Jeff Mills, one of the pair of voices behind Violet Crime’s distinct, soul-steeped, indie-pop sound, has gone rogue.
With a trio of solo songs planned for release this year, he’s addressing a personal challenge he’s given himself. And the first single, today’s “The No Apologies Tour,” already has him on good footing.
MIlls’ vocals echo the vibe of his current band while he partners with musicians Chris Arwady and Egan Franke from a previous band for a song about wrongs and reconciliation.
“I sent this song out to Chris and Egan, and I took their first takes. There were no edits I had to give them,” Mills said. “I think there’s something just really beautiful about collaborating with people that you are close to and love that can yield very immediate compatibilities, you know? They just totally got it, so that was really exciting.”
Through “The No Apologies Tour,” Mills takes listeners on a trip through his psyche, and in doing so finds some closure for events in his past while spelling out what he needs from his future.
Written around two years ago, this first single got an assist from Kat and Tony Baker (of Broken Robots), who engineered the project.
“They’re very talented and very passionate about what they do, and it is so cool working with them,” Mills said. “Once I got rolling there was no doubt in my mind, yeah, I’m gonna do this whole project with them.”
The Bakers focus on upfront vulnerablility in Broken Robots’ songs, and that translated directly to the meaning Mills was trying to share with his new project.
“I think the broader message is people can tend to be bad communicators. And we could just all in general be better about being more direct with our intentions and needs and desires,” he said. “I could use a break from the games we play. Can we just stop beating around the bush and all this BS and be upfront and just be radically candid with each other? That’s really the core value of what I’m singing about.”
In a broader view, the song feels especially relevant now when many of us will soon find ourselves face-to-face with those we haven’t seen in some time because of the ongoing pandemic. Most of those reunions will be enthusiastic affairs, but some may come weighed down with long-standing emotional baggage, things left unsaid.
And in that, Mills said he learned an important lesson about his own approach to conflict.
“I have a tendency to really beat myself up and assume that everything that goes wrong in my life interpersonally is my fault,” he pondered. “My knee jerk is like, what did I do wrong, what’s wrong with me? And I think writing the song helped me learn that everybody’s flawed. I don’t have to feel bad about being human and doing what I think is right, or knowing that I did the best I could. I think it’s OK for me to see my full human self and accept the range of my needs and emotions and perspectives and not feel guilty about that.”
And that’s a lesson we can all use right now.
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Jeff Mills has two more musical collaborations with other Chicago musicians in the works for later this year. And Violet Crime is back in rehearsals and is working on releases and shows for later this year.