Melodica, Melody and Me. About being a new band

I met Rudi from Melodica, Melody & Me quite unex­pec­tedly. I was vis­it­ing London and sup­posed to stay at some friend’s place in Tulse Hill. Unfortunately, my friend was out and I ended up gath­er­ing around a house, try­ing to make some friends. Rudi and his friend Emilio were cook­ing din­ner. So, after chat­ting for a while I real­ized that these two guys are actu­ally musi­cians. They seemed quite cool and inter­est­ing, so after a few weeks me and my friend Aleksandr vis­ited their small stu­dio and con­cert. Well, after a while I began to listen for this band’s songs more often and decided that it would be great to make an inter­view with them. I hope you will enjoy it!

Rudi

Melodica, Melody and Me is quite new band, but you guys are doing very well, just few weeks ago you had a tour around UK. How was it? Did you all have fun?

We had taken a break from gig­ging for about 5 months, so that we could reflect on the music, how we felt about it and how we wanted to take it for­ward. And we had come to some pos­it­ive con­clu­sions about our music as an art form and decided that it was time to make an album, to real­ise our ideas in a tan­gible form of art, and cel­eb­rate our musical expres­sion. The tour came at a really good time, we had made these decisions but were not entirely sure how we were going to take it for­ward. We wrote new mater­ial and made new arrange­ments for the tour which gave us a new lease of life, and we played well, enjoy­ing the per­form­ances and felt closer as a group than we had in a long time. It was great to play along side Johnny Flynn and Sussex Wit with whom we share a lot of musical interests and genu­inely really appre­ci­ate and enjoy each other’s music. I cer­tainly was inspired by the imagery and sen­ti­ment of Johnny’s song writ­ing. This exper­i­ence helped us to feel excited about the pro­spect of cre­at­ing the album together.

It seems like some mem­bers of a band change, some­times it is 5 of you, some­times more or less, can you tell me whose idea it was to start the band and how you inspired other members?

There was only 4 of for 3 out of the 7 gigs on the tour, while our friend, and tal­en­ted drum­mer Jon Willoughby joined us for 4 of the gigs. There is nor­mally 6. My younger sis­ter Anna, on lead Vocals (we have two lead sing­ers), per­cus­sion and melod­ica, and Greta on drums, per­cus­sion and back­ing vocals. But unfor­tu­nately they had too much work on at school and uni­ver­sity to join us.

The band star­ted very nat­ur­ally. Once we had left school myself, Emilio and Huw used spends hours and hours play­ing music in my attic bed­room. It was the start of a jour­ney into music dis­cov­ery and felt very excit­ing. Importantly for me it was the start of what I con­sider a very spe­cial musical rela­tion­ship that I developed with Emilio. From then on we would share musical interests, write tunes together and later help edu­cate each other in music the­ory and explor­ing scales and styles from around the world.

But at the start we didn’t have any real plans for the music, we made up mainly instru­mental tunes on two gui­tars and the melod­ica and began play­ing at open mic nights. Quite quickly we began writ­ing songs and got the 12 year old Anna on board. We played on ‘gig’ which all our friends and fam­ily came to and then we went off trav­el­ing, partly together, but mostly sep­ar­ately in South America before head­ing to University in sep­ar­ate cities.

We con­tin­ued play­ing, writ­ing and record­ing together when we saw each other but it wasn’t until almost a year after we began uni­ver­sity that we played another gig, at a fest­ival called Lily’s Summer of Love, which friends had asked us to play after hear­ing our CD. Gaining other mem­bers all happened quite nat­ur­ally, though it was always an easy ride. We played with our friend Ben on Bass for around 6 months, and our friend Phil on drums for about a year. But I think there was too many musical dif­fer­ences and we par­ted ways which was not easy to do.

The replace­ment on the bass was to be our friend John with whom I had made a lot of light hearted elec­tronic music with. He always wrote the best bass-​lines for these tunes, and had always been really very nat­ur­ally musical and cre­at­ive through­out our school years. But the prob­lem was he couldn’t play the bass and had never played an instru­ment other than piano. But we thought that he was the right man for job so we bought him a bass and said you’ve got 3 months to learn. His first gig with us, and ever for him­self, was at a fest­ival called Camp Bestival in front of our 300 people and it went peferctly.

Greta our drum­mer, is a friend of Huw’s (our singer) younger brother. In audi­tions for a new drum­mer she was the only one who really seemed to be listen­ing to the music and would even respond to melod­ies we play­ing in her play­ing. I think we were very lucky to find her, she is a very express­ive drum­mer, and she also brought a new energy and pos­it­iv­ity to the band, as well as a base­ment to rehearse in.

Koncertas Londone
Koncertas Londone

How does the start of a new band looks like? Is it easy or maybe very chal­len­ging to get gigs, atten­tion, fans?

We always found it very easy to get gigs. This was very excit­ing at the start, for about a year we con­stantly had gig offers and greed­ily played them all, it was a very excit­ing time, we had a lot of fun, mak­ing a lot of friends and I think it was key to devel­op­ing our musical style and our performance.

We were lucky enough to have a man­ager from the out­side. Like us, Sophia was also just start­ing out, quit­ting her job in a hotel after a pho­to­grapher told her that you can’t wait for things to hap­pen in life you just got to do them. She worked really hard get­ting us gigs and mak­ing con­tacts. She is quite tal­en­ted in many respects and she went on to work at Island Records.

I have always struggled to gage how many fans we have. We have only played 2 proper head­line shows, one in London and one in Brighton. I think there were 300 in the venue in London and 80 wait­ing out­side! So it was a suc­cess and gave us some idea of how many people like our music. At the Brighton gig we were a little con­cerned that we wouldn’t fill the 100 capa­city but that one sold out too which was a really nice surprise.

I think our music has spread around the coun­try really nicely. This has a lot to do with the fact that those in the band and our friends all went to dif­fer­ent uni­ver­sit­ies all over England and Scotland. We have always made a lot of bed­room record­ings and would hap­pily hand out Cds to people we knew, and this helped the music to spread around these cit­ies in a kind of guer­rilla way, as people have shared our music around. I have had people telling me that they have heard our music play­ing in a café in Liverpool or from food stall at a fest­ival. For me this is quite a beau­ti­ful thing, see­ing as we hadn’t form­ally released any of the tracks that have made people famil­iar with our music until recently, and we’ve had rel­at­ively small amount of press.

I also believe that the inter­net, and ori­gin­ally myspace has been key for allow­ing smal­ler bands like us to gain pop­ular­ity and get gigs. The inter­net is a free space for exchan­ging ideas, inform­a­tion and art. We now have a flour­ish­ing live music scene in the UK and I think that this has a lot to with the internet.


Listen to

Do you have a man­ager in your band, or you guys work on everything like a team?

I met girl called Sophia at Lilly’s Summer of Love fest­ival who was selling laugh­ing gas. As a per­former I cheekily asked for a free bal­loon and it turned out she had heard our CD and loved the music, and had even writ­ten an art­icle about it. So I got the free bal­loon! I told her jok­ingly that she should be our man­ager and about 4 months later she got on board and she still is.

These past years have been a real learn­ing curb in what it means to be in a team, and now we are func­tion­ing very well. In the past there had been some ten­sions over cer­tain decisions, which I think is very nor­mal as indi­vidu­als nat­ur­ally have dif­fer­ent ideals, but I think now we have all reached a level of matur­ity and are work­ing very well together. We are very lucky to have a book­ing agent, and a label behind us called Everbody’s Stalking, and a radio and inter­net plug­ger. I am find­ing this par­ti­c­urly lib­er­at­ing at this moment in time as it is allow­ing me to focus on the music in a cre­at­ive way.

Greta

How would you describe the style of your music? Or is it impossible? :)

This is a ques­tion I have thought about a lot. What is our music? Where does it come from? Ultimately it is the syn­thesis of 6 indi­vidu­als, our per­sonal music exper­i­ences and upbring­ings which have shaped our approach to music.

Much of our musical interest, call it our musical awaken­ing around the time we began chal­len­ging main­stream cul­ture on a more con­scious level, was in folk music. It was prob­ably the reason I wanted to play gui­tar and we are often labelled as folk or nu-​folk, but this has much to do with the suc­cess of the comtem­por­ary ‘folk’ scene in the UK. But while we do have a ‘folky’ sound, we don’t play folk music and our ini­tial interest in British folk music doesn’t come out melod­ic­ally all that much in our writing.

At a base level our music inspired by a love for reg­gae. For a groove based around a skank (off­beat), a syn­cho­pated bass­line and melodic rich­ness. Much of our early appre­ci­ation for melod­ies came the beau­ti­fully pro­duced music of Augustus Pablo and Jackie Mittoo. But our music takes influ­ences from over the world. We listen to a lot of African and Latin music and I think that our writ­ing reflects this. In a way I feel that it is an attempt to under­stand the world around us. I don’t really feel that it is a con­scious thing but later I might write a melody which does not try to imit­ate what I have heard before but is melod­ic­ally inspired by it and the feel­ing that it expresses.

I think our sound is very con­tem­por­ary and in a way very London. Contemporary as it rep­res­ents our expos­ure to music from all over the world, which is a res­ult of mod­ern glob­al­isa­tion, where global music has never been more access­ible. And London because it is a city that con­tains innu­mer­able musical sub-​cultures and oppor­tun­it­ies for exper­i­en­cing both cut­ting edge and tra­di­tional music. I am sure if we had grown up in another city or coun­try it would be another sound.

Ultimately though, for me it is import­ant to try and be ori­ginal with your art, whatever it may be. And I hope that our influ­ences mater­i­al­ise in a way which does not imit­ate any of our influ­ences but is a nod to them.

I hope that our music can be appre­ci­ated on dif­fer­ent levels, and all this is just my under­stand­ing of it as I have tried to under­stand myself and what I do.

So eerrrrrr. Not so easy to define!

Anna and Rudi

I really like your songs, the sound is amaz­ing you have so many dif­fer­ent instru­ments, was it dif­fi­cult to find a way to cre­ate music all together?

We never had a prob­lem writ­ing music which has always happened very nat­ur­ally. We’ve had a lot more prob­lems writ­ing lyr­ics, as we always wrote the music first and found lyr­ics which fit­ted the mood. But this is some­thing we are start­ing to enjoy more and become more com­fort­able with.

When we are record­ing I love to use dif­fer­ent instru­ments because it gives new tex­tures to the sound. On our latest record “Come Outside” which we will release as a single in the build up to our album, we recor­ded violin, char­ango, gui­tar, drums, melod­ica, double bass, per­cus­sion, kora and vocals and also feet walk­ing on wooden floor for the bass drum. And in total we have I think 50 dif­fer­ent lay­ers of sound play­ing at dif­fer­ent points in the track. It was a real explor­a­tion of melody and sound for us and I think the dif­fer­ent instru­ments help give it a richer sound.

Which bands inspired you the most ?

So many. But con­cep­tu­ally and melod­ic­ally it could be an English band called the Penguin Café Orchestra who’s music was writ­ten by a com­posed named Simon Jeffes. There is a firm basis in Jeffe’s clas­sical train­ing but if you listen to their music you can undoubtedly hear influ­ences from all over the world. But what is so magic is they meet in a way which is totally ori­ginal, it is a seem­less syn­thesis of all of his influ­ences and ideas, and it cre­ates beau­ti­ful search­ing music which can also by very humor­ous at other times.

Other than that, Nick Pynn a com­poser from Brighton for col­our. Jackie Mittoo for melod­ies. Lee Scratch Perry for Production. Manu Chao for vibe. Leonard Cohen for arrange­ments. Jane Bom-​bane for lyrics.

Do you think aca­demic music edu­ca­tion is import­ant for musi­cian? What is the story of Melodica, Melody and Me mem­bers? Were you edu­cated in music, or just found your tal­ent one day?

Greta is really the only one who has stud­ied music insti­tu­tion­ally. The rest of us just dis­covered play­ing music one day around the age of 17 or so. At first I rejec­ted the jazz and clas­sical approach of hard train­ing. I thought it was just bet­ter to enjoy play­ing. But the more I played the more I became aware of my lim­it­a­tions both tech­nic­ally and the­or­et­ic­ally and this developed into a thirst for learn­ing and devel­op­ment. I go through phases with how focussed I am with my prac­ti­cing, but I do feel that my play­ing is con­stantly improv­ing. Emilio and myself have atten­ded Jazz har­mony courses together and are con­stantly explor­ing the­ory together, mainly though writ­ing and I feel very grate­ful to Emilio for what he has taught me over the years.

If you want to real­ise your poten­tial as a musi­cian I think it is import­ant to edu­cate your­self. If you are lucky enough to have main­tained les­sons from your child­hood and then dis­cover music cre­at­ively, that is a true bless­ing. But its never too late to edu­ca­tion your­self or to find teach­ers, or courses. The beauty of music is that there are no lim­its on how you can explore it.

Thank you!

You can find music of Melodica, Melody & Me here. They also just released their first album, so check it out!

Gintarė Žitkevičiūtė
About author:
Gintarė Žitkevičiūtė
Gintare Zitkeviciute is Art Pit’s thinker and doer. In her work practise, she values lean approach, creativity and quick decisions. She doesn't like working with random people and thinks that a team is a heart of successful project. For that reason, she carefully picks people she works with on everyday basis. She is mostly interested in innovatio... Read further >
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