If you were to create a timeline of influences for any musician in their mid-20s to early 30s who is currently in a band, chances are you’ll find a Nirvana record (or cassette) in there somewhere. It may have been given to them by an older sibling; they may have convinced their unwitting parents to buy it for them after seeing the “Smells Like Teen Spirit” video; maybe they were old enough to be hip to the indie rock movement which spawned the band. Regardless, you’d be hard pressed to find someone who wasn’t touched by Nirvana in some way.
The impact the Seattle-via-Olympia-via-Aberdeen trio had on the music industry is documented thoroughly. The story of Nevermind usurping Michael Jackson’s Dangerous at the top of the charts is about as widely known as John Lennon proclaiming his band more popular than Jesus. What hasn’t been discussed is how the generation that grew up in Nirvana’s wake has taken that influence in several different directions, giving added depth to the universal appeal the group had in their day.
These divergent paths serve as the impetus behind Milkin’ It. In early 2012, The Wooden Sky recorded a cover of “All Apologies,” the closing track on Nirvana’s final album, In Utero. The cover languished in limbo with no real reason to be released, but created a dialogue between members of the group and their roommate, a member of the post-punk band Greys.
This recurring conversation about how the iconic anti-heroes could inspire so many young people to play such different kinds music, and yet still appeal to these same musicians two decades later, became more and more fascinating. How could folk-based rockers and atonal punks call the same band a direct influence on their respective sounds? This extended to more discussions about both Nirvana’s breadth of influence as well as Toronto’s current crop of stylistically disparate bands. How interesting, then, would it be to collect a handful of local acts – all within the same age bracket, and all of whom grew up listening to Nirvana – to cover songs off their last record, just in time for its 20th anniversary?
Milkin’ It represents Toronto’s wealth of styles and sounds, showcasing some of the city’s best bands reinterpreting In Utero through their own unique takes on punk, garage, shoegaze, psych, folk, pop, grunge, Krautrock, industrial, surf, noise and much more, sometimes all at once. Released and co-curated by Hand Drawn Dracula, the bands on the compilation release music on similar-minded, artist-run labels like Telephone Explosion, Optical Sounds, Buzz, Daps, Reel Cod, One Big Silence, You’ve Changed and more, all with a canny ear for local talent not dissimilar to that of indie rock bastions like Sub Pop.
The compilation exists primarily for two reasons, the first being to take a snapshot of a particularly fertile, vital moment in Toronto’s musical history which, for all we know, may be inspiring a younger generation as it happens. The second, of course, is simply to pay tribute to three guys from a rainy corner of the continent who first inspired us to do what we do.