Frontier Ruckus, 10 years strong and still as authentic as ever

Updated: Jul 18, 2018

"Somebody marry this winsome sad sack, whose increasingly plausible rhymes now include open-ibuprofen, gauche-precocious-neurosis, salad on the tennis court-valid passport, speckled melanin-freckled up your skin, and the very sexy errands-gerunds." - Robert Christgau, Noisey

This week, ​Dark Matter had the opportunity to chat with Matthew Milia, the frontman of the band, Frontier Ruckus.  We talked about their western tour, sixth LP, relationships, and Milia's solo record. “We are in Sacremento, CA, enjoying sunshine for the first time in a long time. Before we kicked this tour off in Detroit, my doctor prescribed vitamin

D because I hadn’t seen the sun in awhile," said Milia.

With an opener like this, we knew we were in for a treat. It’s not often you find a songwriter/artist that is as eloquent with his conversation as he is with his lyrics. 

​“Cataldo is opening up for us, he’s out of Seattle and is a really great songwriter,” Milia said. “It was actually supposed to be a solo tour with me and him, but I figured I’d bring Davie and Zach and make it another Frontier Ruckus tour to promote the fifth record because we didn’t tour much on it as we probably should have. We kind of bumped it out to the West coast and started the tour in Seattle. We only played two shows on the way and got caught in blizzards. We played a living room show in Wisconsin and one in Azula, and they were really good, not kind of high stake shows to work out some of the new songs. People really liked them. As far as I can tell.”

photo via Instagram
photo via Instagram

If you’re not familiar with Frontier Ruckus’ living room shows, they’re extremely intimate gigs where they don’t give out the address until you purchase a ticket. The show could take place in someone's basement or a venue that strangely represents an elementary school gymnasium. 

Photo via Instagram

​​“We did a tour across Canada as a three-piece once, and the band has been around for so long that we’ve gone through several configurations that have looped back again, but Davie, Zach and I have always been a constant so sometimes we find ourselves as the only three people in the band, and we go and play in the most intimate places possible; it’s really refreshing.”

​As the band gets older, it's obvious that their intimacy and rapport remains highly important to them. “It’s an interesting dynamic to oscillate those two types of venues [intimate and medium-sized]. But all of the shows we are doing on this tour are a three-piece so even the shows in the clubs are pretty intimate and kind of free-form. As a three-piece, we have a five-album catalog so, at this point, we have tons of songs. So Davie, Zach, and I—it just makes it a little more versatile. See the night’s vibe and play whatever songs we want.”

The band officially made the announcement in October that vocalist, Anna Burch, was leaving to work on solo projects. Although it seems that Milia may be her number one fan, it’s still going to alter Frontier Ruckus’ sound. “Well, it’s not the first time she’s left. It would be lying to say it’s not a substantial

change because she’s great. Her voice and presence is a huge part of the Frontier Photo by Noah Elliott Morrison

Ruckus story and a big part of our sound. She’s been very prominent for four out of five of our records. She didn’t really sing on ‘Eternity Dimming,’ but yeah, the band has existed without her, and we wish her the absolute best. We’re still friends. Our first record came out ten years ago this November so to expect anyone to stick around and do the same thing is lunacy in itself. It’s such a massive part of my, Zach and Dave’s life. It was for Anna, and we’re so grateful for all the time she gave us for this project.”

Jumping into the awaited sixth LP, Milia confirmed the songs are written but still need to be arranged. Hopefully, it will make an appearance by the end of the year to celebrate 10 years of Frontier Ruckus.

“We’re premiering or debuting them on this run, and that’s always the most exciting part. It’s kind of a cliché that an artist’s favorite work is the most recent but it’s the most gratifying for a reason. It’s the most pertinent to what is currently going on in their life or generally in the world. So yeah, it’s really fun to play the song.”

Milia said they’re trying to go back to their roots with their sixth album -- this record will be a lot less orchestrated, unrefined and unembellished. “We haven’t made it yet so it’s kind of hard for me to fully predict. But, we’re kind of going into with an idea of return to form with earlier Frontier Ruckus,” Milia stated. “Starting with ‘Eternity Dimming,’ especially with ‘Sitcom Afterlife,’ then to ‘Enter the Kingdom,’ they’re more very studio records. They’ve been a bit orchestrated. ‘Enter the Kingdom’ was very orchestral. ‘Sitcom Afterlife’ was power-pop-rock, but we want to get back in touch with ‘The Orion Songbook’ vibe where it’s just acoustic instruments, more folky, just kind of limiting ourselves. Recording more live just so it’s more honest and raw. I mean to this day a lot of people tell us they favor it. It’s very common for people to like the first or second record more than the later stuff so. It’s on the anniversary of our tenth year so we want to return to where we started from and spinning a record that’s more simple.”

When writing songs becomes a part of your daily routine, it would make sense for Milia to release a solo record (or six).  ​ “The solo project is so nascent. This is my first LP. There’s a lot of downtime with Frontier Ruckus, especially recently. That’s kind of the way it’s looking to go into the future. We just don’t want to tour as much as we did when we were 24. I don’t write songs for projects in quotes or anything other than myself for self-therapy. It’s just something I automatically do when I wake up in the morning. Due to that involuntary process, I just end up with tons of songs and certain songs just lump together due to the certain timeframe they’re written or themes they’re written about. Some things just don’t fit in with what Frontier Ruckus is doing in the moment. Like, ‘Oh! There’s a solo record right there.’ The solo record is a little more 90s college radio like Lemonhead, power pop, REM teenage fan club kind of vibe. It’s a little more upbeat. There’s still a ton of lyrics, but it’s a little more hand claps and tambourines and harmonies. I’m trying to find a good way to put it out as the music industry crumbles around me.”

We ended the interview with a question from Victoria — and, man, we're glad we did. ​What was the inspiration behind the song “Gauche?”

 “I think I wrote it—I’ve been in a very successful, happy fulfilling monogamous relationship for a year but before that, I was single for five years, which was good and bad. But, I think tinder might have played a part in the psychology of that song or just trying to fit into the nightlife scene, just the desperation of single people. The sweet desperation and hopefulness mixed with pity and sadness, all the things swirling around the limited self-esteem of someone desperately looking for love in all the wrong places. I’m just so glad that I hopefully never have to be on there again.”

​See, Tinder isn’t all that bad, dreamboats like Milia have used the app. His next ~relationship~ rant had us crying ourselves to sleep (It's okay we're not judging):

“I met my current girlfriend—well, she doesn’t remember meeting the first time at a bar up the street, where we now live together in a Frasier t-shirt. I went back and found the tweet from that night that said, ‘There’s a girl that just walked into the bar wearing a Frasier t-shirt. Jesus, should I ask her to marry me or go cry in the bathroom?’ Because that was like my dream girl, then I found mutual friends that we happen to have and one worked with her and said, ‘Hey, this guy has a crush on you,’ and she heard it from multiple people, which is kind of creepy. It’s obviously like a campaign I started to get her attention. But then we ended up finally meeting again on tinder. She swiped right because she obviously knew who I was at that point. So I have to thank tinder for that. Now, she’s flying into San Francisco tomorrow, and we’re going to spend Valentine’s Day in LA together for our one-year anniversary. I’m just venting unnecessarily in this interview about my personal life.”

 WE RESPECT YOU TINDER. But more importantly, we love and respect bands that continue to grow and develop with their audience.  ​ “I guess I could have spent ten years doing something worse, my life passion with my best friends, can’t regret something like that. That will be the title of our new record, ‘It Could Be Worse.’”

You can catch Frontier Ruckus on tour with Cataldo until the end of February.  "Enter the Kingdom" is available on iTunes and Spotify now!