Jason Reed Milner and Leslie Benson of Irene & Reed share drinks at the Vollrath Tavern in Indianapolis.

Irene & Reed (2009-2013)…
Indie Rock / Dark-Tinged Americana
Leslie Irene Benson: vocals, flute, guitar

Jason Reed Milner: keyboards, piano, guitar

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Guest musicians…
Brad Milner:
drums, bass (on Closer to Home, 2009)

Eric Latham: bass guitar (on Struggle, Strength, Reclamation, 2013)
Edward Venable: drums, percussion, backing vocals (on Struggle, Strength, Reclamation, 2015)

It’s about returning to your roots.

“I’ve been doing electronic music for over 15 years,” Jason Reed Milner (of Indy-based Nimbus, Form 30, Seven Mile Radius, and The Sweetest Condition) says. “I wanted to branch out and explore other genres of music.”

Milner, a classically trained pianist, and Leslie Irene Benson (of Dayton, Ohio’s Burning Veda and Indy’s The Sweetest Condition) met in 2005 in Indianapolis, Ind., sharing an affinity for industrial and electronic music. Four years later, they began collaborating as Irene & Reed, writing the music they love best — melodic, heartfelt original songs in the style of Tori Amos, Florence + The Machine, Sarah McLachlan and Fiona Apple.

Interweaving a raw American folk vibe with sultry blues/jazz vocals, a hint of pop sensibility and a playful blend of melodic rock, ragtime and classical piano, Irene & Reed take listeners on an emotional ride of aural storytelling on their debut album, Closer to Home, which they released in March 2010. With music and lyrics inspired by vocalist Benson’s poetic works, Milner showcasing his skills on piano, organ, strings and guitar, and Milner’s brother, Brad, a sound engineer from Sony Tree Studios in Nashville, Tenn., guest-starring on bass and percussion, the songwriters present a humble first-take glimpse of pure Midwestern culture.

Closer to Home feels organic and tangible,” Milner says. “It’s a totally different writing style than what I was doing and a fresh, much-needed change.”

The album explores the transition between childhood into adulthood. It’s about reclaiming the dreams you once had and remembering what you love most and the things that make you who you are. It’s also about appreciating individuality and embracing the past from which you came — your home, your family and your experiences.

“For me, Closer to Home isn’t just inspired by the Midwest home I grew up in and the memories I shared with friends and family during that time, but it’s also about physical roots — my ancestry,” Benson says. “I have a painting from 1942. It was given to my German grandmother during World War II by a man I believe may have been sent to a Nazi death camp. Though faded over time, it shows a landscape of houses in a rural village — a glimpse into a time during which my family lived and struggled. Though American born and bred, the soles of my feet are from Berlin, where so much history lies. Knowing my roots makes me feel whole. It has given me a foundation on which to grow…. We hope the songs on Closer to Home help you reconnect with yourself — your family, your childhood dreams and your ability to love, unconditionally.”

In the summer of 2010, the band welcomed drummer and backing vocalist Eddie Venable (Second Fiddle, Placebo, Bone Daddie) and bassist Scott Carroll (5 Minutes 2 Wapner, the Hook), on board to launch their first live gigs, which began in late fall 2010. In July 2011, studio and live jazz-influenced musician, Eric Latham, joined as bass guitarist until his departure in 2012.

In 2012, Irene & Reed became a 2-piece band and the music side project of Benson and Milner’s new project, The Sweetest Condition, releasing the debut “Truth and Light” EP on April 30, 2013, which is available on iTunes, Amazon, and CD Baby

Irene & Reed’s second full-length album, Struggle, Strength, Reclamation, which was recorded at Sony Tree Studios in Nashville, Tenn., was scheduled be released in 2013 but was shelved due to technical issues. Latham performed on bass as a guest musician on the songs, along with Venable on drums. However, you can still stream the unreleased demos via Musical Family Tree.

Photo by Kris Arnold.

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