“There’s a deli sandwich in my heart for every one of you.”
Some in the audience might have thought this an attempt at some tongue-in-cheek humour, but Montreal’s Milo McMahon meant it with every well-lived bone in his body. After 6 months on the road and over 33 cities across Ontario, the self-produced and self-managed 28 year old and his drummer/touring partner, Mike Beaton, know first-hand about being on the receiving end of such kindness. The two have journeyed relentlessly across Ontario, promoting McMahon’s newest EP, Gone Too Long, which was released in October, 2014 and produced by David Newfeld. The EP is a follow-up to his full length debut album, Big City Hustle, released earlier the same year.
Born in Dublin, McMahon’s family moved to Canada where he grew up for a time in Winnipeg. When his parents decided to move back to Ireland, Milo’s heart and soul had grown Canadian roots and spent the next few years doing anything it took to move back to the land of hockey, the great outdoors, and the culture he‘d grown fond of. While in university he formed a band called The Popular Front, which won a ’Battle Of The Bands’ competition and landed them great exposure in front of some 20,000 people. By the age of 19, the band began to play the bigger venues in Dublin. Soon after, they were signed with indie label, Bacteria Buffet Records and sent on a Canadian tour.
By this time McMahon had been spending summers planting trees across the Canadian landscape. He also decided to pursue his own songwriting and made the decision to leave the band. Finances gained from tree planting facilitated his living expenses and enabled him to move back to Canada where he settled for a time in Toronto. However, it wasn’t easy trying to make it in the music business and so he began to write the songs which would make up his first album, Big City Hustle, based on his experiences of living in the confines of a rat-raced concrete jungle.
After three years McMahon moved to Montreal, finished the album, and began to write a few songs for a follow-up EP. He set his sights on finding a drummer he could bring the songs on tour with. A mere 5 months ago he placed an ad on Craigslist which was answered by musician Mike Beaton. They clicked musically and thus began a joining of forces in a schedule that has quickly gained momentum, with increased audiences, and venues asking them to return. The next 6 months will entail a series of 76 dates across Canada, including many music festivals, before heading to Europe in the fall. A new album is planned for the Spring of 2016, along with a U.S. tour. Even with such a hefty itinerary, the boys have enjoyed every minute and put their best foot forward with every performance.
McMahon’s performance Sunday night at Ottawa’s Rainbow Bistro offered a mix of cuts from his debut album, some new material, and all three songs from his recent EP. He opened appropriately with its title track, “Gone Too Long”. I was immediately drawn down a colourful path of major to minor chord changes, winding melodies, spot-on widely ranged vocals, and some subtle but effective synth embellishments, which lent an atmospheric edge to the material.
The music bore some striking similarities to the more progressive and experimental work of the Beatles, along with McMahon’s vibrant vocals which added a glow of playfulness to the music. Second from the EP, “Come Get Me Eyes”, brought many up to the dance floor with its rockier edge, faster pace, heavier guitar licks, and its very catchy, completely melodic flow. And finally, the third track from the new release, “Buyin’ A Truck”, had an interesting Herman’s Hermits meets modern grunge feel to it. I loved its happy pace and impressive vocal climbs, which had hints of an edgier sounding Todd Rundgren.
McMahon also played some new unreleased material, which he plans to record on another upcoming EP. One called, “Who I Knew”, started beautifully with a cascade of gorgeous chords into a pretty melody. I loved the starts and abrupt stops which were also present in some of his other material. The song gained intensity with looped rhythms, drops into half-time, and a slick guitar solo. The final song of the show, “I’m On Fire”, got off to a smooth jazzy start, then built up into a rockier tone, while it maintained its steady tempo. Escalating modulation brought an increased dramatic intensity before it dropped down to a quiet ending.
The music of Milo McMahon is much like the transitions of his life…moving from one interesting phase to the next. His Gone Too Long EP explores a variety of vintage and modern tones which include influences from his diverse musical diet of bands like the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Guns & Roses, Neil Young, and the Beastie Boys. His brilliant songwriting takes you on a winding, scenic tour filled with one interesting view after another, and for Milo McMahon, it would seem the ride is only starting.
You can stream Milo McMahon’s EP, Gone Too Long on Soundcloud.