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Mild Orange shuffled onto the Dunedin scene in early 2017 with a sultry mix of soft indie-rock and a splash of Mockasin creaminess. And then an Ukrainian YouTube music influencer shared their first self-produced single, Some Feeling, and almost overnight their popularity exploded. Now that single has over 12 million plays.
Listen to Mild Orange’s first album, Foreplay.
Back home from a massive European tour, they’re entering the next chapter after their debut which involves a quick tour of Aotearoa before heading overseas again.
I caught up with vocalist, guitarist and producer for the band, Josh Mehrtens.
The last time I saw you playing was at U-Bar in 2017…
That was probably our second gig.
Wow really! At the time I was like ‘yeah this is pretty good’ then I recently checked YouTube and one of your songs has like 12 million plays which is like WHAT? So how does that feel?
Yeah it’s pretty surreal. I guess it’s cool to know that so many people from all over the world have engaged an resonated with it, like everyone’s looking for some feelin’ and it’s something that’s come out of Dunedin you know? Very cool feeling. Very grateful.
Yeah and like you can’t have expected that?
Yeah I know, because that was like the second release, that was the first song that was recorded in-house that we put out, and to get that response was just insane.
How long was it between releasing that and the sudden explosion in popularity?
It was kind of like overnight because with that upload, Alona Chemerys, she’s a Ukrainian YouTube playlister, she’s a really sweet girl, she had 250,000 subscribers at the time and I recall sending her songs but I never got a response or anything. And then we released that song and like a day later it was uploaded on her channel and it kind of blew from there. It started hitting the YouTube algorithms I think, like the whole recommended thing.
Did you intend to become professional musicians?
It’s always been our dream. We all met at university together at Otago and it was always our dream to, by the time we graduate, to have everything in place to just go and do music full-time. And I guess we’ve stuck true to that, now we’re devoting all of our time into the music and creating more cool experiences.
Yeah, so the European tour, looks like you played quite a few dates. Must have been pretty hectic?
Yeah I think it was 21 shows in 30 days, which was pretty full on like before that the most we’d ever done was like 2 shows in a row. But nah it was so awesome, met so many cool people. I can’t really put into words how cool it was.
Do you have any highlights?
Well for me it was like going to the other side of the world and places that their first language isn’t English and hearing the songs sung back to you was just such an incredible feeling, like people know the lyrics. And talking to people about their experiences with the album how they found it and how it found them. There’s a lot of really nice people we meet through doing what we do.
A highlight I dunno… A highlight would probably be just looking out over the crowd each night and just having an absolute smile on my face that I couldn’t wipe off.
And next you’re going to America?
Yeah, we’ve got some shows in New Zealand, two shows in Wellington next week, then Dunedin the week after, then Auckland. Then we’re going to the states, starting in Texas, and then we’ve got some Canada shows in there and then a festival in Mexico at the end.
Oh yeah, that’s the one with like Hot Chip?
Yeah I’ve always loved Hot Chip so the lineup with them is really cool.
Musically what would you say your influences are? Or how would you describe your music?
Well the influences vary for all of us in the band but personally I’ve grown up a lot on what my parents played so Burt Bacharach, Randy Newman, Norah Jones, and then got into myself like Radiohead and things like that. So from a songwriting perspective I guess I’ve always listened to things from the 60s and 70s and I’ve been open to talk about love and all these sorts of themes through listening to someone like Burt Bacharach who I completely idolise.
The sound, well I guess with Mild Orange it’s a vibe, and I guess it’s generally quite approachable and we intend for it to be for everyone but we make what feels right, and when it feels right.
I assume you’re working on new music too?
Yeah, so we’ve got another album on the way, currently I’ve got a studio setup in my room in arrowtown, I’m currently just finishing off the production and doing the mixing. We recorded it between February and April at Josh Reid’s family bach at Riversdale beach. So yeah we hunkered down there for a while and it was a really good lifestyle, and a lot of the good times have gone into making the album.
Is there a release date for that?
Not yet, I’m going to have to say when it’s done. But I’m hoping to release the first single in a few weeks.
So the Dunedin show, who’s supporting you for that?
Sam Wave, it’s my older brother. He’s got a sextett band, guitar, bass, drums, keys, saxophone and it’s very very cool, it’s kind of like a mix of country, desert rock and a bit of jazz.
What have you been listening to recently?
Been loving Harvest Moon by Neil Young, also actually been listening to a bit of Hot Chip since seeing them on the same lineup as us, and also quite a bit of Norah Jones.
Have you got any local music recommendations?
Well I’d have to recommend my brother… And Heavy Chest? They open for us in Christchurch and Wellington and Auckland, they’re absolutely awesome. I’d also recommend, of course love the Marlin’s Dreaming boys. I’m loving Aldous Harding. Actually another New Zealand one I’d recommend, recently there was a collaboration between Hollie Smith and Teeks, I think it’s called Whakaaria Mai?
Obscure and unofficial media from gigs in Dunedin, New Zealand since 2014.