Photo By: Josh Aronson
In Order of Appearance is the debut album from alt-pop maven Brenna Miles, aka B.Miles. Released on October 16th, the ten song collection chronicles Miles' ascension in the music industry while continuing to work a day job to support her dream. Crafted with her longtime musical collaborators Noise Club, Matias Quarleri, and Jackson Firlik, In Order of Appearance serves as an important bridge between the present and future of pop music.
After the success of her hit song "Salt" in 2016, the anticipation for her debut album couldn't have been higher. We recently caught up with Miles to discuss how she handled chasing success after "Salt" became a hit, the concept behind her debut In Order of Appearance, what she learned about herself as a songwriter, and more. Read the full interview below.
What does it feel like to release your debut album during such an unprecedented time?
To be quite honest, I didn't know if the album would be released in 2020. In March at the beginning of the pandemic, when so much was still unknown, the thought did cross my mind to push the album release to 2021. But at the same time, I was receiving so much fan outreach asking for new music and I couldn't make them wait longer than they already had. Looking back, I am so happy that my debut album was released and not delayed any further. Plus, the fact everything shifted to virtual ended up being very positive in certain ways. Normally, we would play a string of shows with a big homecoming celebration in New York, but the fact that we were able to do a show online for fans all over the world was amazing. I've also gotten the chance to meet fans across Europe and Asia on video chat. Even Australia despite the insane time difference. Overall, we're just really trying to make the best of the situation at hand.
You recorded this album in a few different places, how did the different settings affect the music you were making?
The two most understated songs on the album, "Wasting Time (New York)" and "Collecting Souvenirs," were recorded in my hometown of LA with my longtime production buddies Noise Club. There's an intimacy and nostalgia in both of those songs. During the recording, my songwriting partner Eric Nizgretsky and I were staying in Pasadena with my parents, and there's definitely something delicate in these songs that's rooted in the comfort of being vulnerable at "home."
The remaining songs on the album were all recorded in New York with my producers, Jackson Firlik and Matias Quarleri, and written with the intent of performing them live with my band. The grit, energy and slime of New York are sewn into songs like "Worst Enemy" and "firstname.lastname@example.org" - combined with the empowerment I feel when I'm performing them.
This album dives into the dichotomy of B.Miles vs Brenna Miles and I think in the recording process you can also hear the contrasts of who am at "home" in Los Angeles versus who I am when I'm hustling and surviving in New York.
Did you face pressure trying to recreate the success of "Salt?"
The success of "Salt" is still very mind-blowing to me and was something that completely spiraled. There's no formula for "success in music" and I have never wanted to pigeonhole the sound of B.Miles into a specific genre. It's so important to me, and to my songwriting partner Eric, that we push ourselves sonically and continue to see where we can take this project. This album is aurally very aggressive and sleazy compared to "Salt." That's primarily because I wanted to tell the story of the frustration and panic that I felt when I first moved to New York and was trying to balance too many versions of myself every day to survive. That doesn't mean more "sexy" music won't be written in the future though.
You make music with the same collaborators - what makes this creative relationship work so well?
Clearly I am not a fan of change (laughs). The truth is my collaborators are my best friends. "Neighborhood Haircut" was written for and about them. I guess it tells the tale of us raising one-another into adulthood in New York. These collaborators and bandmates are the reason I abandoned ship in LA and decided to move to NY on a whim. I couldn't be without them after we graduated college and I think that bond has really carried itself into the success of our creative relationship. I consider myself the luckiest girl in the world to have a group of friends that I not only consider my family, but that I get to create music with as well.
Take us through the concept of In Order of Appearance.
When I first moved to New York five years ago, I really struggled to balance my musical dreams with my normal life working a boring 9-to-5 to pay rent. I felt like I had to play so many different characters throughout the course of a day to make that work. B.Miles playing to a sold-out crowd at Bowery Ballroom is very different from Brenna wearing a pants suit at a desk all day. I'm not sure those two versions of myself have much in common, or that they would ever be friends or anything. But in exploring this group of characters, it developed a sort of theatrical theme for the album. I chose the name "In Order Of Appearance" to replicate a Playbill, or credits of the characters that I would play throughout a day to survive.
What song means the most to you on the project?
It's a pretty close tie between "Collecting Souvenirs" and "Neighborhood Haircut". As I mentioned "Neighborhood Haircut" was written for my band, who've become my family in New York. The song centers around the confusion that comes with getting older, and grappling with those emotions and how they sometimes conflict with who you were in your early 20s.
The "Collecting Souvenirs" lyrics were very difficult for me to write. As a songwriter, the people that you love usually end up in your writing. For a long time, I was scared to write about other people because I didn't want to hurt them, and it was obvious in the lyrics. They were so distant. Eric has this mantra, "don't write scared" and sometimes I need him to say that to me multiple times until I let my guard down. The lyrics went through many revisions until I felt they were honest and painted the story of my fear in settling down and getting older.
What have you learned about yourself as a songwriter during the process of recording In Order of Appearance?
This album was written during a time in my life where I felt high levels of anxiety and panic. When I read through the lyrics now, there are some very obvious themes: fear of aging, not having enough time to chase dreams and not knowing who to become. It's like looking at an old chapter in a book, and it makes me feel proud that I'm no longer in that same place I was five years ago. I know who I am and I'm confident in that person and in getting older. Sometimes I even embrace it.
What are you focusing on for the rest of the year?
Spending time with my pitbull, Grace, writing music and staying connected with the amazing fans that have reached out since the release of the album.
Who are your Ones to Watch/other emerging artists you're listening to?
Easily my favorite question to answer! Off the bat the new Loose Buttons record is probably my favorite of the year. Also have not been able to stop listening to Joni, Blush FM, Mosss and my girl Blu DeTiger!>