Rhye mastermind Mike Milosh makes intimate-sounding music, often delivered in whispered tones and falsetto breaks, accompanied by a rhythm as gentle as a heartbeat.
That unique combination on the band’s new album “Blood” (Loma Vista), like its debut album, “Woman,” is helping define the relatively new genre of alt-R&B, which takes traditional R&B topics like love and heartbreak and some of the music’s trappings, but replaces the powerful, roof-shaking vocals with ones that are more vulnerable.
“The way I look at it, I’m putting true human responses into the world because that’s something that’s not truly being represented,” says Milosh, calling during a break from Rhye’s current tour, which stops at Brooklyn Steel on Friday, March 2.
He’s not interested in releasing songs that are fictional works. He wants to get at the truth, whatever that may be.
“There’s this false version of a person that’s being put out in so much music,” Milosh says. “It’s either, ‘I’ve got tons of money, tons of cash’ and in some of the genres there’s this ‘bitches and hos’ mentality and I don’t know anyone who treats anyone like that, you know? With a love song, it’s about a bleeding heart or utter infatuation, usually something more childish or like a teenager did it. . . . After the age of 20, there’s a whole bunch of people who live incredibly dynamic lives; that’s not represented.”
Milosh’s own life has been pretty dynamic since “Woman” arrived in 2013 following a major-label bidding war. His collaborator on the first album, Robin Hannibal, left the band. Later, Milosh and his wife divorced.
In direct and indirect ways, those events find their way into “Blood,” though Milosh says he would have incorporated anything that happened to him.
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“It’s a matter of letting my real life become the artwork and bringing it into the world,” he says. “If all that didn’t happen, this record would be a different record. It just reflects the way my life panned out. It is just slices of my life.”
Milosh says releasing the emotional video for Rhye’s new single, “Song for You,” on Valentine’s Day was also something that just happened, though it ended up adding another layer of meaning to the song.
“Valentine’s Day has always seemed like a Hallmark kind of holiday to me, mildly fabricated for a lot of people to make a lot of money, but at its root is a really sweet, sweet sentiment,” he says. “The video is more of an honest capture of a relationship, rather than something more commercialized. Real relationships have a lot of ups and downs. I think it’s important to put that out there. It’s good to have something more realistic on Valentine’s Day.”
The intense video, which Milosh and girlfriend Geneviève Medow Jenkins directed and produced, follows a single relationship and its emotional swings. In order to better capture those reactions from actress Nathalie Kelley, Milosh says he shot most of the video himself. “I think that to reach a very real vulnerable place requires a delicate hand in the creation process,” he says. “That’s what we were able to do with Nathalie to witness her beautiful breakdown.”
In a way, Milosh has applied that idea to the Rhye live show as well. Though it would seem difficult to re-create such intimate music in front of large crowds, he says it comes naturally to him.
“In life, I’m pretty stoic,” he says. “That’s the way I function, but when I’m onstage I connect to the emotions and go for it. It’s definitely something you have to access. It’s a matter of letting the emotions through. You have to just let it happen. You can’t make it happen.”
Though Rhye started out as a more secretive band, it is now road-tested, and it has learned how to maintain the fragility of the music. “I’m not a power singer, so you have to approach it that way,” says Milosh, adding that he tested many different microphones to find the one that best captures the light and airy quality in his voice. “There are seven people onstage. It’s a matter of getting the mix right so that you can hear everything.”
Milosh says he knows Rhye has tapped into something by reading reviews. (“You’re sort of putting yourself in a position to be insulted,” he says. “But some of them are interesting.”) However, the most important response comes from the crowds.
“At our Mexico City show, we were in front of 3,200 people and I loved it,” he says. “It’s a pretty wonderful moment when you’re in a small sports arena and the crowd is staying with you through a vocal outro.”
WHEN|WHERE 8 p.m. Friday, March 2, Brooklyn Steel, 319 Frost St., Brooklyn
INFO $38; 888-929-7849, axs.com
HE’S AN ALT-SOUL MAN
Though male artists like The Weeknd, Frank Ocean and Rhye turned alt-soul (or alt-R&B or post-R&B) into a buzzy genre, it’s female artists such as Solange, SZA and Kelela who currently run it. That doesn’t mean there aren’t some new guys to watch for. Here’s a look:
HAILS FROM Atlanta
SOUNDS LIKE A rootsier CeeLo Green with more of a gospel influence in his vocals and more old-school R&B in the music, though “Ghost of You” embodies both the futuristic and throwback elements of alt-soul perfectly.
CURRENT ALBUM “Face Your Fear” (Anti-)
UPCOMING SHOW Bowery Ballroom, March 30
HAILS FROM Los Angeles
SOUNDS LIKE While The Weeknd took his music in a more hip-hop-leaning direction, Sumney goes more toward jazz, bringing in bits of Nina Simone into his vocals.
CURRENT ALBUM “Aromanticism” (Jagjaguwar)
UPCOMING SHOW Governors Ball Day 2, Randall’s Island, June 2
HAILS FROM Toronto
SOUNDS LIKE The most eclectic of the alt-soul men, his vocals warming everything from icy synths to ’60s-styled, guitar-driven R&B, gaining him fans among his peers and already landing him a Grammy nomination.
CURRENT ALBUM “Freudian” (Golden Child)
UPCOMING SHOW Panorama Festival Day 1, Randall’s Island, July 27 — GLENN GAMBOA