Don't let the name fool you: Milo Greene is a quintet, with four lead singers, none of whom are named Milo.
And that's hardly the only unique quality of this local indie folk-pop band. Except for dedicated percussionist Curtis Marrero, each member sings lead and backing vocals, plays multiple instruments and switches roles from song to song.
Though ambitious, the democratic approach often proves logistically difficult. "I think we secretly wish we could be more spontaneous with the set list," says Robbie Arnett, 27, just before the band's recent set at the Make Music Pasadena festival. "We have to coordinate which instruments we are using. It's a bit of a circus."
Despite the chaos, the 2-year-old band has developed a cult following that spans from music-snob bloggers to NBA player J.J. Redick. It headlines a sold-out show at West Hollywood's the Troubadour on Saturday, plays "Late Show With David Letterman" next week, and Lollapalooza in August. Not bad for a group that hasn't even released a full album.
Huddled in a modest trailer before taking the festival stage, the unassuming fivesome looks more like friendly camp counselors than rock 'n' rollers. They eschew hard partying and brash declarations but display the wry sense of humor that inspired the prank that gave the group its moniker.
The band named themselves after the fictional manager/booking agent that members Arnett and Andrew Heringer, 27, created early on to help them get gigs. "Milo Greene" would email promoters to get them on concert lineups but would never actually turn up in person.
"I booked a couple of tours between 2006 and 2010 just via email," Heringer notes proudly.
Milo Greene's sound is a mix of classic folk-rock in the vein of Crosby, Stills and Nash, and Fleetwood Mac with modern indie styling. So far, their calling card has been "1957," which is named after Heringer's address. The tune is at once driving and lilting, filled to the brim with jangly guitar and exquisite vocal harmonies. The song brought the group -- who toured nonstop for attention -- even more exposure when it was featured prominently in an episode of the ABC sitcom "Suburgatory" in May.
The band formed around vocalists/multi-instrumentalists Arnett and Heringer, who met at UC Irvine in 2003. As seniors, they moved into an apartment together, and Arnett began performing in a band called Links with Marrero. Later, Heringer reconnected with acquaintance and fellow Placerville, Calif., native Marlana Sheetz, 22, via MySpace, after a mutual friend suggested they discuss music.
They would go on to perform together in the Andrew Heringer Band, and he introduced her to Arnett and Marrero when Links performed in Monterey in 2008. The final piece came when Arnett invited Graham Fink, 26, to join the group.
Since completing the lineup, Milo Greene self-released a 7-inch single last summer and opened for acts such as Lord Huron and Grouplove. The buzz captured the attention of Chop Shop Records, a local subsidiary of Atlantic Records run by Alexandra Patsavas, which signed them in September. Patsavas, a TV and film music supervisor, placed the song "Don't You Give Up on Me" in an episode of "Grey's Anatomy" this last season. With this momentum they will deliver their debut full-length on July 17.
The self-titled album consists of songs and pieces of ideas collected by the members over the previous two years. "We've all been part of projects that we've made mistakes with and didn't love what we were doing," Heringer admits. "We didn't want that with this [album]. We took a long time and did what felt right."
The Pasadena crowd begins to get a little antsy, as some technical issues have delayed the Milo Greene set more than 20 minutes. When they finally take the stage, however, they are welcomed with rousing cheers. Playing in L.A. is exciting for the group, especially with the strong showing of fan support. For Sheetz, however, there is one aspect of local gigs that trumps all: "I love playing shows close to home. Afterward, you get to sleep in your own bed."