the image around the song. Because we're going to play live, and people are eventually going to see who we are. It's not like we're going to be going up there with a black cloak. And, you know, to lead with our actual images just felt like it's - was the wrong decision. And it's just more important to let the music be out there on its own.

HEADLEE: I mean, I can understand that. I can understand the distaste for sort of the pursuit of personal aggrandisement. I - and yet at the same time, fame gives you opportunities, right? I mean, it allows you to reach way more people with your music. There are upsides, for a musician, to being famous.

MILOSH: Obviously, there is some opportunities that come from fame that you didn't have before, but there's a lot of dangerous pitfalls as well. And there's something about making music without the intention of becoming a celebrity that, I think, is much more in line with our value system. I'm not terribly interested in the idea of fame.

(SOUNDBITE OF RHYE SONG )

HEADLEE: I'm speaking with Mike Milosh and Robin Hannibal. They're a duo together, called Rhye. The debut album is called "Woman."

Both of you were just falling in love - obviously, with different women - while you were writing these songs.

(LAUGHTER)

HEADLEE: I mean, was it inevitable that this album would end up being all very sensual music? It's something that men especially tend to temper in their lyrics and their music for fear of presenting less-than-masculine appearance. What did you think about that, Robin? Did it occur to you that perhaps your music might be too vulnerable?

ROBIN HANNIBAL: I think you're right. I think a lot of people, a lot of male musicians, artists are scared of that. But I've always found that the honesty and sincerity and direct emotions makes it actually more - not masculine, but even more powerful.

(SOUNDBITE OF RHYE SONG)

HEADLEE: Let me ask you about the stripped-down nature of your songs. And it does feel, to me, as though we may be coming around on the cycle; that for a long time, we've been really hearing a lot of pop music that's very loud, and layer upon layer of different instruments and electronic noises. And we are beginning to hear - especially indie artists have this more stripped-down - bare sounds. Do you feel that this is a cycle, that the pendulum is swinging?

MILOSH: I would actually argue that there's more layers in a lot of these songs than a lot of pop songs.

HANNIBAL: Yeah.

MILOSH: I mean, it's just very carefully worked so that it doesn't sound cluttered.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "OPEN")

HANNIBAL: If you take "Open" for an example, there is probably between 80 and 120 tracks of orchestral arrangements.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "OPEN")

HANNIBAL: You know, there's harp, there's clarinets, bass clarinets, three different sorts of flute, three different sorts of saxophones. There's viola.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "OPEN")

RHYE: (Singing) I'm a fool for that shake in your thighs...

HANNIBAL: Guitar...

MILOSH: Synth...

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "OPEN")

RHYE: (Singing) I'm a fool for that sound in your sighs...

MILOSH: Bass, drums...

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "OPEN")

RHYE: (Singing) I'm a fool for your belly...

HEADLEE: Yeah, but you guys are using them more like a symphony in which you can have an entire violin section playing, and yet it doesn't sound noisy, right?

HANNIBAL: Yeah.

HEADLEE: It doesn't sound cluttered.

HANNIBAL: Yeah. I think it's what Mike was also saying. It's about arrangement. And that's what arrangement truly is, is picking the places where you have counterpoint, and where you build dynamic and you build tension; and then you release it again.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "OPEN")

RHYE: (Singing) Stay open...

HANNIBAL: Yeah, if I could take this crazy liberty, I would say that the arrangements are specificist(ph) as opposed to minimalist.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "OPEN")

HEADLEE: Mike Milosh and Robin Hannibal are the duo known as Rhye. Their debut album comes out on Tuesday. It's called "Woman." You can hear a few tracks at our website, nprmusic.org. Thanks so much.

HANNIBAL: Thank you.

MILOSH: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF RHYE SONG)

HEADLEE: And for Saturday, that's WEEKENDS on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Celeste Headlee. Check out our weekly podcast. Search for WEEKENDS on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED on iTunes, or on the NPR app. We're back on the radio tomorrow. Until then, thanks for listening and have a great night. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.