Miles Francis Talks Self-made Music with The Phoenix

Courtesy of Lana MillerMiles Francis' music is self-produced, and he will release a new EP Feb. 22.

Miles Arntzen, whose stage name is Miles Francis, pours his whole being into his music producing it all on his own. With eight singles and one extended play (EP), the Brooklyn-based dream pop artist is gearing up for a second EP and a performance in Chicago.

For Arntzen, the songwriting process is instinctive. Some songs are born in one night while others take months, he said.

“I record all the music in my studio by myself, and I self-produce,” he said. “My main goal with that is to make it feel as direct as possible from my body and heart. … I try to really just lay bare what I’m feeling into the songs.” 

By doing this, his songs aren’t oversaturated with autotuning or gimmicky electronic sounds. His lyrics are clear against a backdrop of polished electric tunes. 

Arntzen grew up in a musical home — his dad is a trumpeter, and he said his mom was the type of person who was always humming tunes around the house. His first foray into music was when he started playing drums at age six.

“From that point until the end of college, I identified as a drummer,” Arntzen, 27, said. “The drums were my big thing — my life.”

Along the way, he said he played in different bands and taught himself bass, guitar and songwriting. In college, he was a drummer for Antibalas, an afrobeat band based in New York. He also played with Sharon Jones, a soul and funk singer, and indie rock band Arcade Fire.

Arntzen said he embarked on his solo ventures after touring with Will Butler of Arcade Fire. 

“I realized songwriting is sort of the core of my being and the drums were the medium through which I write songs and that I started to become interested in something greater than just playing the drums,” he said.

His songs are made to resonate with listeners. He sings about growing up, losing innocence and its perils in “Adult Life.” “I Could Use Your Love” is about vulnerability with lines including “I’m done acting proud” and “Don’t need good, don’t need great, just need fine, normal, everyday.”

His upcoming EP, “Doves,” tackles inner voices of inhibitions which stunt people’s innocence as they grow up, he said.

“That idea is what I call the doves,” he said. “That’s the running concept going underneath all these songs — the idea that we have to all reckon with that same thing as we grow older even though we’re all vastly different people.”

One song on “Doves” holds significant emotional weight, he said. The final track — called “I Miss Having You Around” — was written after his family dog died last summer, he said. Arntzen said he grew up with a Jack Russell Terrier named Russie, and the song’s beat is based around the dog’s barking in a video. 

“The day that we put her down I went straight back to the studio after being with my family at the vet and made the song and tried to just put out there exactly what was happening for me emotionally,” he said. “What was happening for me emotionally was complicated. I was happy that she was not suffering anymore but I simply just wanted to be around her.”

Arntzen said the track finishes with the sound of Russie’s breath towards the end of her life.

This vulnerability and openness is something Arntzen said he wants to bring to his live performances. Knowing that he plays the same music each time, he said he likes to improvise on stage from his facial expressions to movement. 

All of this has the goal of centering audiences in the present.

“I am in that moment with the audience and I think that’s super important now than ever — that we put down our phones and just look at something for a second,” he said. 

Miles will perform at Cole’s Bar (2338 N. Milwaukee Ave.) Feb. 23 at 9:30 p.m., and “Doves” will be released Feb. 22. 

His music is available on streaming platforms including Spotify and Apple Music.

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