By Jordan Reisman
Photo courtesy of The Melodic.
The key to success can be bewildering. Here’s a brain teaser scenario: an English folk bands with roots in reggae and Latin music gets signed to the same record label as Tom Waits and Billy Bragg having only released a four-song EP. Mind-boggling? Yes. Impossible? No.
The Melodic from South London is the band that is living that fantasy right now. They released their debut EP On My Way on June 25th of this year and have been touring hard in promotion of the four-song introduction to the band. BTR was able to catch up with Huw (pronounced “Hugh”) Williams and Rudi Schmidt while they were taking a temporary vacation in Los Angeles playing shows and enjoying the opposite of London weather.
“Me and Rudi have known each other for a long time, since we were about eleven years old; we went to the same school,” says Williams. “So did the bass player, John, so we’ve known each other for over ten years and we’ve always played different types of music together and then we started learning acoustic instruments together. We were inspired by the same music when we were teenagers,” said Huw about the band’s beginnings.
Schmidt weighed in about how the band grew up together and fell into folk music:
“Our original influences that we shared were kind of 60’s revival music from Britain and the States,” Schmidt tells BTR. “From Britain that would be Bert Jansch and John Renbourn and that kind of scene. From the States we were inspired by like, Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen. That’s where our musical awakening started when we were teenagers and suddenly realized that it wasn’t all about hip-hop and the Bloodhound Gang.”
The two old friends described the band’s first show as being at a music festival, after having released songs on the Internet for a bit. More specifically, the show was in a “muddy field” and Schmidt says the gig went “really, really well.” As he went into more detail, he divulged the strangest piece of British cultural knowledge.
“It’s kind of part of British culture to stand in muddy fields and sort of make a lot of noise, and pretend you’re having a really good time when it’s raining,” he muses.
The two said that it is a must for British festival-goers to wear “wellies,” or rain boots because the shows inevitably get muddy, so as to avoid getting a cut-up foot like Schmidt.
“The weather is ingrained in our consciousness,” says Schmidt.
The band is from South London, Brixton specifically. Probably most notable about the neighborhoods (to American music fans at least) is its immortalization in the track “The Guns of Brixton” by the Clash. The Melodic does not cite ‘The Only Band That Matters’ as an immediate influence but that specific reggae-tinged song is definitely a product of the area, with a high number of inhabitants from African and Caribbean descent.
Schmidt and Williams discuss a North London vs. South London rivalry and compare it to the New York vs. LA debate.
“North London has a superiority complex so they regard themselves as slightly higher brow, higher cultured and South London is like, down and dirty. We’re kind of down and dirty,” Williams explains.
With their history of playing in the mud, this statement would be true but with the overall sheen and crispness of the record, one might say different. The sheer brevity of the album is astounding, not in a Minor Threat sort of way where the length is intentional, but in the way that they created four songs made to represent the dynamics of their sound.
“The EP is four tracks but it just gives an idea of the different influences and the different ideas that our band has so it’s like the tracks are quite varied. We have a lot more to offer as well,” says Williams.
Whereas there isn’t as much repetition of these songs in their live sets, as one would expect, on the EP, there is a heavy amount of repetition of phrases, specifically in the songs “On My Way” and “Hold On.” Turns out it goes further than the love of monotony.
“Well, I guess that’s probably influenced by our interest in traditional folk music which has certain structures that we like to incorporate and a lot of that is repeating themes and the sentence structure of the lines. It often starts with the same phrase and builds kind of like a poem in that way,” says Williams. “I think when you hear a line in a different part of the song, you have a different relationship with that line so it means something by the beginning but hopefully as you’ve had more instrumentation or words in between, it would mean new things.”
I guess that’s up to the listeners. I’m sure Harmony Korine would approve, though.
To purchase On My Way, click here.
To listen to the music and the interview with The Melodic, check out the newest episode of Discovery Corner on BTR!