Rhye’s “Phoenix” video dropped Tuesday and, like the rest of Blood, it had the imprint of Mike Milosh all over it.
Steam lifted from the hot spring, floating away from the naturally heated blue pools and off into the sky. Inside the body of water, one westerner stood out from a crowd of locals in the male-only spa at Kii-Katsuura Onsen, a discreet grouping of hot spring baths located in a small village on Japan’s southeast coast.
The lone foreigner, unbeknownst to the bathers, was Mike Milosh, Toronto-born musician and Rhye frontman in the midst of another of the band’s long tours. While many rockstars that have serenaded huge crowds from Coachella to Copenhagen may opt for lavish downtime, plastering all-inclusive accommodations and exclusive travel perks on social media for the world to gawk at, that’s not Milosh. Not only does the multi-talented artist value privacy, but he also seeks out the contrarian path.
“That’s what it’s all about, it’s about having real adventures,” Milosh says from a backstage area at Primavera Sound, the Barcelona music festival he was slated to perform at the next day.
Milosh has been having plenty of adventures lately as the face of his seven-piece band Rhye, which released their second studio album, Blood, at the beginning of February. While adversity struck a chord in his early career due to disputes with his past record label and a publicized divorce from actress Alexa Nikolas, Milosh appears to have refocused and found himself in an exciting new period, both artistically and personally.
“I’m pretty much an optimist,” he said about moving forward. “That’s the way I’ve lived, I’m pretty much a glass half-full kind of dude.”
The 43-year-old has had a hand in every creative aspect of Blood, even while undertaking a relentless tour schedule he said has encapsulated over 500 shows in the past five years. The breakneck pace doesn’t seem to be a problem, however, because Milosh has found a way to meld together his hobbies and profession.
“I enjoy touring, I enjoy producing, I enjoy writing music, I enjoy making videos, I enjoy everything,” he said of the creative process that has gone into the band’s most recent record. “I don’t know why people complain when they’re touring,” he added. “You work all these years to finally get the opportunity to play around the planet.”
The fact that Milosh’s new label, Last Gang Records, was supportive of his having creative control on Blood made a huge impact on the record. The album cover features a nude female silhouette that Milosh himself shot of his girlfriend, Geneviève Medow Jenkins, in Iceland. The couple met at Secular Sabbath, a series of collaborative artistic events Jenkins runs worldwide.
If Milosh’s artistic freedom was integral to how Blood turned out, so too was his connection with Jenkins. All of the album’s videos were co-directed by the couple, including “Phoenix,” which debuted to the world Tuesday.
In typical Rhye fashion the video, which was shot at Milosh’s friend’s hillside Malibu residence, uses a troupe of female characters to cast a narrative about an incoming storm. Highlighting the changes in Milosh’s life since Woman, the video plays on a number of self-reflexive themes including a connection to the natural world and a departure from consumerism.
“It came together from conversations about a push away, in my life, from materialistic things and becoming more earthy as a human being and natural,” Milosh said about the video. “My girlfriend wrote it, I shot it, and we directed it together,” he added.
The thematic significance and overall aesthetic quality of “Phoenix” exemplifies a serious maturation in Milosh’s directorial career, and in the sound of Rhye as a whole. The visuals are a mash-up of elegant woman sporting designer-quality runway garb and reading image-centric folds like Playboy uniquely juxtaposed with California’s green mountaintops and sprawling coastline.
“I’m quite taken by the female form in an artistic way,” Milosh said, adding that “a lot of these songs are about me and my girlfriend and our experiences together.”
“I write from my heart about my experiences and then I have images that are very feminine to represent things about myself.”
Of course, Milosh’s soulful and silky vocals that have become Rhye’s signature remain constant on “Phoenix,” as they have throughout the band’s tenure. The song itself, in line with several other tracks on Blood, offers significantly more complex background instrumentals than Rhye’s past outputs, often in the form of sharp electric guitar chords and rhythmic drum tempos.
The Canadian singer is having more fun than at any other point in his career, evidenced by the playful nature of “Phoenix,” and the elation with which he describes how things are going, generally.
“It’s almost like I’ve figured out a way to work to integrate my hobbies into my career,” he said, reflecting on what’s been a whirlwind of a past couple of years. While the band’s tour schedule has, and continues to be, unyielding, Milosh often strategically takes a couple of weeks off at a time so he can embark on adventures such as the Japenese Kii-Katsuura Onsen jaunt of a few weeks ago.
“We get there, and they were quite old and rundown,” he said of the natural pools. “I spent most of my time with men that were Japanese and didn’t speak English because I was in a hot spring, so you can’t go with your girl, you know? So, that was a really interesting experience … we were off the beaten path. Actually, I loved it.”