The milk made by Neutral, a new carbon-neutral dairy company, has absolutely nothing to do with the band Neutral Milk Hotel. The band, led by musician Jeff Mangum, was a highly influential and acclaimed indie act of the late 1990s and early 2000s—especially their seminal 1998 album In the Aeroplane Over the Sea—but has been on hiatus since 2015. The milk company clearly knows about the band Neutral Milk Hotel, as the FAQ section on its website attempts a joke about the similar names (“Despite our musical talent we prioritized revolutionizing carbon neutral milk products first”), but that is the extent of the connection between dairy and indie rock.
But we were curious what the band thinks about the overlap between its name and the new milk company. Mangum is somewhat notoriously reclusive, and so Fast Company was not able not reach him. We were able to contact Robert Schneider, the band’s producer, studio bass and keyboard player, and horn arranger, who now has a doctorate in mathematics and teaches at the University of Georgia. He replied via email:
“How funny. Their branding would not have been quite so quirky if Jeff had continued with his original band name, which was simply ‘Milk.’ Jeff is vegan, so he is certainly not neutral on the topic of milk itself. I am simply vegetarian, so I am pro milk, pro Neutral milk presumably so long as they are ethical with animals. If they also ran a hotel, I might suspect them of cashing in :-).”
The band, which formed in Ruston, Louisiana, in the late 1980s, changed its name when it learned that there was already another band called Milk, though it has never revealed how it came up with the name Neutral Milk Hotel. As to whether we might be hearing from Mangum with further thoughts, Schneider (who emphasizes that he only buys cruelty-free milk) is pretty sure we won’t: “It is literally impossible that Jeff will respond, but I will pass your email along to him.”