Descendents and the story of Milo, punk's most nerdy mascot
Drummer Bill Stevenson on the evolution of Milo through their studio albums
Descendents’ nerdy mascot Milo is one of the most iconic logos in punk rock. It’s easily as recognisable as the Misfits’ Crimson Ghost and Black Flag’s distinctive four bars.
“In high school, one of our classmates named Roger Deuerline would just draw that little head,” explains drummer Bill Stevenson. “We were in ninth grade at the time. He was kind of making fun of Milo, because they were close friends, and he’d draw simple comic strips called The Mishaps of Milo, which would play up to the side of Milo as the absent-minded genius.
“Eventually, we stumped the little stick figure on one of our albums and as time went on we found ourselves putting him in all sorts of different settings and contexts.”
Here, then, is the evolution of Milo character over the course of the Descendents albums…
Milo Goes to College (1982)
Bill: “We kind of assumed that college was going to take Milo away from us, so in a way it’s strange because we kind of dedicated that album to Milo even though he’s the guy that sang on it. Another one of our classmates named Jeff Atkinson drew the cover, based on Roger’s caricatures that he’d drawn in class, and we went with a necktie because it looked like the sort of thing that a college student might wear.”
I Don’t Want to Grow Up (1985)
“The idea of not wanting to get old is not an idea that the Descendents invented. We all face our mortally eventually, and getting old just means you’re on that path to your own mortally. But I think everyone wants to resist it: it’s part of an inbuilt survival instinct. The cover for I Don’t Want to Grow Up is meant to represent the Milo character as a baby, and Joe Carducci who was one of the owners at SST Records drew it. I think it’s been a different person who’s drawn every Milo character actually, but I can’t remember exactly, it’s been such a long journey – 38 years for me.”
Everything Sucks (1996)
“This cover was drawn by one of the people in the Epitaph art department [Grey Stool], and it tied in perfectly to the song Everything Sucks and the idea that when you pick up the paper everything you read about is bad news. The album actually introduced us to a whole new generation of fans. Descendents are weird like that: we’re 50 now but teenagers still like us, and that’s kind of cool.”
Cool To Be You (2004)
“This title comes from a song Karl [Alvarez, Descendents bassist] wrote, and I guess it was about him taking a minute to reflect on his own upbringing and maybe express some envy towards people who had a more solid or less fragmented childhood. The idea behind the album art was to show like a graph or a sketch of the Milo character in its incomplete form. This album came out on Fat Wreck Chords too, and they had a ton of people working there who had a long history with punk rock and the Descendents. They were very enthusiastic and helpful when it came to promoting and selling the record.”
Hypercaffium Spazzinate (2016)
“Our new album cover features Milo as two things at once: he’s Milo but he’s also a flask. It’s meant to represent the event at Milo’s lab where he stumbled on to this chemical agent, which when mixed with coffee creates a very heightened stimulating effect. And he needed a name for the agent, so Hypercaffium Spazzinate seemed appropriate! Hopefully if we can wade through all the paperwork and bureaucracy we can make it an official chemical compound.”