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