Talk about a classic meet-cute story. Girl flirts with boy. Boy looks at girl's MySpace page. Girl and boy strike up romance—and a band.
Aimee Sanchez, the singer of San Diego's Mazzy Star-ish shoegaze band Black Mamba, first bumped into her future boyfriend / bandmate Keith Milgaten at the Turf Club, where his brother Jackson tends bar.
“I remember the first time we hung out,” Milgaten recalls. “It was at my house. We looked at Aimee's MySpace page so I could hear her music. I was really blown away by it, even though her recordings were very, uh, very demo-y at the time—.”
“That's because they were demos!” protests Sanchez with a giggle.
Milgaten smiles. “Yes, they were demos. I was fascinated by her singing style and how she wrote for the piano. I could tell that she was very special.”
And cute, right?
“I'm trying to pertain to the subject,” he laughs. “You don't even want me to go off on how cute she is.”
A week before Black Mamba releases its first 12-inch EP, Golden Birthday with a show at The Casbah, the couple has cozied up in a corner booth at Starlite, where they went on their first official date more than a year ago. As they sip Mules and nosh on octopus and mac 'n' cheese, they seem like an enviably happy pair.
Sanchez, 23, wears a simple frock and a tiny gold Texas charm around her neck. She left her hometown of El Paso in January of 2008.
“When I moved to San Diego, I was ready to branch out and be independent and do my own thing,” she says. “The last thing I needed was to meet a guy. I just wanted to do me for a little while.”
She pauses and grins at Milgaten. “But Keith got my attention when he said he wanted to be a fixture in my life. I can't deny that.”
He also got her attention when he added drums and guitar to her stripped-down demos. At just 23, Milgaten has the production skills of an old pro. No surprise, considering his musical heritage. His mother is Donna Milgaten, a well-known Christian singer-songwriter; he and his brother Jackson have both worked with her in the studio in Las Vegas, their hometown.
Milgaten started mixing and doing sound in high school, and in San Diego, he's left quite an imprint: producing bands like Calico Horse and Tape Deck Mountain and playing in The Vision of a Dying World (with his brother) and Jamuel Saxon.
It's Black Mamba, though, that seems to be turning the most heads. With just three songs on their MySpace page, the band has already toured with The Album Leaf and played to hundreds of people. Black Mamba's chemistry is palpable in every slow-tripping, shoegazing note. One audience member at a recent gig at Sezio's “Live @ Luce Loft” series described it as “make-out music.” When Sanchez and Milgaten hear this, they light up with pride.
If Sanchez brought her sultry voice and penchant for unusual piano melodies to the Black Mamba mix, Milgaten and bandmates Jordan Clark and Tyson Wirtzfeld have helped define the band's overall sound. Sanchez had a handful of songs finished before she ever met her Mamba mates, but they've changed shape since.
Take the track “Posture Pumpkin,” for example. “Aimee had written half of it before she met me and half of it after,” Milgaten says. “The difference between the two is huge.”
And “Lace Wings,” which Milgaten speculates was written for him. “We took that song and built it up, and it's the biggest song on the album,” he says.
“It's definitely a lot jammier than I would write,” Sanchez points out. “I got a lot of feedback from Keith and Tyson and Jordan. Now when we're playing it live, it feels so good. It feels like a band.”
Without Black Mamba, Sanchez could make a fine showing as a singer-songwriter. She's like a fresh-faced Cat Power without the bad habits or stage fright, a photo-friendly vision behind the piano with long bangs, big brown eyes and a keen sense of fashion. Sanchez acknowledges that the singer-songwriter route is a popular one.
“A lot of girls embrace it because it's your ticket,” she says. “And that's fine.”
But with a band comes exploration and prodding. “Sometimes we disagree, of course,” Sanchez acknowledges. “But it's so good to have that dynamic instead of me just writing a song and playing it by myself.”
Black Mamba's full-length, which Sanchez says should be done by summer, will feature a cohesive band, not three blurred-out guys backing the pretty girl up front and center.
In the meantime, the multi-tasking Milgaten says he's keeping the side projects to a minimum. (He'll keep on with experimental electronic outfit Jamuel Saxon, in which Sanchez also plays.)
“We're simplifying,” he says. “I feel like we've got a really good thing here, so we want stay focused on it.”
Spoken like a man—and a musician—in love.
Black Mamba plays with Drew Andrews & The Spectral Cities, The Paddle Boat and Tapedeck Mountain on Thursday, April 30 at The Casbah. www.myspace.com/blackmambasongs.