All December, Radio Milwaukee is paying tribute to our favorite Milwaukee releases of 2020 and speaking with the musicians who made them. This is Milwaukee Music’s 20 of 2020, presented by Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin.
When I first met the brothers Kevin and Will of Immortal Girlfriend it was at their studio 30 minutes outside of Milwaukee inside a design studio. Filled with synths and production gear, the brothers began to share some of the music they were working on in their studio, and right then I notice something extraordinary about the duo. They had a passion for the sound known as synthwave, a subgenre of electronic music that is inspired by science-fiction and video game soundtracks. But Immortal Girlfriend put their own soulful spin on the sound which made me an instant fan. And their latest project “Ride” is the perfect soundtrack for a future where anything is possible.
Released in April of 2020, “Ride” was inspired by the brothers’ experiences traveling on the road when they were taking part in the Backline program. And that explains why the EP feels and sounds like a journey in self-reflection to me. According to Will and Kevin, “Ride” is their first project as truly a duo compared to 2017’s “Daybreak,” where it was more like a solo project for Will and Kevin was a contributor.
I chatted with the brothers to learn more about the project, the story behind the track “Daisy Ridley” and including when they spent some time in a screamo band. Find the complete audio and excerpted portions of the interview below.
Tarik: Let’s talk about that album. What was the inspiration behind it?
Will Bush: When we were making that, it was kind of over the course of like a year. So we kind of did some traveling throughout that time. So during that time we were kind of riding, it was a lot of time spent on the road. We’re also at our studio at the time and we were just recording and just being inspired by like life at the time.
Tarik: What about life was inspiring for this record?
Will Bush: A big part of it was we went through the Backline program, so we were traveling out in L.A. and around New York. It was inspirational just to kind of get out of the city, but also just where we were at the time and just creatively with the studio, you know, we were kind of producing for other artists at the time. So a lot of those influences I think kind of seeped into what we were trying to create when we made that.
Tarik: So how does this differ from your first EP, which came out in 2017, “Daybreak?” How do you feel you’ve grown musically?
Will Bush: With “Daybreak,” there were no expectations when we put it out, so it was heavily like synthwave inspired, just like for whoever we were listening to at that moment, so for me it was a lot of synthwave and vaporwave and stuff online that kind of had this underground fan base to it. That was the stuff that was inspiring me. But this time around, I feel like more like the production changed and it was a little bit more collaborative. I’d say that was good.
Tarik: What do you mean by collaborative? Like with your brother or with other people?
Kevin Bush: With each other. I feel like we made songs more together and like intentionally, I guess.
Tarik: You’re siblings, so what is it like working on an album? Do you get in fights or arguments? What is the chemistry like working as siblings?
Kevin Bush: Well, I feel like we’ve been making music together our whole life. Our family is very musical. Like our parents play instruments or uncles on both sides, play instruments. So I feel like the earlier you can get started, the better you can figure out how that relationship works. Because it is a different relationship for sure. As opposed to just me being his brother it’s like musically being his brother is almost a thing you got to learn.
Will Bush: Yeah. Like we, so we played in different bands throughout the years together, and we also just jammed for like forever, you know, in our parents’ basement. So I think a lot of that kind of carries over so we can kind of know where we’re going to go or kind of feel an idea together just from playing together for like a few years before the project.
So I think it makes this process a little bit more streamlined, although it’s not 100% perfect. I mean, we have our disagreements on stuff, but I think at the end of the day, we’re both united on just trying to create good music, you know what I mean? So it’s kind of finding our own place, finding our footing. It’s been fun. We never really had any idea of what this would be, and that helps a lot. We’re kind of making it up as we go, but the more creative we get, the more we just throw together our influences — like his influences, my influences — the more we kind of mesh them together, the better off our songs end up being usually.
Milwaukee Music’s 20 of 2020 is presented by Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin.
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