Miloe’s Bob Kabeya is using music to overcome the darkness of the world
Minneapolis indie project Miloe unleashes a sound that will lull you into pure bliss. Vocalist Bob Kabeya was born and raised in the Democratic Republic of the Congo but moved to the United States when he was 8. He recalls that he was surrounded by musicians from an early age and picked up piano at age 6, though his first true interest was in getting to play the drums.
Since then, he’s picked up any instrument he could get his hands on. Miloe’s sound encompasses every skill Kabeya’s learned over the course of his 20 years, as he flawlessly blends illuminating and uplifting guitar lines as well as lo-fi synths with his smooth vocals.
Miloe credit popular indie-rockers Hippo Campus for helping the DIY scene in their city to emerge. In fact, band members Caleb Hinz, Jake Luppen and Nathan Stocker helped produce their 2020 five-track release, Greenhouse. Beyond that collaboration, Miloe had the opportunity to work alongside Cavetown on their track “Let Me Feel Low,” a stripped-back song sure to make you feel just as introspective and liberated as the artists themselves.
Beyond Miloe growing in Minneapolis’ thriving music scene, Kabeya notes how the band’s most popular single “Winona” holds its namesake from famous actress and state native Winona Ryder. The track, which has garnered more than 2 million Spotify streams, is inspired by themes in romantic comedies. Kabeya described “Winona” as having the same feelings as when the protagonist finally know it’s time to “get it together” and pursue the love interest for real. That’s the most incredible thing listeners should take away from Miloe—the project pours raw energy and rosy emotions into tracks, ones that are often hard to put into words at all.
2021 is a year of promise for Kabeya and Miloe as a whole. The vocalist shared that the band have more music on the way. In fact, Miloe recently delighted fans at the end of June with the release of "Solo." He shared the stunning Lous and the Yakuza cover in celebration of Congolese Independence Day and Black Music Appreciation Month.
Beyond the promise of new tunes set to be the soundtrack of your summer, Miloe are proudly opening for indie stars Beach Bunny beginning in November, with many dates already being sold out.
Alternative Press had the chance to speak with Kabeya on the project’s origins, how he was inspired to craft his unique song structures, how the band are preparing for their first major cross-country tour and more.
Do you often get called Miloe as a first name instead of Bob?
Yeah, I guess I set that up for myself. [Laughs.] I didn’t think about it when I was trying to find the band name, but I think that’s fine that people call me that. It’s nice to have separation. [It’s] like a stage name but also a band at the same time.
So when you were going through that process of trying to choose a name for your project, what finally made you decide that Miloe was the perfect one?
I struggled for a long time to find a band name, and I had this song called “Miloe.” And then eventually I just named the whole EP Miloe. And then my friend was like, “Make an Instagram,” and I couldn’t think of anything, so I just called it Miloe. But more recently, I realized that in middle school, there was an album called Mylo Xyloto by Coldplay, and I was in seventh grade. It was the first time I’d really gotten into music that sounded like that. So it was like a gateway from American radio pop into indie-rock music.
That’s certainly a great transition into the world of indie rock. So Coldplay are a big influence on your music and career path thus far?
Yeah, it was. I remember just getting this feeling of nostalgia from the music at the time. And I’m always trying to capture that, and [I’m] just trying to make things that I react emotionally to.
Is it your hope to offer that sense of youthfulness in all of your tracks as well, showing people how to look back at the past in a beautiful way?
I don’t think it’s intentional. I think I’m always trying to make things that bring me at ease a little bit. And I like lightheartedness. The world can be dark. So, I like making that art for myself and other people that want it.
That makes total sense. So, Coldplay first introduced you to the world of indie, but are there any other acts that really helped influence the sound that we hear from you today?
There are just so many. I remember I was in the rock band in high school. We were trying to think of songs to cover, and I was just starting to be around musicians more and more. And I remember at the time, the people around me, we were into twenty one pilots, Cage The Elephant, the second Imagine Dragons album [Smoke + Mirrors]. [Laughs.]
I feel like I’ve been all over the place [musically], but José González actually would probably be my biggest inspiration early on. He was the first person that made me feel like I didn’t have to put pressure on my songs to have choruses. I just like his song structure, and I like how at ease it made me feel. That’s another aspect of a feeling that I wanted to borrow from an influence like that.
Yes, you find yourself being able to be a little more free and express more feelings without that structure, so to speak.
Yeah, exactly. I found it freeing. His music felt like it was very free from all of that. And also just gentle on the ears because it’s just like folky acoustic stuff that I liked biking to. Right now, I listen to a lot of Adrianne Lenker. I feel like she reminds me of the way that José González made me feel when I was getting into writing on my own.
You get to share your mix of all those influences with your original tracks on your first major cross-country tour with Beach Bunny in late fall, which is going to be here before you know it. How are you preparing for the upcoming show dates, and what are you most excited about?
We’ve only played weekenders before. This time it’s gonna be six weeks, so we’ve been talking a lot about ways to stay healthy mentally and physically. I also haven’t seen very much of the country before, so I’m excited to do that and meet people from all around.
This interview originally appeared in Alternative Press issue 395 available here.