Miles’ music is all about forward motion, a factor amply illustrated by the blurred car lights pictured on the band’s first full-length, As Fast as You Can. And much like those vehicles on that light-streaked highway, Miles is on a quest to illuminate dark paths, in search of the bright side of the road.
This winningly restless quartet is led by guitarist/vocalist Marc Plotkin, and also includes Adam Ahuja on keyboards, Ben Jacobs at the bass, and Jon Smith on drums. Although Miles is still a fairly new creative outfit, their members already have a lot of music experience under their belts. Individually, they’ve opened for A-list musicians, studied at esteemed music colleges, and participated in Grammy-nominated recording projects. And while their current sound is best described as melodic alternative music, the band's very name stands as an obvious and undeniable reminder of a treasured jazz past. However, there is more meaning to this moniker than just its obvious connection with an iconic trumpeter. “When we were in college, Ben and I played with other musicians at different colleges,” recalls Plotkin. “We were traveling a lot, so people said the name had more to do with distance.”
While the group may create magically delicious pop music, they’re by no means relying upon any sort of ‘magic’ to promote their latest studio recording. Instead, this is one act with an overflowing storehouse of initiative. Plotkin, who once interned at Epic Records, knows well how the music business machine works, and came away from this experience a far wiser man. “What I took from working with the label was that I was seeing what the label actually provides for artists,” Plotkin recalls. “And I thought, ‘What if we just spend all our energy on trying to check off those things one at a time?’
This act is self-sufficient, equipped with a strong DIY ethic. And in this day and age, where almost anybody with a home computer and a few pieces of studio equipment can call him or herself a recording artist, only those with the will and the skills to succeed rise to the top. Miles has ability and drive to spare, and show absolutely no signs of slowing down.
The group’s brand new release fits in perfectly – perhaps even unintentionally – with the popular way music is purchased these days. Plotkin believes As Fast as You Can is best appreciated on a song-by-song basis, rather than as one overriding thematic whole. Contemporary superficiality, for instance, is addressed incisively with “Gloss & Powder”, whereas more familiar male/female relationship issues are analyzed – along with a timely technological twist -- during “Face To Face”. The latter track is all about “me and my girlfriend at the time surviving over Skype,” Plotkin explains, “because she was in London, and I was in Ohio.
Miles has given the world eleven nearly self-sufficient vignettes within the album As Fast as You Can. Yet it’s a whole other story live. “The album and the live show are different experiences,” Plotkin elaborates. “The live show is definitely louder, messier, and has more character.”
How do you describe your music to people, Marc?
The latest incarnation of our music really feels like indie rock with noticeable influences from soul and folk music.
Tell me about how you originally got into your craft.
We prefer to call it our "thang". So I'm just gonna say "thang" anywhere craft would go. Got into our thang separately. I mainly play guitar and sing in the band now, but I came from a background of playing jazz and classical saxophone. At some point, pop music just hit me harder and I tried applying all the theory I learned to a guitar so I could sing the lyrics I was starting to write (it was hard to sing them while playing saxophone...). Ben, our bassist did the acoustic guitar for-the-chicks thing for awhile, but when he got the jazz bug he switched to bass to have a better shot of getting into the competitive groups when we were in school. Jon, our drummer came up under a father who was a drummer as well as an incessant vinyl-listener. Adam, our keys playing developed his thang [by] rocking out on every instrument he could. He's a great guitarist and drummer as well as a brilliant keyboardist. Collectively our thang has only improved.
What is your favorite thing to do in the whole wide world?
Play a show on a Friday or Saturday night where the show is just the beginning of the night! So we play, THEN go out and hit the town. Hitting the town may vary from throwing back a few too many to enjoying Chinese food in a hole in the wall. But either way, a night that began with music and ended with hangage and good eats. Yea!
What is your biggest challenge when it comes to running your business?
Telling ourselves that it's never just a business AND that it's never just an artistic pursuit. We have to find a medium because we are the artists. I fantasize about a day when we have a manager that isn't in the band. So we can just think artistically about what we'd like to do and what people would like to hear. Right now I have to think about all those things AND booking, promoting, merch, duplication, blah blah blah. I get a headache just thinking about it. I really just want to have an instrument in my hands, not writing emails all day. I still have to be doing both unfortunately.
When you were a kid, what did you think you were going to be when you grew up?
Hmm, I'm the only one here and can't speak for the other guys on that question, but I always sort of knew I'd be performing one way or another. It's sort of in my nature to be doing this. The unknown for a long time (and still...what age dictates being "grown up"?) was in what capacity I'd be performing. It's equally as fathomable to me to be in a jazz quartet as it is rocking out in Miles. I'd also like to explore a quieter folk group one day. Or an all in-the-box studio-nerd record with lots of loops and layers. All of that stuff makes life worth living.
In what way has your community impacted your development as a musician?
Hmm. For me it's definitely been that I was always surrounded and sort of mentored by musicians with great control. Control in every realm. With an operatic voice or with blues guitar chops. That's something I always really looked up to and still strive to come close to. I think the other guys feel similar in terms of their playing. In terms of culture, I know that Adam has been heavily influenced by meditation in his music. Ben and Jon are influenced by coffee and burritos.
What other artists out there do you love?
I'll try to keep it to ones that I think all four of us would agree on. Death Cab for Cutie, The Roots, Michael Jackson, Radiohead, Vampire Weekend. Peeps like that.
What does your future hold?
I'm glad you asked, because it just so happens that I am psychic! I see lots of sandwiches, lots of microphones, hopefully lots of touring, lots of sweating, a healthy amount of Yuengling, and hopefully some managerial help! The future's so bright we're wearing shades.