Let’s face it – 2020 hasn’t got off to the best start, but help is at hand. The climate of division has intensified, of starkly opposing views, of war, hatred and ignorance. What we need more than ever, then, are individuals in all walks of life prepared to fight the good fight, to shine a light into the darkness and show us that empathy and positive change is possible. Becky Blomfield is one of those people.
“It’s not political in the traditional sense,” says Becky of Milk Teeth’s second album. It would be natural to assume it is given the band’s characteristic outspokenness, illustrated by their on stage diatribe against Prime Minister Boris Johnson at last year’s Reading Festival, or their passionate advocating of LGBTQ+ rights and much-needed improvements to mental health services. “There were definitely politics involved in my surroundings when the album was being made,” she explains. “It also touches on the implications of feminism and women’s rights in my life. I guess you could say it’s more about the politics of self.”
When Becky mentions the politics of self, she’s referring to <<herself>> because make no mistake: Milk Teeth is Becky and Becky is Milk Teeth. Even so, it’s not being dramatic to suggest this new album almost didn’t happen. By early 2018, with a full-length debut (2016’s Vile Child) and three EPs to their name, the singer/bassist admits to feeling disillusioned. Despite becoming the de facto leader and chief songwriter of the Gloucestershire punk rockers during their six-year career, she’d lost confidence in her role and was unsure what to do next. “I’d got to a place where I didn’t think my opinion was valid,” says Becky. “But then I decided I needed to write about the things that had been so difficult during that period, personally and professionally, in order to take the band forward and make our definitive musical statement. Making this record self-titled is definitely a statement. It’s a statement of intent in terms of who we are <<now>> and what we’re capable of.”
This confident new chapter in Milk Teeth’s story was reinforced by changes to the band’s line up, with Em Foster – a dream collaborator for Becky – being announced as a full-time member in September 2018. And with the addition of Gold Key drummer Jack Kenny, Milk Teeth became a trio, cementing their newfound status via standalone single Stain that November.
If Stain hinted at the rawer possibilities being a three-piece provided Milk Teeth, then this self-titled second album fully embraces it, while reflecting the powerful directness of their live shows and the freeing creative atmosphere Becky had long required. “We didn’t want to do anything we couldn’t recreate live,” explains Becky of the process of working with regular producer Neil Kennedy, who oversaw the band’s 10 days at The Ranch studio in Southampton. “It was minimal, as opposed to the big-budget sounding production Milk Teeth had before. It wasn’t to disrespect anything we’d done with [Neil] before, but I felt our last couple of releases had gone done a more commercialised route. I wouldn’t say we’ve done a 360, we’ve just gone back to drawing from our early days and the sound we started with, those original influences like Nirvana, Pixies, Manic Street Preachers, Smashing Pumpkins and Skunk Anansie.”
Those inspirations can be heard in the bare-boned beauty of Better, the first song written for the record, though not one Becky finds particularly easy to discuss given that it’s about the difficult period she had been in. “It’s about being let down and emotionally abused and reaching a point where you’re like ‘No, I can’t do this anymore – I do deserve better’. Weirdly there’s an element of the classic love song to it, as well. It has this sense of empowerment that I think comes across on the new album.”
As well as following Better on the tracklisting, Transparent deals with the period that came next, sounding considerably brighter and breezier as a result. “It’s the other side of the coin,” says Becky. “It’s facing a different direction. It took a long time to build myself back up and not feel miniscule, so it’s more like ‘Fuck you – I’m not going to be taken for a mug!’”
While both Better and Transparent are cryptic in the delivery of their message, there’s a naked punch to Medicine. Musically inspired by Becky’s love of the film Donnie Darko and its accompanying eighties soundtrack, Medicine was written during a difficult time in her relationship. “Me and my partner almost split up. He went out to work and I stayed in the flat we lived in and the song just fell out, like it was meant to be there. It’s one of the songs I’m lyrically most proud of, because it shows growth from the last EPs and is definitely more mature.”
So, too, are the arrangements on the album, which often taking ideas down radically new and inventive routes. Opening track Given Up started out sounding “like an Incubus song” before an increase in pace transformed it into the speedy juggernaut it is today. Sometimes these arrangements juxtapose the tone of the song. The catchiness of Sharks, for example, counters Becky’s downbeat account of being an odd one out in a group. “Sad song, happy tune,” she summarises.
Milk Teeth <<the album>> finds Becky and Milk Teeth <<the band>> learning, growing and showing the world what they’ve got to offer, but it’s not the only way they’re helping others to understand and deal with their travails. The band continues to work with a number of groups and causes, including raising money for Solidarity Not Silence, helping women defend themselves against a claim of defamation made against them by a well-known musician, and Beat, the UK’s leading charity supporting those affected by eating disorders. What’s more, the band has trialled self-care sessions for fans during their last UK tour, as showcased by a recent BBC news piece.
“It’s a dedicated time space where fans can come and speak to one another or have some quiet time if that’s what they’d rather do, or they can bring materials to be creative,” explains Becky. “It’s our way to give back to fans. So is this album, which I hope features themes that resonate with listeners and help them recognise things in their own life that show they’re not alone in that situation and, quite possibly, make a positive change as a result. This album is for them.”