Written by Angel Park
Milkboy Philadelphia is a live music venue, bar, and restaurant located amongst the hustle and bustle on Chestnut Street in Center City. The venue was opened in 2011 by co-owners Tommy Joyner and Jamie Lokoff and has since been the host to some locally and nationally recognized musicians.
Tommy has been involved in the music industry for over 20 years wearing many hats, including roles as a music producer, sound engineer, and even as a singer/guitarist in Pep Rally, his band. We had the chance to chat with him about the origins of Milkboy, its role in the Philadelphia music community, and precisely what Pep Rally’s latest single, “Turn the Radio Up” really means.
For Joyner, the concept of Milkboy began when he was barely a teenager, inspired by his early love of recording music.
“The idea for Milkboy started as a recording studio,” He explains. “I’ve been interested in recording since I was 14 and started experimenting with track recorders around the same age. A few years later, I started recording my band and made tapes for us. And then other bands asked me to make tapes for them. I and some of the guys in my band ran it as a recording studio for years before we got into the venue side of things.”
Milkboy had a recording studio in Ardmore where various acts would come through the doors to record. The concept of utilizing its space as more than just a recording studio reared its head in 2006 after some talks with his business partner and co-founder, Jamie Lokoff.
“In 2006, Jamie and I decided to open up a little coffee shop associated with Milkboy Recording (down the street), so we could start getting into the venue side of the business,” Joyner recalls. “We also learned we wanted to provide a stage for bands, widen our footprint in Philadelphia’s music scene, learn more about it, and meet more people. With what we do with recording, it was all about the studio and giving us better access to more musicians.”
Milkboy Studios added Milkboy Coffee until 2011 when Joyner and Lokoff decided to move it to Philly and convert it to a two-floor bar area with stage space, and it’s been that way ever since.
When it comes to getting talent through Milkboy’s doors, Joyner is no stranger to the process.
“We have relationships with different agents and bands locally and across the country,” Joyner explains. “We’ll have an agent reach out to us and say, ‘hey, we think you should book this band because they’re gonna be big in six months, etc.’ And from there, we decide if we can book the band within two months before the album comes out or after it comes out. We work out a deal that’s best for both parties.”
But the real key to booking great shows -according to Joyner, it’s about your network.
“When it comes to finding new talent, It’s all about relationships, loving music, liking people and the different music pathways out there,” Joyner says.
“Philadelphia music is a broad category,” Joyner quips, “There’s not just one genre dominating the city. For example, Philadelphia has a large gospel scene, hip-hop, R&B, and urban scene. But it also has this niche folk and indie rock scene, which you hear a lot of on, on stations like WXPN, which has been very influential in cultivating all of that.”
In addition to the variety of music available in Philadelphia, Joyner also credits the community for being incredibly welcoming.
“I think that we’re in many ways, we’re blessed because there’s a lot of quality artists in Philly,” Joyner explains, “And we don’t judge each other in Philadelphia by the color of our skin or the church that we worship or any of that stuff, we really judge each other by the contents of our record collection. Generally, there’s something for every genre fan here, and people find their groups in Philadelphia.”
When he’s not busy booking shows to running Milkboy’s recording studio, Joyner writes music along with his bandmates in the group Pep Rally.
“Pep Rally was a musical project that was a long time coming and has been with me for ages,” He states, “I’ve worked with so many other people on their records and never got around to finishing my own stuff.”
As far as the inspiration behind the name itself? It’s all about feeling.
Tommy explains, “The name Pep Rally is really more a way to describe a feeling. What we’re trying to do with the band is have it feel like a fun time, which is good to listen to. Pep Rally’s music is really about fun and happiness and love.”
On the subject of the band’s single “Turn the Radio Up,” Tommy said, “The song’s inspiration is from an idea about what would happen if everything was possible. Like what would life be like if you could do anything? It’s about the feeling of freedom. What if you could just grab the wheel and live life till you’re gone without all these kinds of day-to-day worries and concerns that we all have and without worrying about other people and what they think of you? I think you’d turn the radio up and drive around the world.”
In addition to the studio and Chestnut Street’s venue, there is Milkboy South Street, where they host Open Mic every Monday night. During the summer, you can also go to The Oval XP on the parkway and check out the Milkboy Beer Garden.
As for what’s next for Milkboy and Pep Rally? “We’re building out our show calendar for the upcoming fall and winter for Milkboy, so there’s a ton going on with that. And There’s more Pep Rally music coming out for sure! We released a second single, “South Street,” and are releasing a Remix for “Turn the Radio Up” by Klubjumpers in a couple of weeks, following our full-length album. We’re hoping to have it all completed by October.”