The Milk: “That’s one thing we’ll never do, stand topless while being quoted on the political issues of the day!”

Virtual Festivals finds out about the band's debut album, festival plans and just which new band they think are 'a load of shit'.

Having escaped from an “Essex hick town”, The Milk are ready for the biggest year of their lives. Virtual Festival's Chris Eustace takes the chance to sit down over a pint with two of the band to find out why in their eyes; "There isn't a band coming out now that warrants any hype apart from us."

Newly-signed, The Milk's HMV Next Big Thing show at the Barfly early next month will be the first chance many will get to see their stomping soul show, complete with between-song samplefests.

So are singer Ricky Nunn and guitarist Dan Le Gresley feeling the pressure of being 'Ones To Watch'? “I've been waiting to hear those words for years!” laughs Ricky. It seems questions such as these merely serve as an opportunity for the band to deliver their mission statement.

"The only pressure is that we want to make sure anyone who hears the hype and comes to see us walks away saying 'I’ve never seen a better band in my life!'” declares Dan, as Ricky notes how they got here – graft. “Even Eastern European jug-blowing bands are quoted saying that they’re the best band in the world. We’re not lying around having got this press saying 'Great! Anyway, let’s watch Superman 2 and smoke a load of gear’, we’ll work even harder!”??

Questionable Essex clubs and previous musical forays inspire their live show, right down to the samples which link each song together: “To socialise where we were you had to go to shitty nightclubs. The DJ doesn’t stop to let people clap. When we were in a punk band, we let the guitars feed back in between songs. Then we saw The Dap Kings at the Jazz Cafe a couple of years back. It was a lesson in how to link songs with that James Brown-type showmanship."

With the 4-piece augmented on stage by horns, it’d be easy to lump the band in with the retro-soul sound in vogue recently, but Nunn is ready to counter such accusations: “We don’t want to write album tracks, just perfect pop songs – Stax, Chess and Motown did that best."

Indeed, Dan argues that recording under the watchful eye of Brad Baloo of UK hip-hoppers The Nextmen has meant they’re more forward-looking than most. “He’s always making us think of things in a modern context. We grabbed our parents’ old records, these great pieces of music, but we wanted to do something new with them."

"The retro brigade aren’t all bad though – 'Back To Black' is a great album. After that everyone tried to write soul music, but it was soul music without any soul!” Ricky agrees: “No matter what decade Amy Winehouse or Plan B were born in they’d have still made those albums. If Pixie Lott or Duffy had been around in the ‘80’s they’d have sounded completely different."

”Come summer, you’ll know upbeat single 'Chip The Kids' But, inspired by cult online film 'Zeitgeist', the lyrics are concerned with a conspiracy theory that one day computer chips will be fitted at birth – "the day you gotta run is when they chip the kids.” Dan explains: “It's not "Build Me Up Buttercup"! We just liked the paradox.”  Keen not to see the band be pigeonholed as political either, Ricky notes even Page 3 occasionally wades into debates, quipping, “That's one thing we’ll never do, stand topless while being quoted on the poltical issues of the day!”

The band played last year’s Beach Break Live and with Supergrass and Suede in Moscow, though for Dan it was Gloucester that stuck in the mind. “For me, Winterwell was the highlight of last summer. DJ Yoda was the biggest act there, but there were loads of great bands, and it had the right mentality, lots of getting drunk and wandering around little tents!”

As for this year’s festivals, the band can’t reveal much yet – “we’re doing loads, but our manager said we can’t say yet.” Confirmed so far are Snowbombing and SXSW – “I’ve heard you step off the plane and there’s just music everywhere.” Nunn enthuses.

Ask the pair which they want to play and two loom large. They shout “Glastonbury!” before the question’s even finished, before thoughts turn closer to home.

“V was our regular haunt because it was in our town,” begins Ricky, “One year we couldn’t afford it. We had this flat with a staircase at the back, and you could hear the Main Stage from it.”

“That’ll be an iconic one when we play there,” Dan interjects, “knowing a couple of years ago we were penniless, having to listen in.”

Having worked with a UK hip-hop kingpin, they aim high with their list of dream collaborators. Lauryn Hill, Adele and Janelle Monae are the holy trinity, but they’re open to all-comers. In fact, that’s the plan: “We've always said that between albums we'd be guns for hire. Booker T & The MGs were the house band for Stax for example. If you’re a musician, why not work all the time? We want people to say ‘Well, The Milk aren't touring right now, get them in.’”

All seems pretty cordial for when the band bump into their fellow Ones To Watch: The Vaccines are “pretty good”, Mona’s Nick Brown is singled out for being a “really good vocalist”, “I like Jamie Woon as well, great voice, really minimal”, offers Dan, “I'd definitely be interested to hear more of James Blake too.” ?Ricky, meanwhile, has constructive criticism for Croydon’s finest: “I like Jessie J. she's genuinely got a great voice. The production sounds very L.A. though, but it's worth having a go for the American market!”

So no backstage bust-ups for the hard-working A-Team of soul that is The Milk. Hang on, what’s that, Ricky? “You know who's a load of shit? Brother! It's the equivalent of that Eastern European jug-blowing band saying they're the best band in the world.”

As we leave, Dan rounds things off with a quote that the Gritpoppers themselves would be proud of: “I'll tell you what, there isn't a band coming out now that warrants any hype apart from us. I know that sounds arrogant, but there isn't! If Brother's our biggest competition, brilliant!”