Since last fall, University of Georgia freshman Ivano Milo has already made a place for himself in the Athens music scene. Although his punk band, Downer, has been appearing on show line-ups throughout the Classic City, there’s another project up Milo’s sleeve that he’s just starting to really share with the world.
Under the alias Brother Mary, Milo has been working on solo material that’s almost shockingly different from the punk rock he might be known for around Athens. Looking back over Milo’s lifelong musical development, though, it’s not hard to see how he came to find his own sound in his solo work.
From the very beginning, music seems to have been a big part of Milo’s life. At only four years old, he received his first guitar as a gift from his dad and soon started to take lessons.
Although Milo admits he was initially uninterested in the music he had to learn, he says he’s now glad that his parents didn’t let him stop taking lessons. Eventually, he was able to switch teachers and start learning music he cared about, something that likely helped keep him interested in progressing as a musician.
At some point, Milo was exposed by a friend to David Choi, a popular musician on YouTube known for writing and recording his own songs. Choi’s solo approach to music inspired Milo, and he soon decided to try his hand at writing his own songs.
Around this time, Milo also discovered Mumford & Sons and picked up banjo as a second instrument. His propensity for folk music only grew from there, and he soon found himself in a folk trio with two friends called Stir the Fog.
After three years playing in Stir the Fog and a punk band called The Grandest Canyon, Milo decided he wanted to do more than just write his own music – he wanted to make his own songs from start to finish.
“I was like I really just want to be making my own music because people are unreliable,” Milo says. “If you can do it all yourself, you should.”
Inspired in part by popular producer and musician Jon Bellion, Milo made the decision last March to start learning how to use Logic production software. Since then, he’s delved deep into to the world of solo song crafting, and the output of this experimentation has now become Brother Mary.
Milo says the name Brother Mary was birthed from his fascination with androgyny and sacred symbols. Aiming to subvert traditional ideas about religion and masculinity, he ended up bending Mother Mary into his present moniker.
In stark contrast to Milo’s previous work in folk and punk bands, Brother Mary songs are spacey, textured and experimental. Having been described with seemingly ridiculous phrases like “vacuous muzak” and “ambient trip-hop pop,” Milo’s solo work manages to avoid falling under the umbrella of any one genre.
Although much of his music as Brother Mary does feature unusual production, Milo says experimentation isn’t his only goal when he’s writing. Drawing from his background in folk and punk, he often utilizes recognizable structures to help keep his music on the listenable side.
“I can’t listen to experimental music. I hate it. If I don’t have like a chorus, verse, melody, bridge [or] whatever to work with, I’m not interested,” Milo says. “So it’s kinda like super experimental stuff thrown into a pop format.”
So far, all of Brother Mary’s songs have been released individually on Soundcloud, but Milo says he’s currently gearing up for a more official release. Although some songs might disappear from the Brother Mary Soundcloud soon, fans should be excited for their return as part of a larger whole.
Those interested in Milo’s solo music should also keep an eye out for upcoming opportunities to see Brother Mary live. The project’s debut show will be February 18 at Flicker Bar, and there is a Brother Mary WUOG Live in the Lobby session scheduled for March 3.
Milo also has a big show planned for the day after his Live in the Lobby performance. March 4, fans can expect to see Brother Mary once again take the stage at Flicker Bar. This time, though, he’ll be sharing the bill with Superbody, Trip Lacy and Danger Incorporated.
Despite the common stigma that electronic musicians are better producers than performers, Milo says he’s gone the extra mile to make Brother Mary shows entertaining. In addition to playing virtually all of Brother Mary’s music, Milo plans on adding a visual side to his performances as well.
“I’ve made my show a full experience. There’s a full set. Huge projector. You’re not gonna be bored,” Milo says. “Even if I was just standing there completely still, you wouldn’t be bored by watching it.”
Although Brother Mary is just starting to enter the public eye, his long personal history with music should be a good indicator that he’s not just some novice. Milo seems to know how to present a solid finished product live and in his recordings, and those interested should keep watch as Brother Mary really gets going.