New music with the new year

  • Milou Rigollaud. Contributed photo

  • Milou Rigollaud. Contributed photo

  • Milou Rigollaud. Contributed photo—

For the Recorder
Published: 1/20/2021 9:25:52 AM

The past year has been an incredibly busy one for Milou Rigollaud, of Greenfield, the young musician released two albums and recorded a third, “The Colorblind & the Painter,” which will be released on Sunday, Jan. 17. He also formed a band called Milou and the Upstairs District that he hopes will hit the ground running when live shows resume.

Having made so much music in a relatively short period, it’s natural to assume that these projects came about because of the pandemic — but that wasn’t the case.

 “My first album (“Final Draft”) came out at the end of February, right before the pandemic happened,” said Rigollaud, 21, who for the past six years has been playing music on the local scene in such bands Raspberry Jam and Nomad vs. Settler. 

After graduating high school in 2018, the Greenfield native moved to Montreal to attend college. While living there, he started working on his songs and ended up writing all the material for his first two albums. His writing streak continued once he left Canada, completing all the material for “The Colorblind & the Painter” in 2020, as he divided his time between Greenfield and Reynosa, Mexico.

Rigollaud’s journey into songwriting began in his teens. Growing up, he wasn’t all that interested in music despite having a father who was a big music fan and a brother who played drums in various local metal bands. But when his brother went off to college, Rigollaud, who was 14 at the time, was suddenly intrigued by his brother’s drum kit.

“He was gone and I thought, ‘I’ll use his drum kit and he’ll never know,’ and then I really liked it,” recalled Rigollaud.“I played hockey and I ended up selling my goalie pads and bought a drum kit, it was like, ‘this is it, I’m going to play music.’” 

And he went in full force, learning bass and guitar in addition to drums. He started getting together with friends and playing music for fun, which ultimately led to him at the age of 15 to co-found Raspberry Jam, playing drums in the group. The songwriting started out of necessity because Raspberry Jam wanted to enter a battle of the bands competition and their repertoire of covers didn’t cut it. They needed to play original material, so the solution was to start writing. Raspberry Jam would go on to record and play at the Green River Festival and Gateway City Arts in Holyoke.  

The band is currently on hiatus and Rigollaud is focused on his solo work, which is different from the progressive indie rock played by Raspberry Jam. The songs on “The Colorblind & the Painter” are electronic tunes that range from the quiet, soothing sounds of  “Tonight, the Dream” and “Isabella of Castille” to an up-tempo, danceable tune like “Road Tripping.”

“The Colorblind & The Painter” is an album that’s made for both headphone listening and cranking up the volume. On this disc, Rigollaud takes the listeners on a journey through various sounds and styles as he creates music that’s accessible and at times experimental but always enjoyable.

“I think of it as powerful chill,” he said of the varying intensity and complexity of the album’s ten songs.

Was he always into electronic music?

“Yes and no,” he said after giving the question some thought. “I loved the band Strfkr, and Raspberry Jam was once on a bill with them at Gateway City Arts. That inspired me to that style.    

“I love that kind of music because you can put it on in the background and you don’t have to have people listen to every second of it,” he said.

He recorded the album at home, playing all the instruments himself. His only help was his brother, Frederic, who mixed and mastered the record. And his friend guitarist, Mac Almeida, helps out on the track “DX7,” a song that takes its name from a vintage synthesizer purchased on Craigslist.

“The song starts out soft and it’s taking you somewhere and then the guitar solo just shoots you off to a completely different sound and feel and then you are taken back at the very end. It feels like you went somewhere and came back,” said Rigollaud. “If I could do that with every song, I would.”

The album’s title, “The Colorblind & The Painter,” means “absolutely nothing,” it simply popped in his head when he was struggling to come up with one. But he says he likes that it provokes imagery. The lyrics, on the other hand, explore feelings of youth and naivety in a real and unfiltered way. He also feels that it's built around “the habitual and repetitive nature of life, as well as the beauty to be found in these moments.” The disc opens with the line “Again, Again, Again,” from the song “Memory Boycott,” setting the tone for what’s ahead. 

“I love having themes in albums and I love telling stories. I think it makes it much more enjoyable to listen to,” said Rigollaud. “Life As One Long Moment,” the album he recorded with Ryan Saturn, a friend from Montreal, released in July, is a story album centered on a single character.

"Last New Year’s, I was at my friend Kenny’s house and he had the same people over and there was this weird moment where I realized I have been going to the same New Year’s party for years and I wondered how many people do this,” explained Rigollaud, as he talked about the inspiration for “New Year’s @ Kenny’s” a catchy song with a head-bopping beat that is an example of the way these songs deal with the kind of habitual behavior that makes up a life and that we are missing during this time of the pandemic. 

Rigollaud formed the band, the Upstairs District, which includes Mac Almeida and Josh Gibson from Raspberry Jam so that he could bring his solo songs to the stage, but taking electronic music and having it played by a full band sound is a challenge. 

“I have a lot of different ideas floating around of how this can be done and how to get the right sounds,” he said. “There is a band I love called the Marias and they were talking about how they have an album version of a song and a live version of a song, and I like that idea of having two separate versions of a song.”

It will be a while before these songs will be heard on a stage but you will be able to listen to “The Colorblind & The Painter” on Sunday, Jan. 17,  when it will debut on all streaming platforms. 

Sheryl Hunter is a music writer who lives in Easthampton. Her work has appeared in various regional and national magazines. You can contact her at soundslocal@yahoo.com.




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